With all the talk of behind-the-scenes maneuvers in the quest for Arsenal’s soul, memories can’t help flood back to 2005. Man-U fans were burning the Glazers in effigy as the takeover became real.
The images and reactions beamed back over the pond seemed to us, if nothing else, a bit over t
he top. And now, years later, the bitterness still in their blood, United fans have come to realize what was obvious from day one: the takeover didn’t mean the end of the club as they knew it. In fact, little changed at all — the action on the pitch, the scouting, the management.
What were the negatives? Ticket prices, and a feeling of disconnect between fans and ownership. So what? Is that enough of a reason to complain? This is top-flight football. To expect a friendly, local ownership AND every top foreign player under the sun is naïve. This is a world league now. The top four have more fans outside the UK than within. And so Arsenal fans could do well to take a close look at the horizon.
Things are about to change, but is the sky about to fall? It comes to this: Can a club in the 21st century afford not to get in bed with a billionaire and still hope to stay atop European football? I wonder how many Arsenal fans now staunchly opposed to foreign ownership would change their tunes if the team became one of the have-nots in five years, slogging for a UEFA cup spot, all the while playing the most attractive football in the country. Perhaps Arsene Wenger will always have an eye for future talent and thus never need to overpay for players.
Or perhaps one day the club will find itself staring across an ever-growing talent gap. An American fan’s take: The best situation would combine the current Wengerian system of scouting and back it with a healthy war chest, one the likes of Alisher Usmanovor Stan Kroenke could provide, unsavory characters they may be. Hell, if a well-meaning English Billionaire wants to do it, even better. Would it really constitute selling the team’s soul to have these finances in place, provided the club didn’t use them to buy the highest-priced players every season, no matter who they are or how they fit?