Do We Know What’s Going On At Arsenal? Er, Largely, Yes.

Obviously I encourage comments on my blog, but some of them surprise me. Sometimes I respond in the comments, sometimes I ignore things. Sometimes comments seem so way off the mark I am amazed that anyone could hold these views. Here’s a comment that was left on my last post, Gazidis: Substance or Spin?:

“This article is so full of hyperbole, cheap-shots, half-¨truths¨and the usual regurgitated bollocks that is floating around among the AAA sewer that it beggars belief.
1) Noone has any idea what is available or not since nobody has access to AFC’s finances other than the BoD, Wenger and administratiors, and they’re definitely NOT talking so you may have met everyone at AFC Phil but you don’t know more than any of us about what money is available. SwissRambler has shown AFC’s possible financials but even he admits its all apeculation.
2)All the signs point to lack of ambition? So buying Podolski,Cazorla and Giroud was an exercise in lethargy and defeatism? You really mean your ambition is being ignored by the BoD and Gazidis! Wahhhhhhhhh Phil wants a shiny trophy and will call everyone losers if he doesn’t get one!
3) Arsene gets paid to produce attractive, enjoyable and competitive Football at AFC and to keep us in the top competitions, in the top 4 and maybe win something against all the big spenders. He NEVER ever guarantees a trophy or title since he knows, far more clearly than you AAA whiners, what the process requires. If you are unhappy with the results go find someone to replace him……you’ll be looking for a very long time.
4) Your article is a sad reflection of the tiny minority of so-called Gooners who blame Gazidis, the BoD and Wenger for our oft-repeated ¨trophyless 7 years¨ but who are AAA and anti-Wenger Goons whose principle purpose in life is to denigrate, ridicule and diminish Arsenal and Wenger’s achievements. You are definitely a prime candidate for LeGrove member of the month title….I hear they have a nice pewter trophy for the most vitriolic attacks on all things Arsenal.”

I’ve left that verbatim. The first paragraph tells us nothing other than the author is obviously one of those who cannot stand any criticism of Arsenal or anyone within the Arsenal organisation, no matter what they do or how badly they do it. Whether things are ‘cheap shots’ or not is of course largely a matter of opinion, but some people will say anything that they don’t like the look of is a cheap shot.

Point 1) says that “Noone has any idea what is available . . . nobody has any access to AFC’s finances”, nobody in the club is talking and I don’t know any more than anyone else. Whenever anyone says ‘Noone’ rather than ‘no one’ I’m tempted to make a joke about sixties band Herman’s Hermits (look it up), but that aside it would be most generous to call these statements ‘half-truths’. The fact is that lots of people have a good idea what is available because they study the club’s accounts, which are in the public domain. Everybody has access to a certain level of financial information, and if you’re trained in interpreting it, there’s quite a lot you can learn from a set of accounts. The commenter clearly doesn’t believe this, but that’s his loss.

Then he says that nobody at Arsenal is talking. This is not a half-truth, it’s just wrong. Some of the people in the AST who are cleverer than me are having one of their regular meetings with the club’s finance guys very soon, to talk about – guess what? – the accounts!

Kieron of Swiss Ramble is far cleverer than I, but he doesn’t have the advantage of going to meetings with the club, what with him being several hundred miles away. Nevertheless, he does demonstrate that even without that advantage it is possible to glean quite a lot of information. He does caveat some of his statements, of course, but he is invariably correct with ballpark figures. So actually, quite a lot of people know more than the commenter about Arsenal’s finances, because they have been bothered to look and/or listen.

Point 2 descends into rather childish name-calling, but I am pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking that buying the three players who arrived in the summer and retaining the two first choice players from last season who were sold would have been seen as far more ambitious than, for example, selling the club captain and PL top scorer. Call me old fashioned.

Point 3: while I generally agree with the comment, the person writing it has fallen into the usual trap of those with tunnel-vision and decided that if I criticise ANYTHING about Arsenal that must mean I hate EVERYTHING about Arsenal, which is, to put it bluntly, a load of cock. People criticise their children when it’s appropriate, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love them. Also I believe Arsène did pretty much promise a trophy two or three seasons ago at the start of the season. He hasn’t repeated that since we lost the Carling Cup Final.

Point 4. Oh dear. Where is the evidence that I am one of a tiny minority of Arsenal fans to hold these views? In fact I am one of the reasonable majority, not an extremist ‘sack everyone’ type and not a tunnel-visioned ‘Wenger can do no wrong, the Board can do no wrong, Arsenal can do no wrong’ myopic non-thinker.

Where indeed is the evidence I am anti-Wenger? Is it here?  Where is the vitriol in my blog post? It doesn’t exist.

The same commenter followed up with the following, in response to someone telling him he was perhaps a little biased:

“It is very easy to parrot the AAA, anti-Wenger line and make all sorts of spurious claims about what YOU ¨think¨are the motives behind the BoD, Gazidis and Wenger’s perceived strategy. You haven’t a shread of proof…just a firm conviction that you and the other Wenger-hating¨supporters¨ know the ¨ truth¨, regardless of what others say or also firmly believe. However don’t let your lack of facts and your profound ignorance interfere with your prejudice.
Personally, this dialectic does nothing to improve our cherished Club and we have very little influence over the Board,Wenger or Gazidis, we are best to enjoy the great Football we are seeing for the moment until the next opportunity to whine about Arsenal presents itself..”

I am losing the will to continue dissecting, and in any case this is more of the same: basically insults thrown without any justification, never mind hard facts. The conclusion that we can do nothing and should enjoy what we’ve got is fine if you are happy with second best, but if you’re happy with second best that’s all you’ll ever get.

And you’d think someone who uses the word ‘dialectic’ would come up with something better thought out.


Twitter: @AngryOfN5


21 thoughts on “Do We Know What’s Going On At Arsenal? Er, Largely, Yes.

  1. Like the columns but there is a reason why you are called angry of islington. Do you you not get the feeling of a different dynamic and much more direct team play in recent weeks? Call me blindly optimistic but something is different. Eamo. Dublin,

    • Yes, it’s early days but there is more to be optimistic about this season than there was last season. But that is no reason to let Ivan off the hook, is it.

  2. I have to say, you are being just as childish with your criticism. Using spelling/grammar mistakes to diminish someones view is pathetic. And unnecessary.
    My point is this – is this not the wrong time to criticise? Our defensive frailties look to be over. We are signing mature, experienced internationals. We are pressing the opposition. Most importantly, we are playing with real power again, not seen since 2005 or so.
    Why criticise at all?
    Get behind the team, give full support. Lets give ourselves the best possible chance to win something. Squabbling amongst ourselves is pointless.

    • Believe me Dave, I am behind the team. But the time to not criticise anything will be when we have won the quadruple. Unless you strive for perfection you will never achieve it.
      And regarding using spelling/grammar mistakes to diminish someone, take another look. I made one comment about Peter Noone because that’s what it always reminds me of; I did not even start on anything else. My criticism of the comments is 99 per cent factual. The comments themselves were about five percent factual.

  3. I cant believe this blog exists. I read about 1/10 of this article and it has put me off ever wanting to return to this site. Football is in turmoil. If your not a fan who wants to see lots of teams win the league and cups then your not a real football fan and should support man city, chelsea and man united. Our league is completely based on who has the most money to spend and reflects other parts of our society in all its ugliness. Financial doping is the way we describe this but its basically just not a fair league and if you say thats the way it is then why can other sports sort themselves out in other countrys! Be a football fan.

    • Yes, our league is largely based on who has most money, and always has been. That is a sad fact. I’d rather it wasn’t, but without spending caps it always will be. Given that, would it not be helpful to spend the money available to try and win? That is after all the purpose of being in the league.

  4. First off, I don’t agree with the particulars of those comments, but I do agree with a little of the sentiment.

    I think I can boil it down to three main points:

    1. I want to pull out my own eyes every time I read this thing about the club “showing ambition”, followed up by the insistence that showing ambition = spending money. The logical conclusion is that if we were winning trophies every year while sitting on unspent cash, you would still criticise the club for not showing ambition.

    I’d like you to ask yourself if that’s true. Because if it isn’t true, if you would be happy with unspent cash if the club were winning, then clearly showing ambition is about the football, not about the money. But if it is true, and you would still feel let down by the club not putting every last penny into developing the squad even if they were top of the pile, then that raises the question of what it would actually take to make you happy.

    The inverse of this question is also relevant. What if we spend all the money in the bank, but we still don’t win trophies? Will you be satisfied that we have shown ambition? Or will you be angry at the club wasting its resources?

    My point is that “showing ambition” is a total red herring. If you don’t feel, today, right now, that the club is actively trying to win trophies then I’m pretty sure you would also find a reason not to believe in the club even if they spent all that money you want them to spend.

    2. My interpretation of the reason for not spending the money is very different, and much simpler than yours. Your interpretation is “lack of ambition”, which means that you have to assume all kinds of motivations and character flaws on the part of the manager, Gadzidis, Kroenke and the board: stubbornness, overcaution, greed, selfishness; which then all have to be masked by lying and spinning to the press and to the fans. The picture you build up of the club and the people in it is a very unattractive one – they are all basically liars or bloodsuckers, leeching off the fans – and it’s all driven by this assumption that they just refuse to spend the money because – well, I dunno, because they like to go and lie naked in a bank vault rubbing crisp fifties all over themselves?

    My interpretation is much more straightforward: risk management. When you have no sugar daddy to fall back on, you need to leave money in the bank for a rainy day. Football is a very risky business, and Arsenal are facing a big transition in the next 5-10 years, when Wenger retires. Who’s to say the next manager will be able to keep us at the top? If we start to falter, THAT’S when you’ll be glad of fifty million. Of course the money is available to spend now, as Gadzidis keep repeating, but the point is to try not to spend it.

    It’s this stuff that actually drives me crazy – when gooners automatically assume bad faith and bad motives on behalf of the club when there are other, much more reasonable interpretations and explanations right in front of us.

    3. Even if I accept your argument that somehow the club is not “showing ambition” and accept that they are just sitting on the cash for no good reason at all, you still want it both ways. You criticise the manager for paying players too much money, and then criticise him for not paying players enough money. I understand that you don’t like the flat wage structure (I have problems with it as well), but you have to understand that if you give RVP, Song, Nasri etc bumper pay rises to keep them, you will have to give pay rises to everyone else as well. You can’t have a team with Ox on 10K a week and RVP on 200K.

    So I basically share your commenter’s frustration with the positions that you are taking. They are not coherent, they verge on the paranoid, and at bottom they display a fundamental lack of faith in, or respect for, the club and the people in it. What I’m trying to get people like you to understand is that if money spent on players is your only concern, in the end you are talking about a Chelsea / Man City model. If that’s what you want for the club then fine, go ahead and advocate for that, but I (and many others) will fight it tooth and nail.


    • I must say the standard of comments has largely risen today. This one is worthy of a post of its own. If I had more time I’d answer more fully, but one point: you can save money for a rainy day or you can spend what you have and do your best with it. Spending in itself is obviously not the end, it is the means. AW is on the whole good at spending, so why not do more of it with what is there? Why always take a risk on the level of cover in various positions when you could buy some quality cover? If Arsenal did that and still failed, well so be it. Better to have fought and lost than never fought at all, as the theme tune for The Flashing Blade used to go. Or as someone else once put it, better to have loved and lost than spent your whole life wanking.

      If all the rainy day money were spent strengthening the squad, and heaven forbid we then failed to qualify for the CL, well worst case they could issue some new shares and raise money that way to buy us back to contention. Yes, it is that easy, please don’t bother to argue the point. Even if Stan doesn’t want to put his hand in his vast pocket, plenty of others would, including many fans, as the Fanshare scheme proves.

      So why not spend what we have to try and make a difference of at least a few points a season? A few points is often the difference between success and failure. Or just the ability to put out a stronger team in cup competitions would help, without overtiring the first choice players. That would be ambition.

      • But again, your point is basically that ambition requires doing More – more of what exactly is always a little unclear but it always comes down to Spending More Money. This is a shitty definition of ambition. Yes, fine, in theory you can always do more. But in the real world you have to make a judgement call about risk vs reward.

        By all means complain that you would rather the club spent some of their rainy day money. That shows you at least understand why they are not spending it. But don’t accuse the club of lacking ambition just because their risk assessment is different from yours.

      • Well, everything costs money. As I said, merely spending it isn’t enough, it needs to be on something sensible.
        Building a new training ground could be said to be ambitious. Buying a private jet to fly Stan back and forth for the AGM, not so much.

  5. I have just a few thing to say to you and everyother person who accuse the club of “not spending our money,lying to fans and ripping us off cash,been selfish and not wanting the best for Arsenal,” am sure y’all dont have savings,am sure y’all spend your salary/wages/allowance immediately you get it,am sure y’all dont want to make a profit in your respective buisness,am sure non of you has ever lied to your child/buisness partner/customer or friend because of what you think is the greater good,no? O.k. Atleast y’all are the very best in your respective fields of endavour,no? again? Then y’all must have sacked yourselves,accepted a paycut at work or surenderd your kids to welfare because you hate yourselves for lying to them. Hypocrites.

    • Get in there Cent. You’re even angrier than the author. Great stuff though. Agree with your sentiment mate. And all these spend spend spend merchants? Have they looked at our midfield options lately. Who are they going to buy? Some Carlos Kickaball that they read about on the net? Or some English clogger who chases around like Scotty Quiff but doesn’t understand possession of the ball.

  6. Seriously, are these comments for real?
    People are entitled to any opinion, weather good or bad. All these ‘holier than thou’ types saying you’re not a real fan if you are critical. Apathy would be far more damaging to Arsenal than criticism. Are we “allowed” to happy when it goes well? Of course we are, so surely the opposite is true?
    Look at the passion shown by the blackburn fans last season when protesting against their board and manager and tell me they are not real fans or that they do not love football. Clearly they love Blackburn FC very much.
    An opinion is simply that, it does not reflect anything other than a thought process and we can choose to agree with it or not. Those resorting to name calling as the guy in the featured post above have already proved they lack the skills to actually debate.

  7. Angry
    I don’t know why you bother to reply to them. I am from a different era and it took me a while to realize that there is no filter on this media and consequently any moron ( and I would defend their right to make moronic comment as part of freedom of speech!) can ‘contribute’ to debate. I first read the Gooner blog but it was depressing and I took so much abuse for one of my, what I thought to be, innocuous comments ( turned out from a 14 year old!) that I stopped bothering. However, I started to understand blogging and applied a bit of logic to my ‘surfing’.

    I now, like most, do my own filtering. I read your blog, Cultured Left Foot, Arseblog and Marble Halls (who just gets better and better) and although I naturally don’t agree with everything it sets me up over a coffee for my day in Canada with all things Arsenal written in an interesting and intelligent way.

    I do not read the comments!

    Thank you to you and the aforementioned. You bring a little bit of my long gooner history to me in a far off land.

  8. Not really trying to Troll here, and not sure if this is worth making visible. I am a new reader, so far I’m enjoying it, I found the site when searching for the origin of the “how to pick your english premier side to support” flow chart which is probably the best football related thing I have seen on the net, looking forward to your next iteration by the way.

    ANYWAY, this post and the last post have so far been the first posts that I haven’t really enjoyed reading, not that I disagreed or agreed with anything in particular, just didn’t really enjoy them. I am not 100% sure why I didn’t like them, something around the confrontational styled writing maybe. Figured since so many other people had strong feelings I would pitch in with one that was more neutral.

    Looking forward to the next post.

  9. Phil……Your flaccid attack on my post and subsequent turgid ¨rebuttral¨ smacks of narcissism and arrogant, supercilious self-importance but you,like me , are entitled to your ¨opinion¨ even if couched in a pseudo-certainty born of intense dislike of the Board. To enlighten you, I am not an unwavering devotee of the Board,Gazidis or even Wenger and have occasional doubts about their strategy and plans. I take umbrage and insult at your comments and denigration of my honest posts and your mocking of my observations:

    1) The first paragraph tells us nothing other than the author is obviously one of those who cannot stand any criticism of Arsenal or anyone within the Arsenal organisation, no matter what they do or how badly they do it. ===== Totally false but that’s your hyperbole for you… I do disdain unbalanced and unfair criticism of the Board and AFC’s management based on rumours,suppositions and unproven innuendo.
    2) I HAVE bothered to review what AFC financials are available on the web and elsewhere but I have also been very careful about claiming that AFC have this amount or that revenue in the ¨bank¨ but are greedily sequestering it for their own benefit and not the team’s. If you have proof that AFC had sufficient money to spend on better players than they brought in and to keep their RVP/Song at the Club, then prove it….but IMHO it wasn’t simply a financial issue with either player, something you fail to see in your anti-Board bias. ¨… retaining the two first choice players from last season who were sold would have been seen as far more ambitious¨….how was Wenger to retain these guys when they wanted out or were disruptive and unhealthy for AFC’s overall morale?
    3) I never said you hated everything about AFC…another bit of exaggeration- but you clearly have it in for the management of the Club…..are you by any chance an Usmanov fanboy? You didn’t answer my question about who you’d replace Wenger with but I should have asked who’d you replace Gazidis and the Board with.You’re the one suffering from tunnel-vision and occulitis: a condition where your rectal nerve gets crossed with your optical nerve and you get a shitty outlook on life.
    4) Having followed numerous AFC blogs and posted articles on many great Gooner websites like Untold Arsenal, Ladyarse, A cultured Left foot etc, but – aside from LeGrove, there seems to be a generally more positive view and greater tolerance towards Wenger, the Board and Gazidis than you espouse. There also seems to be more respect for and admiration of what they have achieved,given the combination of their financial restraints dictated by the stadium, the sustainability model and potential officiating ¨errors¨ ,the oilygarch domination of the transfer markets, Kroenke’s and the Usmanov threat and the media’s sustained critics of Arsenal, than there are complaints…so you are in the minority but so what.
    5) I am a pragmatist so if 3rd place in the EPL, coming from 17th in September, a CL group spot and playing beautiful Football is, as you say: ¨The conclusion that we can do nothing and should enjoy what we’ve got is fine if you are happy with second best, but if you’re happy with second best that’s all you’ll ever get.¨ then if and when we do win everything, it will be all that much sweeter. You haven’t shown the slightest evidence supporting your contention that we can do better under the circumstances so please do show us Gooners where your evidence is.

    By the way, one can write no one or noone according to the Webster dictionary so that feeble attempt to demean me is unworthy of you Phil.

  10. If so many of us nowadays question how revenue is spent, then the current regime (and its predecessor) are largely to blame. As I recall hardly anyone in pre-Emirates days doubted the integrity and motivation of BoDs: their competence, perhaps, but never their loyalty to the cause. They were Arsenal fans, like ourselves. That is why we (most os us) were wholeheartedly in favour of the new stadium: it would help make the Club even more successful because
    more revenue equates to better players, etc. So we were happy to give up a little success
    now to earn much more in the future. This is what we were told, this is what we believed. So cometh the zero nett transfer expenditure policy and a keen interest in us now of how Arsenal revenue was being spent. . No trophies but Wenger, with his hands tied, did amazingly well to keep us in CL. We were patient, understanding. And then the sell-out – to a profit-minded non-fan
    – with fomer owners walking away with sacks of gold. Could we have been strung along? Well, yes we were: if they had used some of that £100m+ in the current account to buy some quality players, Stanley would have paid them less for their shares. Or alternatively if (as I believe DD wanted) they had offered a Right Issue to raise cash for players, their holdings would have been diluted. And these people were so-called fans! We have a majority owner now whose business is making money out of sports outfits. It may be that his best interests coincide with those of the Club. So far there is no hard evidence that they do. Which is why it is right for us to question the regime and naive of us if we don’t.

    • I agree 99.9% with this, but oddly I feel I must defend Stan slightly: his main business, I believe, is making money from property, and while he’s probably in favour of making money from sports clubs I think his main concern with them is not losing it. I am happy to believe he’s a sports fan if not an Arsenal fan, and in a way sports clubs are a hobby. Having said that, the value of Arsenal compared to most of his others probably puts it in a different league, no pun intended, and is a bigger deal financially and less of a deal emotionally for him. That’s my belief – I have no proof of his emotions on the matter, obviously.

  11. Phil!, you can only try your best?

    To ignore the Bond Issue to build the Emirates Stadium and then the covenants?

    To ignore the death and dying wishes of a major shareholder in April 2011?

    To ignore the substantial improvement in Advance Season Ticket and VAT sales, thanks to Mr Ivan Gazidis. Oodles and Oodles of Cash on Short Term Deposit and Bank as at 31st May 2011. The £20 millions + another £10 millions which are ring-fenced?

    “We cannot afford to spend £50 millions on one player” is code for – Transfer Reserve or Budget is far less than £50 millions.

    To ignore MegaFon?

    I certainly can see no purpose for Mr Wenger to be one of the authorised signatories for The Arsenal on-line banking transfer of monies due!. Obviously in- house, Highbury House, with Stuart Wisely. and Ivan Gazidis (Director), with Ken Friar (Director) and D Miles as back-ups. Have the AST or AISA ever asked IG how many signatures are required for transaction s of over £1,000,000? s

    Does Mr Wenger have a cheque-book at London Colney? Yes, for day-to-day business. Stuart Wisely will be advised by e-mail of Mr Wenger’s wishes.

    Phil , you must try harder?

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself…..but I am unfamiliar with some of these issues you mention as Arsenal’s financial management is quite complicated and not all that transparent. I wonder how many questions you posed could be answered by Phil or anyone else?

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