By Walter Broeckx
Ever since the stadium move around 2006 we had a bit of an argument amongst supporters about spending money.
The fact that around that period Chelsea first was spending money as if there is no tomorrow and then were followed by Manchester City a few years later, made it all more difficult.
When Arsenal started the building process everyone paying attention knew that it would be a difficult period. Wenger knew this, as did the board, and Wenger agreed to take the risk and take the consequences that it would bring.
Add to the building cost the worldwide financial crisis and Arsenal probably built their stadium in the worst economical period ever.
Arsenal tried to survive this period with lots of younger players. And by buying cheap. And while others spending money we had to sell our best players.
One of the reasons that players wanted to leave of course was that we had what was called a socialist wage structure. So when other clubs (with bucket loads of money) came sniffing around they could double the wages of most players. And no player will really want to ignore a possible doubling of wages. So a lot of players wanted to leave and as we needed the money to pay the stadium we had to sell them.
For the supporters it was a long period of suffering. I have always seen it as the building of a new Arsenal. A process that in my opinion can only be compared to the period of us coming to Islington 104 years ago. (The previously untold story of how Arsenal chose Highbury has recently been reported on the Arsenal History Society site)
So I didn’t feel like a malcontent supporter but a privileged spectator of an historic moment in our history. In probably some 50 years historians will write books about this period. I don’t know if I will be around to read them but I know I have seen it happening in front of my eyes.
But building, just like growing up, is never easy. It goes with growing pains. Pains that seemed to be too hard to survive for some. Some people will be more patient than others I think.
But what I do remember is the wholesale ridicule that was aimed at Arsenal and in particular at Wenger. The fact he had to be careful and couldn’t really spend was something that was thrown in our faces, and we were being slaughtered for it. We were the laughing stock as they like to put it. Whilst others threw away money we were dithering or whatever was the word of the day.
Nobody in the media (apart from a few lonely voices like Untold – which of course stands outside of the media mainstream) came out and said: now wait a minute. Maybe because of building the Emirates and all the rest I just mentioned (and more) it is the only thing they can do.
Maybe Arsenal should have been more open about it? Could be. That is the only criticism one might throw at the board and Wenger. But when I listened to the board and tried to make sense of what was being said I understood the message of having to be extremely careful very well. And I don’t consider myself to be the smartest boy in the class. So if I could understand it then probably most should have understood it. And to be honest I think most supporters did understand it. But not a noisy minority.
The silence from the media which one might have expected to bring balance to the debate however was something else.
And I have now read an interesting article from a Belgium journalist who works in England for one of our big newspapers. And he is a bit in the know as one could say about our Belgian players in the PL. It is because we have more than a handful of players in the PL from Belgium that this newspaper has sent him out to do the hard work and to get information nobody else has.
And from the article he wrote (and I take it that he knows what he is writing about) I found some interesting information.
He reports that Tottenham when preparing the building of their new stadium have moved to a wage structure where all the players earn almost the same. One could say the “Arsenal socialist wage structure” that we have been operating on for some 10 years maybe.
And in the media we now see articles praising Tottenham, their owner and manager for not buying anyone. Well in the article from this reporter he predicted exactly that. But we all remember the ridiculing of Arsenal about ‘not buying an outfield player’. Now Tottenham not buying anyone is presented as the only club that is using their brains.
Indeed when Untold wrote an article about the lack of Tottenham signings this summer we had Tottenham supporters writing in saying that they thought we’d just presented the best analysis of Tottenham’s current situation – and yes they did understand that the article was written by an Arsenal supporter.
And in a way they are using their brains of course. I think their owner knows all too well that he has to be very careful in the coming seasons. If I were a Tottenham supporter and Tottenham were spending like the rest I would be very worried. But you can say that it looks that their owner has learned from his earlier spending madness and now is trying to keep hold of his players.
But the problem will be that as they have done rather well they might face the same thing as happened to Arsenal. Clubs who don’t have to worry about their bank account can come in and make offers to their players and double their wages without any problem. And then those players might be tempted to listen to those offers.
Going back to our Belgian journalist he said that some players (and he named Alderweireld) would be very open to moving away in order to earn a lot more money. And most players are not really wanting to renew was linked with their hope of being able to earn lots more in the not so distant future and the fact that this earning more could be at other clubs is something this journalist pointed at.
So Tottenham could face the same problems as Arsenal has had. But I really wonder if the media will turn on their owner and their manager in the same way as they did against Arsenal and Arsène? To be honest…. I expect more of the same as we are starting to see. Praising them for their sanity in a mad world. Praise that was never given to Arsenal nor to Arsène of course….
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