It’s painful to see sleek football steadily disappearing at the Emirates, and the team continuously putting up mediocre performance week in week out, and slowly getting written off from the “big four” of the English Premier League.
The Barcelona-AC Milan mesmerizing Champions League showdown on Tuesday March 12 was perfect gift on my birthday—nicely wrapped from the Camp Nou. It brought back memories of the glorious days of Arsenal. But all this is gone and lost.
Usually, the manager takes the blame for a team’s underperformance but for Arsenal’s case it extends to the Board. Of course this does not get Arsenal Wenger off the hook completely.
As the manager, he’s expected to assemble a winning side despite all the internal irregularities and the outcome is nothing less but trophies. Critics are right to reprimand the ‘Professor’ for going 7 seasons “trophyless”.
Unfortunately, the “Wenger-Must-Go” campaign may not yield results and am quite sure the Board at Emirates is looking at both sides and holding the decision to kick him out. Not in good faith though.
Wenger reports to his paymasters—the Board. It is a responsibility of the Board to ensure that the Team Manager delivers.
The question to ask is, has Wenger delivered? To a large extent yes, especially when you consider his verbal commitment at the first press conference on joining Arsenal over a decade and half ago.
He said that during his tenure he will ensure a better performing and financially strong and sustainable club. Mark his words: “Better” and “Financially Strong and Sustainable”. The Superlative of “Better” is “Best”, if you top the league and win trophies you’re “best”.
For his case, he is actually going beyond paymasters’ expectations when consistently finishes in top four, goes 49 unbeaten to lift EPL and ensuring that the club is elevated in terms of financial capacity—moving from Highbury (a 25,000 Seater capacity) to Emirates (a 65,000 seater capacity), that is the “better” performance that he promised.
These are areas where the Board members get indifferent and divided.
Overall, I find the Arsenal Board quite lazy. Arsenal’s underperformance is mainly attributed to declining quality of its squad—because the club fails to keep its quality players.
Almost every season Wenger has to battle with keeping stars and grooming new ones. Failure to keep stars is a problem that goes beyond the Manager. It is a policy problem. Remember Board members endorse club policies, not the Manager.
Arsenal is a top club and makes a lot of money (ranked 5th richest club in 2012 by Forbes Magazine) but its salary and bonus structure is not competitive at all. To revise up or down the salary and bonus structure is a Board decision.
Many of Arsenal stars have left not because they hate the Manager or the type of football we play but because of low pay.
Kolo Toure to Man City, Thierry Henry to Barcelona, Emmanuel Adebayor to Man City, Gael Clichy to Man City, Sami Nasri to Man City, Mathew Flamini to AC Milan, Alexander Hleb to Barcelona, Alex Song to Barcelona, William Gallas to Spurs, Cesc Frabrigas to Barcelona and Robin Van Persie to Man Utd.
As you can see the trend is consistent—they all leave to top clubs. It does not make sense to buy players whom you cannot keep.
Today, keeping stars is more about how competitive the club’s salary and bonus structure is. This explains Wenger’s inactiveness in the transfer window.
Arsenal’s (player) contracts too are less attractive and bogus. Again this is a policy issue. It is an Arsenal policy not to sign a long contract with an aging player—of 30+ years.
Remember this was why the likes of Van Persie and Gallas left. Top performing clubs leverage a lot on experience players. For illustration I will mention a few. Barcelona: Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Alves. Man Utd: Paul Scoles, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs. Real Madrid: Ramos, Pepe, Casillas, Huguain, Alonso etc.
An experienced player doesn’t panic. He doesn’t get excited. He is mature enough—both on and off the pitch (self discipline). He understands the formations and the coach’s instructions quicker and better. Characteristically, these are players of 30+ years which Arsenal never keeps.
By and large, Arsenal’s problem is not the Manager but rather its outdated policies that make the Manager’s work difficult.
Clearly, the Board, whose responsibility is to instil good policies for an efficient club are in deep slumber, in the comfort zone because the Club is making money and competing in top flight leagues of Europe (EPL and Champions League). You see, they’re not stupid.
They cannot fire Wenger because then that will eventually expose their weaknesses—for his replacement can be an uphill task for them. My verdict is; the General Assembly of Arsenal should fire the Board.