In May of 2011, a sort of palace coup was engineered at the Emirates with the two remaining substantial shareholdings of Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith going to Stan Kroenke and in effect Kroenke was anointed the new “emperor” of Arsenal Football Club. Except the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov refused to play ball and increased his holding in the club too!
Usmanov’s holding of just under 30% is a nuisance to Kroenke as this prevents him from passing special resolutions and doing whatever he wants with the club. The Russian’s shareholding should entitle him to a seat or two on the board of the club, but such is the animosity towards Usmanov from the club’s old hierarchy that they would rather the club collapsed before affording this courtesy.
So where does this leave Arsenal? Kroenke has wealth, but the sort that will result in him writing blank cheques for an Arsenal manager to spend on players. Kroenke has many sporting interests in America which means he will not get involved in the day to day running of the club nor will he sanction major transfers. In effect Kroenke is running the club by remote, by Skype! This at a time when Arsenal’s position as a top 7 club is being threatened. Whilst other clubs have active hands-on owners / chairmen, Arsenal is being run like a major corporation with budgets set for wages and transfers, and regardless of the change in circumstances we will keep to those budgets.
Football is not like a “normal” business. Unless a club spends big in the transfer market it will not attract top players and without top players trophies cease to arrive. Take a look at Wenger’s early years, top players came to the club, not top potential, top players and trophies followed, now look at the last 6 years, we have brought in potential every year and with that we have achieved nothing. The model needs to change, but the board are powerless to authorise a change in this model as the owner is happy with our financial results!
The club is at a major crossroads and the ownership of the club will determine whether we enter many more years of trophyless seasons or the trophies and top players start to come back. The continued ownership of Kroenke will see Wenger rule the roost at the Emirates, a frugal approach to the transfer window and many promises of potential followed by seasons of disappointment. This in effect is the ghost of Arsenal seasons to come, but these can be changed. Kroenke can sell his stake to Usmanov in the summer for a very good profit and then we enter into a completely new ball game.
Whether David Dein re-joins the board is another matter, but Usmanov will not only give Wenger a very large transfer budget, he will insist that he uses it. Usmanov will explain to Wenger that the club needs to win trophies and if that means breaking the bank to bring in top players like Goetze or Hazard, then we MUST do this. He will also explain to Wenger that UEFA Financial Fair Play rules are null and void. There are too many big clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and PSG too name but a few who are too big for UEFA to take any sanctions against. In no uncertain terms Wenger will be told to spend to win trophies, for 6 season operation youth development has failed, and now is the time for change.
These are the options faced by our club, more of the same under Kroenke or a dash for gold under Usmanov.
Arsenal has suffered some terrible bad luck with defensive injuries this season. We lost Sagna, Gibbs and Jenkinson all with a 17 days in October, but the loss that has hurt us most was the loss of Santos in December. Santos was an attacking full-back and gave us extra attacking options something that has been lacking in recent weeks.
With the loss of Santos and news that Gibbs had a further setback, Wenger stated that he will look at a full-back for a loan option as we do not wish to drop points because we are short of full-backs. This statement was made mid-December. Arsenal have an extensive scouting network and great contacts throughout the world. We are now mid-January, having dropped 6 points this year and still no sign of any defensive re-enforcements, neither at full-back nor central defence and there will not be anybody arriving either.
Once again Wenger makes a statement of new recruits and the result is zero activity. There are two reasons for no players coming back.
By the end of January Vermaelen, Sagna and Gibbs will all be back in contention for the starting line-up, so Wenger will try and patch-up the defence once more against Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers in the league and hope we do not drop any more points.
The second reason why Wenger will not enter the transfer market, is that there is no room in the squad for an overseas player. In fact unless Wenger sells one of Almunia, Squillaci, Arshavin or Rosicky, there is no room for Henry in the squad! So unless we have a minor clear-out there will be no new signings this window. The maximum number of non-home grown players is 17.
Arsenal Squad 2011-12 (Non-Home Grown Players)
Angry, frustrated, disappointed. Once again Arsenal fans are left let-down, once again we are promised things will change and once again it is groundhog season for Arsenal, and we haven’t even entered the annual departures of the close season.
Where do we start? It is obvious that things went wrong in the summer with Wenger anticipating that both Nasri and Fabregas will not leave these were the hopes of a man living in a dream land. The summer also saw not focus on any transfers other than Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain, despite the fact we needed at least one central defender and another striker.
We have seen in recent weeks the paucity of our squad. We have played Song, Arteta and Ramsey in nearly every game. Wenger has alternatives, Frimpong, Coquelin, Rosicky and Benayoun, but he does not trust the first two and neither Benayoun nor Rosicky are up to the task. Creativity is lacking in central midfield and Ramsey appears completely lost playing the attacking midfield role. We have Wilshere and Diaby coming back from injury, but will that solve the problem? Wilshere will have an impact, but isn’t it too much to have to rely on this young man, when all around him lack that certain edge required of Arsenal midfielders?
On the wings, Wenger has had three options, Walcott, Gervinho and Arshavin. Walcott does not realise he needs to play to his strength, and he only has one – speed. Theo is a speed merchant but is reluctant to run at defenders, to play the ball past the full-back and challenge him for pace. Walcott’s finishing has been woeful, for someone who wishes to play as a central striker his shooting is pathetic. What has the coaching staff been working on with Theo in the last 5 years? Has he really improved since joining Arsenal, and if the answer is no, then why not, has anybody spoken to him about wing play?
Arshavin gave up playing for Arsenal some time ago, the only surprise is that Wenger hasn’t sold him. What has happened to Arshavin, why does not take players on anymore, where are the little tricks gone or the on-target shots? The answer lies partly in our formation. Arshavin plays off the striker, he likes to attack the goal directly not via the wings. Look at his first half-season, he played behind van Persie or Adebayor and he ran at players go left or right, now he does not have that variation.
Our forwards consist of one person, van Persie, end of story. Chamakh started of really last season, then stopped, he does not even look like a player who score an open goal, why is a mystery. One suggestion is that he does not get enough playing time, but when we only play one striker, he never will, so unless we change to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, Chamakh will go the same way as Bendtner. Our third striker is a mystery to everyone, Park. Why did Wenger buy Park so late in the window? He knew Bendtner was leaving so another striker was always required, why not show an intent and go for Remy, Hunterlaar or Benzema, instead we opt for a Ligue 2 striker Park. But then Wenger proceeds not to play him and asks the fans to give him a chance, but Wenger does not trust him! Is Park one of these mystery Wenger purchases like Kaba Diawarra or Tomas Danilevicius? Whatever the reason, I doubt Park will be with next season.
Arsenal have struggled this season, narrow home victories over Stoke, Sunderland, Everton, QPR, draws with Fulham, Wolves and away defeats at Blackburn, Fulham and Swansea just emphasise in which direction we are heading this season. This Arsenal squad must be the worse squad of players assembled by Wenger in his time at the club. Wenger has stated that finishing in the top four is more important than winning a trophy, well I doubt we will finish in the top four or win a trophy this season. The squad needed a major overhaul in the summer, quality players were required and that has not changed. It is going to be a long and painful second half of the season for Arsenal fans, let’s hope that there is radical change in the summer, but I doubt it.
The Arsenal board and Wenger have constantly talked about the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules and how the Arsenal model is the model other clubs are striving for (financially if not trophy wise). Arsenal are of the opinion that our prudence in the transfer market will eventually ensure we are a successful club both on and off the field.
Let us look at the Financial Fair Play rules. This state that a club over a three year cycle can only lose €15M. What is excluded from the profit and loss are non-football related items. Any profits from our property ventures or income from hotels that some clubs have are disregarded. Any interest payments that relate to the football infrastructure, i.e. stadium or training ground development are ignored.
The next aspect to look at is how are transfers treated. When a club buys a player, say Gervinho for £10.7M, this £10.7M is charged to P&L over the duration of Gervinho’s contract (4 years). This means that for the next four years we will charge the P&L £2.675M per annum. This summer we spent £48M on players and our standard contract is 4 years, so for the next 4 years we will write-off the transfer fees at £12M per annum.
In terms of sales of players, the transfer fee is taken to P&L less any value in the balance sheet. So when we sold Clichy for instance, his book value was nil, so the P&L is credited with £7M for the year 2011/12. Our sales this summer amounted to £73M. As all the players had a balance sheet value of nil, the 2011/12 accounts will show a profit of £73M.
Looking at the accounts for the year ended 31 May 2011, Arsenal’s football profit is £16M per annum before player trading, this position will not change until 2014 when our sponsorship deals with Nike and Fly Emirates expire. This means we can spend £16M per annum on transfers before falling foul of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, in effect our purchases this summer mean we have used ALL of our allowable transfer expenditure for the next three seasons.
However, due to our profit on sales of £73M this summer we can spend a further £100M on players and still be within UEFA’s rules.
So assuming we have no transfers out (highly unlikely with the contract position of our players), Wenger has £100M to spend on players this January and the club will stay within the UEFA Financial regulations.
If we take another look at the accounts as at 31 May 2011, when some season ticket money have been received, but before any transfer money and also before the £25M sale of Queensland Road and before new sponsorship deals with Bettson, Indesit, Citreon, Thomas Cook, O2 and Carlsberg were agreed, Arsenal Football Club had £160M in cash at the bank. Yes just to repeat that £160M in the bank.
Anybody who tells you the club does not have money is lying, we have more money that nearly all the clubs in the Premier League.
Wenger has the resources to go out and buy players in January and still stay within UEFA’s financial rules and I expect he will. The last two times we bought players in January was when we competing with Aston Villa for fourth place and we bought Arshavin and when bought Adebayor, Diaby and Walcott we were in fight for fourth place with Spurs.