Is it now or is it the future?

There is a comment on this blog which reads thus…

If Arsenal is very business like and is run like a business, then I think it’s time for Arsenal fans to think in business terms. What have we won in the last four years???? Is it okay for a business to have a good boss for the first 4 years but then go way off mark in the next four years????? WENGER HAS DONE NOTHING IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS, HE HAS CONTINUED TO SAY WE WILL TROPHIES AND HE HAS FAILED TO DELIVER. Surely in business you would be fired, regardless!!!!!!!

(The italics are mine, not the writer’s.)

Ever since I saw that comment I have been thinking about it.  I am not within a billion miles of the Lord Wenger in terms of knowledge about football, but I do earn my living as chairman of a plc, so when it comes to business maybe I know one or two things.  Not many, but one or two.

This year my company has lost in one year more than we earned in profits in the last four years.   I have not got the slightest idea if we will be back in profit next year or the year after, but I know we will be eventually, and we will survive and come out back on top.

But (as far as I know) there is no pressure to have me removed, because those with an interest in the firm think mostly about the long term.  (You’ll understand we are not in the financial industry, so we do think beyond 6pm each evening).

For more years than I ever care to remember we have brought in modest profits, raised salaries, had a good time, and survived through two previous recessions.

Let me try this from another direction: I can’t recall anyone ever saying “hey that Gilles Grimandi – bloody brilliant player.”   The opposite in fact.  But he did a job when playing, and more than that he also then became the most important regional scout we have ever had – the scout for France.  Without him some of our greatest players would simply not be there.

The Grimandi situation was long term – and it has benefited the club.  The notion that Wenger should go now is short term.

There is also the story about Sir Alex F Word who had a really bad start with Manchester Bankrupt where the club was on the verge of sacking him – but he won a cup game and survived.  If the supporters who wanted him out had been believed he would have gone elsewhere.

The timing is not the issue – Ferguson was early on in his era, Wenger is trying to build another successful squad, in my own small way I’ve been with the company for years and years and am trying to invent a new solution to our current downturn.

The issue is simply long or short term.

There is a story which the Lord Wenger himself tells about his early days in Japan.  It goes something like this.

He wanted to change the club dramatically and change the style of play.  He did it – but the results were awful, and the club lost game after game.   Eventually the chairman called him in (after something like six successive defeats) and said, “There is a problem”.

The Lord Wenger said, “Yes there is – I am having trouble putting my ideas across to the players.  They don’t understand what I want.”

The chairman said, “Yes we must make a change.”

The Lord Wenger said, “Do you want me to resign?”

The chairman said, “No – I thought we might need to sack your translator.”

So it goes – short term or long term.   I have watched Wenger give us two doubles and the unbeaten season.  I am seeing a magnificent new team develop.  I see the speed and pace and belief return.  I have watched most of the 20 games unbeaten.  And I think, “yes – more please”.

Others want a trophy today – or else change.  Each person to his own – but I stay with my belief.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

23 Replies to “Is it now or is it the future?”

    What Tony said!!
    Ddisappointment is the province of every football supporter and when your club is one of the best but constantly finds one or two too good each season it can be frustrating.

    However. The individual who wrote that quote which spawned this particular article, outsmarted himself with all his talk of business etc.
    Trophies have nothing to do with business.
    I’ll say it again for the cheap seats.


    Man UTD have loads of nice shiny trophies but they are in debt to the tune of £750,000,000. It will be no surprise when they have to sell Ronaldo in the summer and when Ferguson goes, which will be soon, they will begin a long and tortuous decline which will cause misery and heartbreak for their fans (at least the non-plastic ones that will not jump ship to whoever is successful)
    Why will this happen?
    I refer you to my quote above in capitals.

    Arsene Wenger, The Lord Wenger, Arsenal Wenger may not have recent trophies but in business terms he is the Warren Buffet of football managers.

    He has overseen a beautiful new 140 acre state of the art training ground (no debts attached)Have you seen the property values in Herfordshire? 140 acres sweet!

    He has built the best youth system in Europe bar none and expanded our scouting system globally by retaining the services of ex-players who still had something to offer the club. This provided continuity of attitude and purpose.

    He has brought Arsenal to the position of 1 of the top 5 richest football clubs on earth and 1 of the top 10 sports franchises on earth. If you don’t believe me check out dolittle’s figures as the are apparently quite a reputable outfit as are Forbes who reported the same status on our behalf.

    In a perverse manner, we as a club regularly take in more money on transfer fees than we pay out which gives us a serious business profile to our peers both nationally and internationally. This means that we van bulid our reserves for that rainy day which has just happened called a recession. £93,000,000 ring fenced as reserves away from our property company which regardless of the recession is still in with a good shout of turning a healthy profit on the highbury development and other areas even though the return may be over a longer period of time.

    Champions League lucrative football every single year bar none.

    So let’s recap eh…

    Makes profit in an area of the ‘business’ that is a financial black hole to others. Increased the international profile of the ‘business’ to our peers and beyond. Updated the coporate training and development facilities of our ‘business’ to be the best in Europe and thus the world. Has the best recruitment network to acquire the best talent at the best prices for our ‘business’. Has increased our annual turnover to within touching distance of 1/4 billion pounds without having fully explored many potential revenue streams yet whilst our competitors have tapped out all theirs and have debts they cannot service.

    And some guy thinks we should fire him as a business decision because we don’t have as many shiny pieces of metal as other clubs?

    Are you kidding me?

    What has this guy been smoking?

    Get a grip. Yes it can be very disappoining but I chit you not when I say that the next 5 years will be more about survival for most of our competitors than trophies. Survival that may not come about.
    All it takes is one bad season for Man UTD to not make the Champions League and they are done.
    Next year they will have to make it without Ronaldo. They may get 70,000,000 bucks for him but that wont service their debt for even 1 year.
    Liverpool have less debt but the gig is up for them on July 31 THIS YEAR unless they come up with £350,000,000 which they do not have and buyers are slinking away with their own problems to deal with.

    We are SO lucky right now and we don’t even realise it. Our future is bright and protected. Those UTD fans that you see around the blogs will soon lose their arrogance and then their sanity when they see the firesale required to deal with their clubs debt.

    And we have a guy who wants to talk about ‘Business’ and a good business would fire Wenger.
    My God how stupid can 1 person be?

    Complain about many things but do not question the position of Arsene Wenger. It is through his grace that we have what we have and can afford to whine about not winning this or that. Other have to watch their clubs go into administration and realise that they will NEVER win anything again.
    Strangely the fans of those clubs usually get behind their manager and team. Yet we have some who complain endlessly

    Funny old world isn’t it?

  2. Tony and Terence – 2 outstanding posts. I think most fans realise this, it is just a vocal minority who go around polluting cyber space with their ill informed crap.

  3. Business-wise, the most valuable asset a team has is its (home)fanbase. In other words, a Tony is worth 3 Nhans and a half. The Tonys have the will/proximity/wherewithal to attend every home game and most away games. They sing thousand-year-old songs like kindergarten children to support the team in rain or shine, literally. They (almost) never question the truthfulness of the football served to them. They, not the fair-weather fans, set the stadium alight – imagine Arsenal-United even at their best playing in an empty stadium, or worse a boo-your-own-boys stadium. If football as we see is a consumption-product, half of its inupts are from fans. If you are one of the Tonys, the football per se may be only a third or less of what it is all about, left alone shiny replicas in a cupboard.

    From the business point of view, I think the club earns its money by serving fans not only trophies but a well-define relationship, an identity, a bragging right. What philosophy do we look for in our club? What principles are being pursued? Why are we a better bunch than the team in white shirts down the street or the blue team cross-town? What do we actually have to gain if the team indeed starts winning trophies (the empty Stamford Bridge during Morinho’s years come to my mind) or what are we losing if it isn’t? Do we know our team as men and do we love them?

    The legion of people who continuously cry for new buys and trophies don’t think of fanhood this way. They simply commit themselves to a long term consumption – an addiction. As long as the addiction doesn’t give them the highs they crave, they ask for stronger doses. Addicts don’t comprehend patience and selflessness from their side. These are not fans.

    Tony was talking about short run/long run maybe in response to, consciously or unconsciously, the very real possibility that we are to be “empty-handed” again this season. Well, I think the club has made a much bigger short/long run trade-off, even more than building a Wenger-style young team, in moving to the new stadium. The long run benefit we all heard. The most significant short-run cost is shuffling and having to rebuild the fan base – you heard Arsene praising fans at the Kop – “you just don’t have that at the Emirates” – haven’t you? With higher ticket prices, you are going to screen out many traditional Tonys who maybe not as financially comfy as Tony himself and substitute them by once-at-a-time viewers.

    The hope is that a few of these happen to witness the Tonys and wonder: “why on earth are these fellas so happy?”

  4. As one who agrees with the sentiment of the famous line “”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” I have to begrudgingly accept that people have a right to complain and criticise – even if they have little comprehension of what they are talking about.

    It would be foolish to think Wenger is infallible but his achievements with The Arsenal place him in a class of his own and, to my mind, he is the only truly irreplaceable manager in the game. He has built, and continues to build, something unique and quite extraordinary. As a long time follower of football it is clear there has never been anything like this attempted before (building a team based upon youth and dynamism whilst spending mere pennies). It is truly a privilege to watch this masterpiece unfold.

    To the short-termist ugly shouters and ranters I almost feel so fed up with you that I begrudge you sharing in the future success. I am confident that Wenger’s vision and brilliance will only truly be understandable as a gestalt many years from now. You would have him sacked and replaced for having the temerity to run a sustainable club and bringing us CL football year upon year.

    As Terence has excellently illustrated, it is almost impossible to overestimate the myriad ways in which he has transported this club into a position of envy for any other football business. His record is such that he deserves the grace to finish his project and if that means another season of nearly but not quite that’s okay with me – I enjoy watching the style, intent and passion with which we play. I am proud to support a team that tries to play football – as opposed to the embarrassing performance of Roman’s cowardly game killers. I am enjoying watching the team being knitted together and moving in the right direction and would take that over supporting a team of unlikeable mercenaries who bludgeon opponents but win trophies any. I would rather we played and won with principles and we know that Wenger can deliver that. He surely would have last year but for injuries.

    I feel sorry for you uber moaners – results are King so sod the artistry and endeavour. Snobbery it may be but I barely consider you fans at all – criticise if you must, no one is above reproach – but the calls for Wenger to go are ignorant, shameful and myopic at best.

    4 years is NOT a long time in football – you’d do well to speak to fans of other clubs occasionally, maybe gains some perspective and to find yourselves smaller horses to ride round upon.

  5. the replies to this post have restored my hope in humanity (ok, maybe thats putting it a bit strong, but yknow what i mean!)
    So many well reasoned, thinking football fans with perspective. All you trophy-or-gone merchants can go and bother some other fans with more short term ideals, and sit round together complaining in sync!
    I’m with Tony, and the fans of football!

  6. Perspective is a good word Jimmy, too many of the whinge-monkeys seem to have lost theirs completely (if they ever had any). Thankfully Tony’s bog is something of a haven for the ‘glass half full’ mentality.

    It’s a pity others don’t appreciate what they have – because these are NOT bad times. As in much of life too many of us only learn how much we love something when it is taken away.

    I remember when we were in the midst of the unbeaten season and a fellow Gooner rather somberly said “I am just enjoying it for all it is worth – because it won’t last forever”. At the time I thought he was being unnecessarily negative but I realise these days he was just being pragmatic, cherishing the now and maintaining perspective.

    Enjoy the now (for the future is pregnant with promise)and keep the faith I reckon.

    P.S. In the aftermath of a poor team performance against a strong Man Utd, anyone else think Song had an absolute barnstormer of a game? Almunia rightly took the plaudits but I am tantalised and excited by what Song might push on to become next season.

  7. I couldn’t agree more Tony.
    We are really lucky to have Lord Wenger as the manager especially in these economic circumstances.

    And I believe everyone realise that in the very near future.
    And the next manager will appreciate Lord Wenger for the solid foundation of this club.

    I’m disappointed like everyone else when we lose but watching them play and supporting the club is pure joy to me. So I will happily wait until they win something else.

  8. if we sack wenger who will be he´s successor? what kind of game we play? looking example Chelsea i must say that hopefully RA find some sustainability and dosent change manager every month. that team not have any kind of identity. everyone´s want to see beautiful football and i think that sustainability is a right term if you want to describe example manu,barcelona, ajax, real. i fear that if we sack wenger or he decides to leave to some

  9. I agree completely, Song had a great game. The frantic pace of it and the scrappy nature tended ton disguise how some players committed themselves with great distinction.
    At the end of the day really what was lacking was movement from almost all our forward players. They were either in the wrong place or bunched up.
    Whatever 11 AW has available come next week, It is safe to say that movement wont be a problem at the Emirates.
    Win Lose or Draw we will be cheering them on even if the are in 4 5 1 formation at home (URRGH!)

  10. Yes – we are a different proposition at The Ems and hope remains but the biggest concern is our ability to keep a clean sheet. I don’t fancy us getting three goals and not only is our defence looking porous we know they have players who can create something out of nothing.

    Hopefully Middlesbrough will give them a hard fight on the weekend and cometh Tuesday all of our players stand up, play as we know they can and fight for every ball. Can’t ask for more.

    I like Ade but he has been so frustrating to watch at times this season and I would like him to show that he cares a little more. I’m sure he does, but sometimes a big grin and a stroll back doesn’t illustrate that very well.

    More than anything, even if we lose, I want to see our players acquit themselves well – show some passion and guts.

    Ha – I’m nervous already!

  11. Excellent posts my fellow Gunners, excellent posts. Nothing to add, what more can there be to say except ‘Up the Arsenal!’?

  12. I agree with Consols on this blog too. Great post Terence McGovern. You are a star!!

  13. The major problem with fans is the same as with all people in that they belieive that they are an expert on anything they chose to be. If you look at the housing market at the moment, I spent years saying to people I know that the ever increasing rate of house prices was not only unsustainable but would lead to a major problem. Nearly everyone I know told me I was wrong, stupid or both. Now all these people have been saying for years that they saw all this coming. Total bollocks.

    The best thing is to ignore people who do not know what they are talking about. There’s an awful lot of them out there!

  14. As someone once said on ACLF, it might have been you Marc, there is rarely a shortage of knobs.

  15. It’s not often I agree with some on ACLF, but Consolbob you are spot on.

  16. ha!

    this blog does me every time.

    my daily visits here always end with me grinning from ear to ear.

    i feel honored to support this team, and not living in the uk means i don’t/can’t contribute financially at all to it. i only wish i could attend matches week in week out.

    the nay-sayers and their prominence in the press are always going to be there, but as long as arsene keeps on not listening to / reading their bullshit its all going to be grand.

    i’m still trying to work out what to do in the off season

  17. I like Song but like Wenger I feel he is more suited to the central defence. He has improved a lot but is a player who knows whats happening in front but behind him is a different matter. He reminds me of the concept of ‘service recovery paradox’. Fans are happy seeing him make a tackle although a chance before that, he was out positionally. It is better for him to correct a mistake than the mistake not actually happening.

    Denilson is great positionally but people don’t see this while Nasri is even better positionally. Diaby will be class and what about people saying that Adebayor lacks hunger? That’s journalism cliche for not knowing anything about football. Tell him to run the whole length of the pitch 10 times to score a goal I’m sure he’ll do it. It’s about understanding the situation.

  18. “If Arsenal is very business like and is run like a business, then I think it’s time for Arsenal fans to think in business terms”

    Idiotic comment because a football club is MUCH MUCH MORE than just a business. The last thing I want to do is think like a customer of a shop. You support in good times and bad. You rant and rave at the pub or on a blog (a very old and time honored tradition among all football supporters across the globe, hardly anything unique to Arsenal or the modern era). But at the stadium you always support.

    The problem is that too many football clubs–incl. ours–now treat fans like customers rather than supporters. The way the stadium stewards are told to control and corral supporters, the policy is to stifle any type of fan atmosphere at all.

    “what about people saying that Adebayor lacks hunger? That’s journalism cliche for not knowing anything about football. Tell him to run the whole length of the pitch 10 times to score a goal I’m sure he’ll do it. It’s about understanding the situation.”

    Ade certainly lacked hunger, desire, will. Being isolated up front doesn’t excuse his performance. Drogba against Barca and Ibrahimovic against Utd were also isolated up front and worked far far harder than Ade did, they fought for their team. He failed to hold up the ball well or at all, always mistimed aerial balls, failed on almost every level. Bendtner came on and did more in 5 minutes than Ade did all game long.

  19. Tony. The London Times has an article about Arsene and Arsenal in the long run dedicated for you (the last part is just kidding, I ain’t totally sober). I’d add the link if that were allowed.
    Gee, I’m this Vietnamese kid in the middle of nowhere of MidWest America blogging with you about Arsenal – the Pride of London. Arsene (and the internet) has done a heck of a job, hasn’t he?

  20. Nhan Le – links are certainly allowed – it is just that I have set the system to hold all posts with links in for moderation, because most of the ones with links in are nothing to do with our topics of conversation. Please do put the link in.


  21. Nymarcus,

    It’s really hard to believe that any player would lack the hunger or desire to play in the semi-final of a champions league. That accusation borders on the line of impossibility. The midfield sat too deep that day, and Ade was isolated on his own. Even if he tried pressing the defenders, they’d knock the ball around with ease, since the midfield was sitting deep, and no one was pressing manu higher up the field.

    “He failed to hold up the ball well or at all, always mistimed aerial balls, failed on almost every level”

    You think he was doing this on purpose? Mistiming aerial balls, giving the ball away cheaply? Don’t think so. It’s one thing to say, a player didn’t have a good game (usually when the whole team underperforms), but to say a player wasn’t up for it is a totally different accusation.

  22. Here goes, Tony:

    This is by no mean comprehensive. You can also argue with the measurement of “points.” I tried and failed to find the actual study. Ideally if we could see Arsène’s sport watch statistics (I expect that his coaching team keep track of these details to tenth of a second) and how they have been changing over the years, we’ll understand why this guy is SO stubborn with his kids.

    Professional sport is all about winning. Winning in modern sport is all about building up [gigantic] statistics. Alas, statistics doesn’t show itself until you’ve got a sample large enough to suck up the ups and downs along the way. There goes a case for the long run.

    The trick (or luck) of employers who hire and hold on to guys like Arsène or SAF is that much of their stats don’t get built up until they’ve been with their clubs for a loooooooooong time. These employers are faced with the pressure to fire their guys every year the trophies don’t add up. Hence ‘patience’, ‘loyalty’, ‘faith’, ‘consistence’ are not just buzz words but results of successful approaches to business.

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