Lady Nina and Le Boss

Saturday’s nil-nil snooze festival on a lovely afternoon at the Grove sees us within two points of a third place League finish. That will take us straight into the draw for the group stage of next season’s Champions League. One point will probably do it given our goal difference is thirteen better than Spurs, twelve better than Manchester City’s and twenty-three better than Aston Villa’s. Let’s do ourselves a favour however and win at Ewood Park next Monday evening. That would leave the last game of the season to relax. It’s entirely possible that Fulham will be looking forward to the Europa League Final in Hamburg by that stage. Their goalless draw against Hamburger SV at the HSH Nordbank Arena puts them in good shape for the return leg at Craven Cottage this Thursday, volcanoes permitting!
Assuming that we can manage a win at Ewood Park, the result in our game would then not affect any other final placing for promotion, relegation or Europe. If Fulham do qualify for the Europa League Final then it would be a chance to rest some players and try a few youngsters. I’d much prefer that to the tension of needing a win or a draw to absolutely ensure third place.
This season has been one of frustration for us. I’ve said before that we need to have a long look at our medical and physiotherapy personnel, equipment and procedures to check we’re doing all we can to prevent and treat injuries as well as we can. My guess is though that the horrible bad luck we’ve suffered in this area is just that – bad luck. That shouldn’t stop the club asking the question though.
The frustrations of a fifth consecutive trophyless season are telling on quite a few Gooners. There have been some outbursts in the latest edition of that estimable organ of opinion The Gooner and in the Arsenal supporting blogosphere. There was another Myles Palmer spasm on arsenalnewsreview.co.uk this morning. Some who continue to support Arsčne Wenger as manager are being described as “Muppets” or “mugs”. Something is rotten in the heart of the Gooner Republic, they say. Bring me the head of Arsene Wenger!
As regular readers of my blogs will know I’m not an uncritical Wengerphile. There are serious questions that need asking and answering. We do need to get a sense of perspective however. It’s not as it we’re plummeting down the table. The question is how do we kick on to the next level and start to win trophies again. There are some intelligent arguments deployed by those who believe Wenger’s time has passed. On balance I believe he should be allowed to continue as manager IF he can assure the board that he’s on top of our clear deficiencies as a team. You don’t need a UEFA pro coaching licence to see them. I don’t agree with much that Myles Palmer writes. He is correct about one thing though. The manager must be accountable to the club.
Talking about accountability, there was a story in The Mail on Sunday yesterday that Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith is preparing to sell her 15.9% stake in the club to an “eastern European” (NOT Alisher Usmanov):
My sources tell me that Lady Nina is being “elusive” at the moment. She seems to have placed herself in a self-imposed purdah. It’s known that the American bank Blackstone she’s appointed to sell her Arsenal shares are concentrating on the Middle East and are looking for a price of £10-15,000 a share. The current PLUS market “mid” price is £10,050 (£10,300 if you’re buying, £9,800 if you’re selling). 51 shares sold were notified to the PLUS market last week, all at prices in and around the market price. The highest price paid was £10,300, the lowest £9,500. All of these shares can pretty safely be assumed to the in the hands of Alisher Usmanov. Stan Kroenke with one sole exception hasn’t paid more than £8,500 a share.
As I’ve blogged previously I can’t see a new third party wanting to buy into Arsenal ownership without having some sort of deal with one or more of the other current major Arsenal shareholders Stan Kroenke, Alisher Usmanov and Danny Fiszman. I think that this story in The Mail on Sunday (a journal I generally wouldn’t believe if it wrote that grass is green and the sky is blue) is either planted by Blackstone or their agents to try and put pressure on Kroenke and Usmanov to make Lady Nina an offer she can’t refuse or there is indeed an “eastern European” in the wings who is a close associate/partner of Alisher Usmanov to whom Lady Nina would prefer to sell rather than to Usmanov directly.
It’s also possible (although not very likely) that somebody from the United Arab Emirates or Qatar is ready to offer a mad price like £13,000 a share (which would value the club at £808.2 million, plus the existing debts of £203.6 million). At that price I’d imagine Usmanov, Kroenke and Fiszman would all consider bailing out. It’s very difficult to say with any certainty exactly what’s happening without being privy to the thoughts of four individuals – Lady Nina and her three fellow senior shareholders. Only time will tell I’m afraid.
Meanwhile, I renew my call for high-net worth Arsenal supporters to form a “Cannon Custodians” group to work with Arsenal Supporters’ Trust in forming a viable plan to put the club’s ownership into safe hands that will always put the interests of the club first.
Keep the faith!

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