This is a kind of Part 3 of my Ivan Q&A review. I’m going to focus on two particular questions to highlight the problems of communication and understanding between supporters of the same club – who in this case were in the same room listening to the same information from the same person! As it happens, the main subject is my old favourite, the Arsenal wage structure. I expect I’ll get a few comments about how obsessed I am with that.
So as an example of where people hearing the same words can reach different conclusions, Tim Stillman (aka @LittleDutchVA) wrote in his own Q&A review on Arseblognews that Ivan confirmed the ‘socialist’ wage structure for players no longer exists. I know Tim, and our views on the state of Arsenal often coincide, but I disagree with his interpretation of Ivan’s words. The problem is Ivan did not just give a Yes or No answer.
The full wording of the question addressed to Ivan was this (I have it in full because it came from the AST and I saw it beforehand):
“In previous Q&As you have suggested that the club was aware it needed to restructure its relatively flat wage structure so that it can afford to pay enough to persuade the top players to join and stay. Yet just a few weeks ago Arsène stated that he decides the wages paid and favours what he describes as a more socialist approach. Can you reassure us that this is your lead area of responsibility and that the necessary changes are being made to make our wage spend more effective?”Guess which answer is closest to Ivan’s:
a) “Yes I can confirm the ‘socialist’ wage structure is being abandoned.”
b) “No I can’t confirm the ‘socialist’ wage structure is being abandoned.”
c) “Where we start with every player is an assessment of talent. Arsène makes decisions on what talent he wants. Once he identifies the talent he wants then we talk wages. The right decisions on wages inevitably follow the talent assessment. Arsène is not scared to pay top wages to top players. We need to evolve our pay structure. We have never said that there’s an absolute structure and I’m not sure I know which comments from Arsène you’re referring to. Thanks to Arsène we’ve competed against clubs that have spent much more than us and we think he’s done a good job.”In case you’re not sure, I can tell you it’s c). As you can see, there is room for interpretation. But the upshot is this:
- Arsène is given a budget to spend
- He can spend it on wages or transfers
- He, and only he, decides the split between the two
- If he wants to pay every first team player exactly the same wage, that’s what he’ll do
- If he wants to pay one player £20m a year and all the others £10,000 a year, that’s what he’ll do
- Ivan can ‘encourage’ him to do differently, and Ivan is careful to give the impression of being involved without ever stating that he’s actually the man making the decisions. But Ivan can’t force Arsène to do anything unless and until Stan Kroenke decides Arsène is no longer the best man for the job
- If that point is reached, Arsène does what he’s told or gets sacked; that point has not yet been reached.
(You are free to not believe any of the above, but I assure you it’s all true.)
So to answer the question for Ivan: The wage structure is what Arsène wants the wage structure to be. If he wants to buy a player for £25m and pay him £12m a year (eg Rooney), then if it fits in the total budget he can do it. If he prefers to buy players for £8m-£12m and pay them all £3m-£5m a year he’ll do that. At the moment he does the latter; if he does the former, the wage structure has changed.
Example 2 of different stories from the same information: The headline on Le Grove on Tuesday morning was: “Ivan Q&A: Players haven’t joined because they’re at big managerless clubs.”
For Pedro this was the biggest talking point of the night, and he said as much to me immediately after the Q&A finished. I replied that I wasn’t so sure that’s what Ivan was saying, but without referring to my notes I couldn’t be definite – and anyway Ivan said a lot of stuff, some of which contradicted his other stuff.
The question that caused this talking point was the one about whether Arsenal had missed a trick by not doing business early, while our three CL rivals in England didn’t have managers so weren’t doing their own business. My notes gave me this (paraphrased) response from Ivan: “I don’t think the situation of other clubs has made a difference. We are competing for a very small group of players at the top of the game. We are in discussions, but all parties have to want to do a deal.”
Tim Stillman took away something similar on this one, but Pedro heard “the reason we hadn’t made any purchases was because we’re going after top end players at clubs that lack a manager.”
To be fair, Ivan does talk a lot, as he openly admitted, and it’s hard to keep up and summarise everything accurately. But I think Pedro misheard that one.
I think I will suggest Jeremy Paxman to ask the questions next year. That way we might get closer to a Yes or No on some subjects – or at least some more entertainment while Ivan tries to avoid being unequivocal.
Still, it’s easy to see how disputes on social media can come about when three of us in the same room don’t hear the same story. As Pedro also said: “I always like the fact that in real life, people have opposing views and still get on. Social media, you have a lot to answer for.” Amen to that.
Notwithstanding the limitations of social media, follow me on twitter: @AngryOfN5