It is May 2009 and the dust is settling, Wenger who was the devil incarnate resigned in February after being hounded out by vocal fans and having the worse set of results in the twelve years since coming to the Arsenal. Arsene Wenger at the time said that usually he would have honoured his contract, but the level of obscene abuse coupled with the water bottle thrown at him in the dug out had been the last straw. The TV pictures of the ejected fan who later admitted that he wasn’t even an Arsenal Supporter had shocked the footballing world.
Despite having lost only five games at the time of his departure, the premiership still remains wide open with almost no team able to mount a good run with defeats of ManU, Chelsea and Liverpool in fixtures that last season would have been nigh certainties. The fear of being relegated from the richest league in Europe has meant that this season, many teams have strengthened and managed to mount real defences against the top four. The gap between mid table Arsenal and the top of the Premier league is only 10 points, but they are four points above the relegation zone where Tottenham remained glued to the bottom. Alisher Usmanov is the new owner of Arsenal Football club having made an audacious raid after Wenger’s departure.
Prior to the takeover by Usmanov, The Emirates had degenerated into a cauldron of boos and wolf whistles with the singers of “one Arsene Wenger” being howled down by those who wanted a new manager. Players were seen regularly arguing on the field of play, as Arsenal suffered defeats against Hull, Fulham, Stoke City, Man U and Liverpool. The tabloid press were talking of crisis and possible takeover and for the first time Alisher Usmanov’s name was being sung openly by fans in Club level, normally a silent section of the stadium. At almost every match, the end of the game was greeted by the odd season ticket being hurled onto the pitch and numerous fights broke out in the crowd between the traditiononalist supporters and those who claimed to have had enough.
The Board responded to the resignation early in the new year by stating that this was a black time in Arsenal’s great history but the choice of Martin O’Neil from Aston Villa seemed strange. All the pundits said that O’Neil was the right blend of passion and strategy. He was considered to be the one manager who could work with young players, but his style of football is unattractive and the results have gone from bad to worse. Three straight defeats and Arsenal are now looking down a barrel. There is now open talk of replacing O’Neill already. With Arsenal’s early exit from the Champions league and the FA Cup, next years profits are bound to be hit and the Usmanov take over of the Arsenal board increased was greeted dramatically with the news that Stan Kroenke had sold his Broadband business and resigned from the Board one week later.
There is speculation that Mr Kroenke did not feel that his business investments had received sufficient protection, and he did not possess enough equity to takeover the club. Red and White Holdings have stated that they intend to spend at least £50 million getting in new stars, but experts say Arsenal will lose Fabregas to Barcelona and Wilshere to AC Milan and Carlos Vela to Real Madrid, bringing in £100 million, but with the new debt having tripled to £900 million from £360 million after the Arsenal takeover by Usmanov, Arsenal fans are unlikely to see one penny of that £100 million spent on the replacements. Hundreds of Highbury square flats have been lost as buyers pull out in the ensuing panic.
Add to that the loss of the world wide scouting network following Gilles Grimandi’s simultaneous resignation and departure to Paris St Germain. Arsenal really need to find someone who is savvy in the transfer market. There is open talk of Usmanov bringing in Sam Allardyce to the Emirates, renown for his ability to buy well in the bargain basement of the transfer market, some commentators are saying that this is definitely not the Arsenal way. Not a week goes by without another young star being picked off from the academy. On the stock markets, the deepening recession and turmoil in the banking community see Usmanov’s mining companies profits plummet making the likelihood of even Usmanov selling out a possibility.
Within two months of the takeover, there is now talk of regret from many supporters. Talk Sport radio presenter Adrian Durham was quoted as saying that Arsenal are heading for the Championship next season, and upon the current run of form and the disunity at the club, few are tempted to disbelieve him. Yet this had been all so predictable, the unfortunate justaposition of injuries to crucial players and a series of inexplicable losses to teams in the lower half of the table had precipitated this meltdown in the support base. The influx of new fans were thought responsible, but the pressure on the Board grew as the lockdown agreement expired.
No-one can predict the fortunes of this once mighty club from North London next season, but without unity and with such crippling debts, a Leeds United scenario seems all too likely. It seems that many Arsenal fans believed that there would always be a solution after Wenger, but what they were unprepared for was the premature departure of the Frenchman from the club following his repeated humiliation and obscene abuse that had continued over Christmas. They were also unprepared for the response from Stan kroenke, who now has resigned from the Arsenal Board and seems set to return to Barrack Obama’s USA.
They say a week is a short time in politics, it seems that in football and for these dumb struck Gooners, a week was even shorter with reference to their rapid takeover by Usmanov and the departure of Mr Kroenke.
Associated Press Freelance reporter from North London.
Be very careful what you wish for…FTK.