One life, one game, one team, one invincibles

One life, one game, one team, one Invincibles (So far)

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Will Stan sell out - like all his predessesors?

Its not just our new owners who seemingly don't give a toss, the alleged custodians of Arsenal Football Club have all been feathering their nests for years whilst pretending to be doing us all a favour. Not one of them has put any money into the Club whereas almost every single one of them has massively lined their own pockets by selling their shares. Who needs dividends when you can make a fortune anyway? Despite all the holier than thou old bollocks that Arsenals old school custodians have spouted over the years Arsenal Football Club tried to sell out to Carlton as long ago as 1998 while Dein was still around and who must have been set for a bit of pocket lining. It didn't happen then, but Dein subsequently threw his toys out of the pram at a later date and walked away with £70 million or so, his loyalty clearly available to the highest bidder - that and his desire to spite fellow board members at that particular time. Dein it seems wanted to cart us off to Wem-ber-lee on a cheapskate rental agreement, other board members wanted to up the value of our club by building a new home before selling out for their own 30 pieces of silver. This was just one battle of the money-men where Fizsman pissed all over his old friend Dein. No honour amongst thieves as they say. Or is it no honour among board members - I forget. Anyway these were just two of the men who sold out our Arsenal. It's been one big disruptive fight in the boardroom ever since the late '90's, at least that's how it looks to me.
Life long buddies, not

The little loved old has-been Peter Hill Wood still treats fans disdainfully, he has done so for years, yet he long since sold his family's Arsenal birthright for hard cash. His father and grandfather, both long-term and relatively honourable Chairmen of the club would have been appalled at his behaviour. About £5.5 million was what his remains of the family heirloom went for. He once famously told Dein there was no money in football and yet has clung on to the Chairman's post like a petrified limpet several decades past it's sell-by date. Hill Wood has been the perpetual patsy and front man for them all, including Fiszman who had almost as much to say as silent Stan. Saint Danny Fiszman sacked our only director who had the first clue about football (Dein) before upping the value of his own holdings by building a new stadium and redeveloping our old one. He partially did this by belatedly bringing in a CEO (Edelman) who neither knew nothing, nor cared nothing about football. Edelman's idea of a new home was to leave it covered in bare concrete and if rumours are to be believed he paid off building bills with money allocated for team spending. We were not told why he was sacked, just as no-one was told why Dein was sacked. But back-stabbing is par for the course in Arsenal's board room. Ask Nina, David or Keith.
Yeah, like he won this

Fiszman's estate made £143m plus, but did he sell because he knew he was dying or because he was looking to sell anyway. I can't say I know for sure but it felt to me then, and retrospectively more so, as if the board had been looking to cash in on the golden goose for quite some time. Fiszman simply speeded the process whilst upping the value with our stadium move. Whilst incidentally ensuring his personal tax bill was kept at bay with his move to Switzerland. Events seem to prove that almost each and every one of them were all too delighted to cash in and piss our heritage, retained in their custodianship, up the river.

Did Fiszman even actively look for a massively rich Arsenal fan or group of fans who cared?  No Fiszman sold out to a disinterested American who collects sports teams as some sort of hobby. Someone previously rejected by our owners because he arrived via David Dein, who happened to be that week's arch-enemy. 'We don't want his sort' was the phrase deployed by Hill-Woodentop. Danny boy was also very keen not to sell to the Oligarch Uzbekistani another outsider lined up by David Dein and so Kroenke was thus the easy preferable option when the time came. It seems Kroenke may not even have to put all his readies up front. So what we have here now is yet another piece of English heritage, namely our Club, in the hands of yet another couldn't-give-a-shit-American. Stan 'zip-lip' Kroenke doesn't actually do anything with his sports teams he just collects them, he shows no interest whatsoever in Arsenal and leaves a lap dog to front up the Club. Just as he leaves others to front up his other assets. Not spending money despite already having already made massive paper financial gains for doing jack shit is all Kroenke has done with Arsenal. He doesn't even see why he should speak at the AGM. He won't discuss his policy for our Club's future because it very much looks as though he has no policies. But then why would you need policies if the Club's gone up in value by about £280,000,000 since he's taken over as owner.

You will note that Dein managed to fall out with Fiszman whom he introduced to the Club by selling him 10,000 shares in 1991 and also fell out with both Kroenke and Usmanov whom he also introduced. The only ones who still care much for Dein are a number of fans who think the sun still shines out of his arse because he was a 'genuine fan' who could relate to fans and introduced Wenger. I'd suggest he has only ever been motivated by his love of money and his own ego.

The one honourable exception to all these dog-eat-dog boardroom shareholders is Ken Friar, an outsider who once effectively ran the Club that has now twice begged him to come back from his well-earned retirement.

As for the other long-term custodians of The Arsenal the Bracewell-Smiths long-term historic holding was subsequently given away by Lady Nina. I say given away but she actually got well over £100 million for her 15.9% stake. Nina too was both dragged onto the board and subsequently kicked off it when it suited them. Richard Carr a perennial boardroom non-entity in his day creamed a trifling £40 million from Kroenke, despite their historic connection he and his family were only too happy to cash in big time.
Lady Nina - in or out when it suited the board

Did any of them lift a finger to assist the Arsenal Supporters Trust. No, not one of the miserable two-faced money-grubbers lifted so much as an index finger. So we are now stuck with two owners: Jabba a part time resident in London who at least watches some games but whom no one wishes to touch with a barge pole, certainly not their own barge pole. All he's done thus far is take a 30% stake and shit stir whenever the opportunity arises. The effective owner is out absentee landlord with no discernible polices. A man who resides on the other side of the pond and does nothing. Nothing other than wear a rather naff rug. By doing nothing I mean he takes no active part and has no stated policy for the future, he also clearly has only a very minimal interest in football, and quite evidently even less in the Club or the team. He and his minions have minimal control over the manager who has clearly been provided with zero guidance for years by a bunch of warring rich boys.

What more could we possibly want from a board?

Well apart from not selling our best players each season (board's score for not selling our best players each season 1/10), tying down our better players on longer contracts (2/10), purchasing some additional top quality players with what money we have earned (3/10), a clear policy for team building (2/10). Other than an improvement to the above what I'd really like is a proper football board which has a game-plan (3/10), that gives a shit for its hard-core fans (2/10), that cares about winning trophies (1/10), that knows a bit about football (1/10), that gives football the priority over money-making (0/10). Without this the Club is simply a rudderless ship run by a board whom inspire no confidence whatsoever. The Club is  currently being allowed to drift and they've been drifting for quite a few years, just as they were for 25 years or so after WW2.

All the current intent and direction being shown is financially inspired. It obviously needs to be inspired by football but they've lost track of this very obvious fact. It needs to be all about the football. Myself I don't even demand trophies, just a team that looks like it is intent on winning some. Not any old trophies mind, just the real ones. I don't give a flying fart for the League Cup. I'd like to really see us challenge for the League rather than vie for a place in the Champions League. I'd like to see us really battling it out with the top Clubs in Europe rather than just gaining a few quid from the Champion's League kitty. Thank goodness the board kept Wenger at the helm during these turbulent and stressful financial times, few other managers could have kept sane in such disruptive times. Not that the board would have known whom to appoint in Wenger's stead, they don't have a footballing brain between them and ever employ outsiders to headhunt new CEO's.

When Mr. Wenger joined the shares were worth £280, they now stand at £16,000 plus. Compare that with the rest of the World's economy and shake your head in total wonder. That in it self has been a major reason for the board not even considering any options to  Mr Wenger rather than for his footballing achievements. Not that they would understand his massive achievements in keeping our Club near the top during its recent upheavals anyway. But like I hinted they wouldn't ditch Wenger because they wouldn't have a clue whom to appoint. Unless they consult the experts - but we fans have never ever had any say have we?
Remind me again - who are you?

Please note. I've attempted to be reasonably accurate with the number crunching but accept that the figures are unlikely to be anything like 100% accurate.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Boring Boring Arsenal!

1) Mark King tells it like he sees it:

As a Club, I think we are in big trouble here. Let's take 2 things as set in stone:

1) Stan is not going anywhere, not for at least another 2 seasons anyway. Then he can sell and make a huge profit for an investment he could afford and very little work on his part. Some would say he may stay even longer given his record with other teams, but I think they may be forgetting 2 things, this is England not the US and we are talking proper football with ingrained die hard fans. So whilst he may consider himself safe in Denver, will he really want all the bad publicity that those fans can bring to his portfolio.
Who's funnier Will Ferrell or Stan Kroenke?

2) Mainly for the reasons above, AW will not be leaving unless he walks at the end of his contract in 2014 and let's face it, I can easily see an extension to that being offered this season if we pick up a little bit, as he is doing the job that Stan wants i.e. top 4 with minimal investment (total).

So if we accept the above, what happens now? Well, if we continue to win a game, lose a game, draw a game as we are at present, then come January and with all the money available we must buy 2 players. I would take Henry back as a squad player, ONLY AS LONG AS we also buy a top quality CF and by that I mean one of Cavani, JKH, Llorente or Lopez. If another player of that quality became available they would also be acceptable. Do players of this standard move in January? Not often. Do we pay the money they cost? Rarely! 

The other player needs to be something different for our midfield, so I would like Santa to bring either Capoue or Fellaini as we need a power player who will drive forward with the ball to complement our tiny ballers. Diaby could have been that player, but I think that the resurrection of Lazarus has now been cast aside as the latest offering from Derren Brown. Ideally I think we also need an experienced back up keeper and Leighton Baines, but I think I am pushing my luck now!

Problem is, January is the worst time to buy. No-one wants to sell their better players as they know it is difficult to replace them. Everyone also knows we are desperate, so the prices will go up and AW is already tighter than a duck's chuff as it is! Added to which, some of these players will be cup tied from Europe and possibly domestic and if they come from abroad there will obviously be a settling in period and you can never guarantee that works at all!

I feel that yet again we are in for Groundhog Season, which has actually become Groundhog Matchday for me. I travel to Arsenal for matches now with a distinctly 'meh' attitude. This is mainly because I have given up trying to predict which team will turn up; West Ham away or Norwich away, because I have never seen a top 4 team that could appears so different from one match to the other as we currently do! I think that finally the repetition of what we see has now ground down a lot of my willingness to hope!
Another Groundhog Season?

But I will still keep going, mainly because I am not sure if I can ever stop. I mean I didn't in the mid 70's when we were 50 shades of shit compared to now and just a kid enjoying the experience of being able to go. Even the period of Terry Neill and then Don Howe early to mid 80's wasn't enough to knock the monkey off my back. But am I still going now through habit rather than hope? Is it more social now than sporting, a chance to have a few beers with my mates and my nephew, who I don't see other than at THOF.

Yet again they gave us hope v the scum that they had realised what the problems were and had taken the necessary action to correct them. They built up our expectations, and like mugs we fell for it, got suckered in to reinvesting in the dream, only to find it was a Sinclair C5 and not an iPod! In the cold light of day and with an independent head on we should know that it was Ade who was the hero for us that day and not some renaissance! It is this constant raising and dashing of hopes that makes our support some of the tetchiest around. I can only imagine how much virtual blood gets spilled on the blog dancefloors during and post matches after performances like yesterday. I have no desire to join in with the carnage anymore.

Arsenal fan set against Arsenal fan. AKB v AWOB. Even that has got distinctly boring as it has become the EPL version of Housewives of NYC, everyone just shouting over each other, thinking that he who shouts loudest must be right and giving up any opportunity for reasoned debate.

Everyone used to sing "Boring Boring Arsenal" at us when George had the team drilled for the 1-0 wins. Did we care? Not while he was bringing home the bacon of which we had been so starved of. At least not until about 93/94 when we became purely a cup team and then in 95 when the football itself was pretty sub-standard. Then along came DB10 and then AW to show us the light, a light which never burned so brightly as in 04 with the greatest Arsenal team most of us will probably ever see.

Now though, I'm afraid we are back to the mid 70's and early 80's, some like Brian (no offence mate) may think it is heading towards the infamous bonfires on the terraces v Leeds, protesting at Billy Wright's tenure. Not because of the football, which at times can still be simply beautiful to watch, but because the whole situation around our club has become stale. The inconsistency of the team, the injury hit players, Arsene's tired post match comments, selling our best players, Stan & Ivan's contribution but most of all the bickering between the fans.

Congratulations one and all. We have got our Boring Boring Arsenal back at last!


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Arsenal, J'Accuse!

MA8 had a bad hair day for once
Remember Buckaroo? That poor old mule as we kept piling spades, rope and buckets on it's back until at last, overwhelmed by the weight he would flip out! That is a lot of Arsenal fans at the moment and I have to say that I am that mule, looking at one of our players as he approaches me with the water bottle in his hand, trying to see where he can hang it. Yesterday it was Arteta and I'm afraid his judgement on hanging water bottles was as bad as that of hanging off the back of the Fulham player in our box!

Yours could well be in the attic

We have the AKB's, the AWOB's and we have the BSM who are the radical arm of the AWOB. I have no problem with any of these sides of the argument, it is after all a free country, which today of all days we should all remember. If you feel that somehow AW will still turn this around, then you have kept more faith than me, but that is your choice. Surely if Fergie can keep his powers going at his age and after so long in power, then Arsene must be able to? The main difference is that at MUFC they know one thing, no matter what is going on with the finances of a football club, if you can maintain a winning team or at least one which will realistically challenge every year for trophies, then you can pretty much fool most of the people all of the time.

At AFC, those in power have forgotten this, or worse still have decided that they don't care about any form of protest over the malaise sweeping the club as in reality there is very little the fans can do about it. If the BSM feel they can make a difference then good luck to them. Personally I agree with a lot of what they are saying about greed in football, but I just cannot see that they have any power to be anything other than a voice in the wilderness. They are a minority of our fanbase, a higher percentage of those that attend games maybe than they are of the overall fanbase, but I still think they will be shouted down (not literally) by the larger majority who either see AW as a God on earth or those who simply see protest as counter productive to the playing side.

We have seen that at the top of this club we are viewed as a necessary evil, an inconvenience that must be put up with, at least for a few more years. My opinion is that once we have new sponsorship deals in place and have reduced the debt on the club, then Silent Stan will sell up to the highest bidder and walk away with a very healthy profit on his initial investment. All he has to do is stay in Denver, well away from any of the grubby little soccer fans that are not happy, let Ivan take all that heat and let AW keep us in the top 4.

Is Usmanov the answer? Well he is if fans think he will come in and provide a warchest, allowing AW to buy the 20 mill version of Arteta or the 40 mill upgrade on Giroud, plus pay the kind of wages that the football dogs of war crave nowadays. Would we have lost the best left back in world football under Usmanov, or would Theo have signed his new 100k contract by now? Is AW a better manager than Mancini or RDM? Of course he is, so imagine what he could do with the kind of squad at their disposals. Obviously there are very strong arguments about 'selling your footballing soul' to the money merchants or those who would feel very uncomfortabl having a man own the club with a shady (allegedly) past! How many of those would be prepared to swallow this bitter pill in order to see our skipper lift the ECL and PL trophies again? I think it would be interesting to see fans quickly forget their original opposition if we had a winning team once more. I for one am sick of seeing this team continually raise our hopes only to show that as a squad we are weak, in terms of attitude, spirit, depth and talent. I see so many Gooners who buy in to a run of performances and results, building their hopes up, investing more of their emotions in to the possibility of success only to have them dashed by a display of such ineptitude as shown at Norwich. I really fear for the long term health of these fans!

Personally, I think it would be nice to have someone in charge of the club who may make their intentions clear, even if this may be lip service to the fans, just as the R&W letter was after Voldermort penned his website resignation letter. But what I would like to see is some accountability brought back to the club. Currently I can see no circumstances under which AW would be sacked and given how drastic things may need to get for that to happen nor do I! But, if the section of fans who want rid are right and regardless of owner, AW has had his day and cannot compete in the post Abramovich and now oil rich era, then it would be nice to think that AFC could take the action required to do the best for this glorious football club and not that just for the shareholders to whom we are a turkey being plumped up for Christmas! For the BSM, I hope they continue to campaign, as long as it does not happen during games and impact the players at that time. I do feel however, they are pissing in the wind, but at least they are standing up for what they believe and doing something.
Cares more about rugs than fans or football
To those fans upset by the BSM who feel it is divisive and they should get behind the club no matter what, remember this, which I am sure you can all adapt for your own personal circumstances and history. Outside of my immediate family, the most important thing in my life is The Arsenal. Not a day goes by when it doesn't enter my life in some way or another, be that on the web or chatting with a mate. This has been how the die was cast since the early 70's and I have been lucky enough to be able to follow the team in person for a large chunk of this period. Whilst we have been lucky to have some great times, more so than plenty of other club's fans, we also manage to put ourselves through the mill. Some teams are either brilliant or mediocre, say Liverpool for example. Some may have had a few shining moments of brilliance amongst long periods of failure, Villa and Forest spring to mind and of course some have only the faded sepia photos taken on a box brownie to remind them of a long since passed period of success (no points for guessing this club). The thing with us is we seem to chug along being there or thereabouts for long periods, remaining tantalisingly close to the glory days, but then managing to have them snatched away, normally through our own errors! But the fact remains that we are there, normally being written off by the press and pundits, but clinging on to a faint hope that this year AW will get it right. Of late every season seems to start, pan out and end the same way!

To finish, a few weeks back there was a Sunderland blog, bemoaning the fact that we are a very spoilt and whiny bunch of fans, to be complaining about only finishing in the ECL positions every year and not winning the quadruple instead. I can understand a certain part of his viewpoint but have to say this in response. No-one knows this club better than us fans, and having basked in the glory of 98-05 when AW made us the superpower-in-waiting we could become due to our location, proposed new stadium, fanbase and playing squad, we have seen a gradual decline. Now we all knew that there were tough times ahead, all down to the building of a 60k ground, in London, during a recession and so near to our last ground, but this cannot be used as an excuse for all that has happened since Paddy took his last 12 yard kick of a ball for the club.

We have seen every year AW produce teams that have promised so much, yet eventually have turned out to be made of straw. The list of top quality and brilliant players we have loved and lost is by now infamous. The self induced collapses due to weak mentality and lack of leadership haunts all of us. So forgive us Gooners if we have a moan, but to be honest if we were shit and basically always had been, like say, maybe Sunderland, then we would not moan quite so much. But that's the thing, we all know we are perpetually so close, that we are only 2 or 3 players away from success and eradicating the specific problems that beset our team. Add this to the knowledge that your club has the resources available, a magnificent stadium in one of the greatest cities in Europe and a world class manager. Knowing all this yet seemingly said manager is too stubborn, or your board too selfish to release the funds, then you are entitled to be frustrated, mystified and pissed off.

It's the hope that kills you!


Notes for those who don't do abbreviations:
AWOB Arsene Wenger Out Brigade
AKB Arsene Knows Best
BSM Black Scarf Movement
PL Premier League 
AW The Manager
ECL European Champions League 
PHW Senile old git
R&W Red and White Holdings (Jabba's shareholding company)
SK Disinterested rug owner who cares sweet FA about Arsenal