Fiszman and Kroenke act to protect AFC and Villareal preview.

An excellent win on Saturday. Three valuable points against an admittedly poor Citeh side. The fact that City were pants didn’t stop Manuel Almunia having to make two very decent saves in the first half though.
The return of Cesc Fàbregas and Emmanuel Adebayor worked a treat. Fàbregas looked mad for it after his long lay-off. Ade took his season’s tally to fourteen in 29 appearances (25 starts and four as a substitute). With his goal last week in Accra giving Togo a one-nil win over Cameroon last weekend, Ade has found his goal touch again straight away. Long may it continue.
Theo Walcott got clumped three times during the game and had ice on his knee after he gave way to Emmanuel Eboué in the second half for the last twenty minutes. Just a precaution we all hope. Fàbregas also gave way to Aaron Ramsey a quarter of an hour from the end.
With Robin van Persie, Abou Diaby and Eduardo all out with knocks picked up on international duty and Samir Nasri going down with flu, the return of Cesc and Ade couldn’t have been better timed. Let’s hope the entire squad less Tomáš Rosický are available for selection on Tuesday night.
I think Villarreal will be a harder prospect than many believe. They very nearly knocked us out at the semi-final stage of the Champions League in 2006 when we gave a “startled rabbits in the headlights” performance across in Spain in the second leg. Their weakness at the moment appears to be their defending. Currently fourth in La Liga, they’ve let in 40 goals in 29 League games (1.37 a match) compared to our 27 goals in 31 League games (0.87 per match. Their scoring record is 45 goals in 29 games (1.55 a game) compared to our 50 in 31 (1.61), pretty comparable.
In the Champions League, they’ve scored 12 in 8 games (1.5 a game) and conceded 9 (1.12 a game). We’ve scored 18 in 10 games (1.8 per game) and conceded 6 goals in 10 (0.6 per game). We’ve kept four clean sheets from the group stage onwards. They’ve managed three. Villarreal also suffered a blow on Saturday with Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla, an ever-present for the Yellow Submarine this season, fracturing his fibula during a 3-0 away loss to mid-table UD Almería, a game in which Robert Pirčs was also sent off.
If we play to form however, we’re more than capable of going through. I’d be delighted with a win in the first leg and happy with a score draw of any description. Unlike 2006 we have the added benefit of playing at home second. Let’s make that advantage stick. I hope the travelling battalions of the Gooner Nation, the advanced detachments of which started arriving yesterday in Valencia and Alicante, give Robert Pirčs the reception he deserves. Bobby was a great servant for us. His contribution to the 2002 Double will always be engraved in my heart. Remember the other players all giving him the “We’re not worthy!” homage at the final League game of the season when the trophy was presented? It was such a tragedy that he did his knee in and missed the league run-in, FA Cup Final and the World Cup for France.
Having paid our due respects to Bobby, let’s get stuck into them and really dictate terms early doors. We need the confidence to think that the opposition should be worrying about us without the arrogance to think we only have to turn up to get a result.
For those travelling out to the game, a few handy words in Spanish and Valencian (the local language. There’s a debate about whether it’s a dialect of Catalan or a separate language. I’m not wading into the middle of that one!):
English                            Spanish                                     Valencian
Please                              Por favor                                     Per favor
Thank you                         Gracias                                       Gràcies
Hello                                 Hola                                            Hola
Goodbye                           Adios                                          Adéu
Yes                                  Sí                                               Sí
Left                                  Izquierda                                     Esqučrre
Right                                 Derecha                                      Dret
Beer                                 Cerveza                                      Cervesa
Wine                                 Vino            &nb sp;      & nbsp;                        Vi
The bill                              La cuenta                                    La factura
Offside                             Fuera de juego                            Fora de joc
Enjoy your trip, all those heading out to the game. I wish I was with you!
Turning to the issue of our future ownership, there was speculation yesterday about this in that bastion of truth and veracity that is the Mail on Sunday. Stan Kroenke now has 20.5% of the shares in the club’s final owner, Arsenal Holdings plc. Danny Fiszman’s sale to him of 5,000 shares (there are 62,217 in total) leaves him with 16.1%. The suggestion floated by the Mail on Sunday is that Fiszman and Kroenke will each buy some of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s shares. Only she knows what she wants to do with her holding. Personally I think she should gift most or all of them to Arsenal Supporters’ Trust. She doesn’t need the money and she came into ownership of her shares from her husband who inherited them in turn from his father. It’s like her winning a Euro Millions rollover jackpot without even paying out £1.50 for a ticket. Whilst it would be an historic, heroic act, I’m not holding my breath however. Love to be proved wrong though!
If the reports are true then buying half each would push Kroenke’s holding up to 28.45 and Fiszman back up to 24.05%, giving them a combined holding of 52.5% and overall control of the club’s holding company.
David Dein sold his shareholding for £75 million to Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings for around £8,250 a share in August 2007. Stan Kroenke paid Danny Fiszman £8,500 a share for 5,000 shares last week, a total of £42.5 million. The price on the PLUS market has dropped £100 to £7,450 a share after being stable at £7,550 for weeks. Somebody’s still out there buying small amounts on the market. 36, including one group of 16 and one of 18 were sold for a total of £275,400 last Thursday. The buyer or buyers are unknown at the moment. It can’t be any of the current directors as they have to immediately notify the market of any movement in their holdings up or down. Could possibly be Red & White Holdings. They don’t have to make another market declaration until and if they reach 26%, but why would they be buying now?
There are a number of factors complicating a possible Kroenke/Fiszman takeover. Those who look at the small print will have noticed an official statementto the PLUS market (the junior stock exchange on which Arsenal Holdings shares are traded) that Stan Kroenke’s company which owns his Arsenal shares, KSE (UK) Inc (registered in the US state of Delaware, famous for the opacity of its it corporate governance laws) has granted a “charge” over 5,000 shares to Danny Fiszman. This is likely to mean that Silent Stan hasn’t paid cash on the nail to Fiszman, but has bought on the “drip” or “tick” as my dear old Granddad used to say. It used to be called hire purchase or “ten bob down, the rest if you’re lucky” when I was a kid.
Rich people have a different way of looking at money than the majority of us who aren’t rolling in it. They don’t stick their surplus cash in National Savings, their building society or credit union. They think that’s a waste. They tend to invest it in assets like shares or property, both of which have fallen off a cliff recently. A lot of us in fact own shares too, but mainly indirectly through our company or personal pension funds or Individual Savings Accounts. The rich often hold very small amounts of their net worth in cash. To raise cash they need to sell assets, not a good idea in a falling market, especially if you want to raise tens of millions. Going to the banks at the moment to borrow money to buy shares in a football club is likely to leave the bank thinking you need psychiatric help, after they stop laughing.
So it appears that Stan has bought from Danny on the never-never, hence the legal “charge” (or claim) over the shares in the event of non-payment of the agreed amount in the timescale specified. So there’s the first problem – do Stan and Danny have the money to buy out Lady Nina’s shares?
The second difficulty is likely to be that Danny Fiszman certainly isn’t high up Lady Nina’s list of favourite people. That said, money talks. She could probably be persuaded to part company with her shares – for the right price. The question is, will the price she has in mind be anywhere adjacent to what Danny and Stan want to or can afford to pay?
There have been persistent suggestions that Lady Nina feels she’s been done up like a kipper by Danny Fiszman, being persuaded to hang onto her shares against her better judgement after David Dein sold out. Having not sold out at the top of the market, she was left holding the bag, and then booted off the board, so the theory goes. I’d imagine she’d want top dollar if she were to sell. Do Danny and Stan really have around £84-85 million in ready cash to buy her out at around £8,500 a share? Even if they do, do they really want to give that sort of sum to her?
Then we come to what could be the biggest problem of all – Red & White. They’re not likely to stand idly by and watch Stan and Danny gain majority control. The City Code on Takeovers & Mergers requires a mandatory bid for all the shares if any one shareholder reaches 30% ownership. In the scenario envisaged by the Mail on Sunday, neither Stan nor Danny would, but their combined holding definitely would. There is a concept in the City Code called a “concert party” which is two or more people or companies acting together. Concert parties are treated as one for the purposes of a takeover. I’d imagine that Red & White would be arguing fiercely that Danny and Stan were acting as a “concert party” if they co-operated to buy out Lady Nina. If they won the argument, Stan and Danny would have to bid for the rest of the shares at a minimum of £8,500, valuing the club at nearly £529 million.
What I do know for sure is one thing. My preferred owners for Arsenal are us – the fans. We pay for the club. We’re the ones who care.  The club has shown it doesn’t need a sugar-daddy to survive. If Danny or Stan or Alisher Usmanov or Little Lord Fauntleroy or whoever buys it they’ll want their pound of flesh one way or the other which means taking money out of the club in the long-term, not putting it in. Danny Fiszman himself said so in a television interview.
Which all goes to show how important is the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust. Sorry to be a broken record about this but that’s the simple truth. Let’s all back AST. We know we can trust them.
That’s all for today. A long blog I know but I think the ownership issue is crucial. It’s not sexy and exciting but it matters – a lot!
Let’s hope we can look forward to a great European night in Spain tomorrow. For those not going and who live and/or work in London, can I recommend the free showing of the match organised by REDaction at the Islington Academy near the Angel Islington in the N1 Centre? REDaction are absolutely top people. They’ve laid on a big screen and beer at reasonable p rices. I’m sure it’ll be a great atmosphere.
Keep the faith!

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