I’ve been out for quite a while – this is the first time I’ve had a chance to put digits to keyboard in weeks mainly because of the subject of this post.
Like most fans I’ve been watching a display of inconstancy that has driven a lot of fans to turn on each other like a pack of rabid wolves and it’s really sad to witness – this is the sort of shit I always used to laugh about when looking at Tottensham fans. Arsenal supporters that used to give those that didn’t agree with them a friendly ribbing and a quick punch on the arm are now getting personal and verbally stabbing each other in the back – it’s shocking and frankly it’s got to stop. What the fuck do you think the average Manc, Spud, Russian or Scouser thinks when they look at us now? They’re laughing at us, that’s what. Instead of ripping into THEM, many of us Gooners seem to prefer turning on others wearing the red & white that don’t agree with; Wenger/the clubs direction/our trophy-less run/youth (delete as applicable).
While watching this from such a distance I have begin to feel a Zen like calm descend over my own opinions regarding all this Wenger love/hate, because I think many are missing the point about what Wenger has been up too. Now before I go any deeper into this controversial subject I’d like to quickly point something out – as a Gooner I am as gutted as any of you on the current inadequacies of the team and our seeming inability to remain consistent from one game to another. I too feel we need at the LEAST a CDM, CB and maybe even cover for the wings – high quality, experienced players in their mid to late 20’s (i.e. not kids) – and I scream at the TV on a weekly basis when we play like we did against Hull/Fulham/Stoke/Villa/Man City/Porto (last night)……..However what has stopped me calling for the head of Wenger on a Pike to stake out above London Bridge is what is going on in the world economy at the moment.
Lets back-track to summer to analyse; Wenger has a Kitty of say 50mill squid and has publicly claimed that we need a CDM, and maybe another “player of exceptional quality”. Yet none turns up….. Instead of screaming blue bloody murder has anyone stopped to think “why?”
Let’s look at some facts – the economy is deeply in the toilet and is swirling ever faster towards the U-Bend. Everything I see is pointing towards it getting worse before it gets better and so every business on the planet is cutting back, saving money where it can and sacking people like it’s a new fashion trend. The Banks are in meltdown…….not manufacturing, not raw materials production, the BANKS. The very institutions that make capitalism possible, make business possible – hell make modern life possible. “So what?” you may say. Well the ‘what’ is this; everything that is made that you buy is made in a factory that is built using loans from the Banks. Every Aeroplane that flies from every airline is either purchased on credit, or leased from a company that bought them with loans. Every car that is built is built in a factory that was initially funded by a Bank. Skyscrapers are all constructed using loans, infrastructure (electricity lines, oil platforms etc) are ALL built using loans from Banks – and yes of course the Emirates stadium was built using big fat loans.
What’s that got to do with Wenger not buying XYZ in the summer? Well the ‘so what’ is this – 4 of the BIGGEST 5 investment banks in the USA (who do the VAST bulk of the loaning) have hit the wall. Lehman Bros, a firm that has been around for 158 years – longer even then the Arsenal – went spectacularly bankrupt. Bear Stearns Cos., Merrill Lynch & Co, Washington Mutual, American International Group (AIG), Wachovia…… need I go on? Between them they were responsible for untold BILLIONS of loans….. We’re only just now STARTING to see the ripple effect of them going Kaboom you wait until next year!
The bottom line is – all of a sudden, all the money that was floating around the ether has dried up. None of the banks are giving out loans for any big projects until they see how deep this crisis runs – and already it’s being compared to the worst financial crisis in history – the stock market crash of 1929 – and if you don’t know how bad that was just Google it and read up. In short, this is bad, very, very bad – but why should football fans care? Well unless it’s escaped your attention, football became a business a long time ago, a BIG business. Like any big business it buys & sells big assets; players costing millions, stadiums costing a quarter of a billion plus, ridiculous wage bills, infrastructure etc. and this money doesn’t come from a big pot of cash sitting under Director’s desks, it generally comes from banks who hold the cash.
So again – rewind to summer. Let us again say Wenger has got 50 Mill as a pot and is looking for high quality players. All the time the “credit crunch” is going on in the background – all the aforementioned banks were loosing Millions per day – and Wenger knows that the talent pool of youth that he has been building for the last 5-10 years is close to fruition, VERY close. He casts his eye over the worlds top footballers and sees ridiculous prices everywhere, so he digs – unearths a gem in Nasri, buys him. Looks for more of the same, but is blocked at every turn by other clubs willing to spend without constraint, and by the clubs that the players are currently with not wanting to let go. So he looks at the state of the worlds economy, looks at the 35 Mill he has left after Nasri and other youth purchases – he can’t get Inler, the Alonso purchase rides on Liverpool getting Gareth Barry from Villa with Villa holding on to a stupid valuation and not much else is out there for the right price. Added to this is a wealth of talent coming through…… and he makes a call. Play it safe for now – keep the 35 million for a rainy day and lets see what these kids are made of……. Outcome, the kids are NOT yet up to the job, however the economic crisis that was merely bad when he made the call, became catastrophic. I don’t know what it’s like in Blighty at the moment barring what my family and friends tell me (not good), but here in the US we’re reeling from over half a million job losses in ONE MONTH!
So was it the right call? Tricky and very dependent on what you care about…….Regardless, in all honesty anyone saying Wenger has “lost it” is not looking at the bigger picture here; we don’t yet know how bad this economy is going to be and how long this slump will last (1929 lasted until the mid to late ‘30’s) and the long term consequences of this economic implosion could be huge. So consider this: Arsenal are in major debt, but with secured, fixed rate loans it’s a debt that is easily manageable considering the foreseeable future (which is not very seeable). Chelsea are indebted to a Billionaire that has lost BILLIONS in this crisis who could call time on his little adventure if he feels the pressure too much…. Liverpool were mortgaged to the hilt when Hicks & Gillett bought the club and if they can’t refinance the loan in January (which I seriously doubt they can), and they can’t sell the club, then Liverpool could go into receivership. Man U are in debt for the same reasons, but are still spending money like it’s going out of fashion (SAF is good at spending other peoples money) but like Liverpool it’s all based on refinancing loans, loans that may well not be available for a long time. None of these are situations I’d be comfortable with the Arsenal being in.
Now I ask again was it the right call?
Personally I think it was, which is a statement I’m going to be tho roughly slagged off for in the feedback forum I know. However I justify it like this; Arsenal has been around for 122 years, twoworld wars, depressions, recessions, the birth of the Premier League, Champions League and more history then we can realistically imagine experiencing. It’s still here because it’s been well run over the course of this time, by loyal custodians who have seen it through the good times and the bad. Is another ‘trophyless season’ that is the cause of so much infighting worth the safety and stability of the club? My answer is ABSOLUTELY – I think we’ve all forgotten the lesson of Leeds Utd far too quickly….. Where are they now? League 2 – because the management were irresponsible and overspent.
In times of economic woe, you don’t spend money unless it gains you a guaranteed advantage – would spending 20-25 million on the best CDM money could buy have changed our season – OF COURSE IT WOULD HAVE! But hang on; what if that player is then injured (as seems to be the Arsenal way at the moment) then we’ve blown 25 million for another bench warmer and we’re in the same spot. Football is a game of skill, stamina, fitness and teamwork with a little luck thrown in for good measure. Managing a club is a game of financial wrangling, wit, guile, market watching and risk management – and I think that Arsenal are currently in the safest hands in the land considering all the factors in this equation.
I know I’m going to get killed for this, there are fans that seem to come to this site purely to vent their anger and frustration, but I wanted to put some real world perspective on the Wenger for/against argument. It’s about MORE then buying the right players and winning all the trophies. Formula 1 recently lost Honda who pulled out and is finding out that it’s only a few inches away from ceasing to exist, and there are proposals on the table to reduce costs by 80%….. Yes this is an extreme analogy as football as a sport is not yet in crisis, but it should be known that no-institution is safe in a global meltdown and only the fittest survive. All the top four clubs are walking a knife edge at the moment – what if sponsors go bankrupt? What if the next TV deal isn’t that big? What if people can no longer afford to watch? If missing out on silver wear this season is the price for Arsenal’s security, I put it to you that it may be a price worth paying for the long term viability of the club…… before we judge Wenger, we need to see what will happen in the medium term instead of the right here-right now. THAT will be the gauge of his ability to run the club.
Let my lynching commence……..