All gone wrong

All gone wrong

As I sit writing this, Twitter is in full meltdown. The toxicity between fans either for or against Arsene Wenger is at an all-time high.

I don’t want to see Arsene tarnishing his legacy, but that’s what it’s come to. I wanted him to go out in glory winning the FA Cup either in 2014 or 2015. But he is a proud and stubborn man and won’t concede that his best days are behind him.

One thing I cannot abide though is fans abusing him. After all, this man has given us some of the greatest moments in Arsenal’s history. For the first 10 years of his reign he gave us nothing but trophy after trophy.

Two Doubles in 1997-1998 and 2001-02. Another FA Cup in 2002-03. The invincible title winning season in 2003-04. Yet another FA Cup in 2004-05 and we came within 13 minutes of winning the Champions League in 2005-06.

Past glory should not be ignored

Past glory should not be ignored

It wasn’t just the fact we won all that silverware, but also the style in which we did it. His sides were irresistible, moving the ball in the blink of an eye, from one end of the pitch to the other and putting it in the back of the net with deadly precision.

The world class players we had frightened the life out of the opposition, before they even got on the pitch. We’d sweep teams aside in 20 minutes flat. Who could forget players like Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and all the other star studded players we had.

Star Studded

Star Studded

All the top clubs came a calling, trying to tempt Arsene into becoming their next manager. But Arsene chose to stay loyal to us and to honour his contracts. He was also brilliant in the transfer market as well.He also maintained our position at the top table of the champions League when he didn’t have the money that the Board promised would be ring fenced, when we were building the new stadium

It’s for all those reasons I cannot abide fans abusing him. Calling him a French C••• etc. he doesn’t deserve that. He deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

The begining of the end when DD left?

The beginning of the end when DD left?

I think the biggest factor in when things started to go wrong for Arsene was when David Dein was drummed out of the club in April 2007. This of course was because of a vendetta between David Dein and Danny Fiszman. The two of them were once good friends and it was in fact Dein who got Fiszman onto the Arsenal Board.

The vendetta between them went deeper than just Dein unilaterally going to Stan Kroenke. But I honestly don’t know the full circumstances of their falling out. However Dein leaving left a massive void at the club and was a big personal loss to Arsene Wenger.

Whatever people say about Dein, who had his faults, the same as anybody else, he was brilliant at his job. He handled all the transfer negotiations, including the fees and the wages. As well as the existing players contracts. He also had the best contacts book in the business and knew all the major agents and club presidents.

This allowed Arsene to concentrate on what he did best. Identifying transfer targets, coaching the players and picking the side. Once Dein left, this all changed. Arsene started calling the shots on wages and transfer fees. He started to gain more and more power at Arsenal. He also became distrustful of relinquishing any of that power.

Dein and Fiszman - All falling out

Dein and Fiszman – All falling out

Dein and Fiszman were the two major players on the Arsenal Board and when Fiszman died in April 2011 Arsene it seems began to become a law unto himself.

There was a massive power struggle to gain control of the club between the two billionaires. American, Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov from Uzbekistan. Fiszman sold his and most of the other director’s shares, over to Kroenke, two days before his death, in an effort to block Usmanov and prevent Dein returning to the club. You have to question whether this was putting his personal feud with Dein ahead of the good of the club.

Nina B-S wrong decision

Nina B-S wrong decision

Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith also sold her shares to Kroenke, giving him control of the club. Whether Fiszman and Co., had been given assurances that Kroenke would commit to spending money on the squad, we’ll probably never know. But what we do know is that Lady Nina has since said she made a mistake selling to Kroenke.

I think that Danny and the Board backed the wrong horse. In my opinion Stan has done nothing for Arsenal Football Club. He has no interest in football or indeed Arsenal. He is only interested in the balance sheet and couldn’t care less if Arsenal never win the Premier League or Champions League.

Dein and Fiszman were the ones that drove the club forward. The rest of the Board are just puppets for Kroenke. Sir Chips Keswick, our current puppet Chairman said “We back Arsene when he has a plan. We stay quiet when he doesn’t” meaning Arsene doesn’t answer to anyone. Arsene even choose Ivan Gazidis as his CEO!

Puppet Chips??

Puppet Chips??

All these events have allowed Arsene to run the club as he sees fit, with no pressure from anybody at Highbury House. This is without question therefore a very unhealthy situation at the club, where Arsene is never challenged on anything he does, or does not do.

Last summer he refused to buy any outfield players. Saying there was nobody available who could improve the squad. Despite the fact that every other club in the top five divisions in Europe managed to sign at least one outfield player! He also allowed the transfer window to close knowing that Danny Welbeck and arguably Jack Wilshere had a long term injuries. This amounts to negligence and there was no Dein or Fiszman to challenge this decision.

Wenger knew of Welbeck's injury and its long term nature

Wenger knew of Welbeck’s injury and its long term nature

This season we haven’t progressed, in fact we’ve gone backwards. The football, once so scintillating to watch has become tedious. The build-up is slow and easy to defend against and there is no real width. We’ve become very narrow and end up trying to play eye of the needle balls, through the centre which invariably sees our attacks break down.

Despite Arsene constantly telling us the team has great mental strength and commitment. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. The team are weak, fragile and show little character, with just a handful of decent performances all season.

The spine of the side needs replacing with top quality talent. We need a domineering centre back to partner Kos, a strong powerful defensive midfielder and most of all, a top of the range striker. We have been crying out for all three for years and Arsene and the Board have neglected to rectify this.

Left as no ambition shown?

Left as no ambition shown?

It was partly because of a lack of investment and ambition by Arsene and the club, why star players like Van Persie Fabregas and Nasri chose to leave the club. We became a glorified feeder club for Manchester City and it was on Wenger and Kroenke’s watch that they allowed this to happen.

I now fear this pattern will be repeated with the likes of Sanchez and Ozil looking for pastures new. The club is in turmoil, the football has become stale and predictable. The club is sitting on £200m in the bank, which is rapidly depreciating because two years ago £50m would buy you two quality players now it’s only one.

The prices will get steeper with the £8b being pumped into the PL, on the back of the new TV deals. The Chinese are also spending money like it’s going out of fashion, which will further inflate transfer fees and wages. It also seems to me that Arsene is always a year or two behind on player valuations and wages, meaning a lot of possible deals never get over the line.

FFP is almost obsolete due to some of the rich and powerful clubs threatening legal action against UEFA. So Arsenal need to change their business model. It’s remarkable what Leicester have achieved this season and is a breath of fresh air to see the big boys don’t always win but I doubt this will happen again.

This season was a glorious chance for Arsenal to win the PL with Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd all struggling but Wenger and the squad have spectacularly blown it. While I accept they can’t guarantee the PL. I resent the fact that our assets are in the bank and not on the pitch. It’s criminal that a club like Arsenal, who have paid record fees in the past, on players like David Jack, Alan Ball and Malcolm Macdonald, are not punching their weight in the transfer market and not using the full resources at their disposal. We pay huge ticket prices and TV subscriptions and deserve to see a lot more of the money we generate spent on the team.

Now I feel that Arsene is in decline. Much as I’d love him to prove me and all his other critics wrong, I don’t think he will. His methods once so far ahead of the game now look dated and he’s been overtaken by other coaches. Where once he had the French market to himself, other clubs like Man City, Chelsea and notably Leicester are casting their net far and wide, stockpiling promising young talent.

It also hurts that Spurs look like they will finish above us this season. No Saint Totteringham’s Day this year! The club needs a fresh face at the helm. A manager that can take us back to where we once were. – Please note I am not saying where we belong

No trust in Stan

No trust in Stan

Unfortunately I don’t trust Stan or the Board to appoint the right person for the job. There is nobody on the Board with any real football knowledge. I also think we not only need a new manager. We need a director of football to do the job that David Dein did, all those years ago as well.

Neither of these things are likely to happen. Nobody on the Board has the courage to tell Arsene to step down and Stan is quite happy seeing the money keep rolling in. Arsene will see out the final year of his contract at the very least. After all, he always honours his contracts. In the meantime the civil war between the faction sin the Arsenal fan-base will continue to worsen.

The challenge will more difficult than ever next season. Man City have Pep and will spend heavily, as will Chelsea with Conte taking the reins. Klopp will strengthen Liverpool. Jose Mourinho may yet become the next manager of Man Utd. Spurs will be stronger and so too will West Ham moving into the Olympic stadium giving them more financial clout. Of course how can I discount the champions elect Leicester as well?

As for this season I can’t wait for it to end. It’s been an absolute shambles. I’m afraid the buck stops with Arsene Wenger.

The Majority shareholder and the Board have also failed to deliver, when they sold us the dream that we’d be able to compete for all the trophies and keep our best players when we moved to the new stadium. I’ve never felt as despondent as and Arsenal fan as I feel right now.

As always thanks for reading


Gary Lawrence – Follow me @garythegooner56

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  1. chris April 26, 2016 at 7:56 am #

    A very good summary. But there seems no way out. If Wenger does well enough for Kroenke to go on liking the numbers …. that’s it. Wenger will stay. Contacts inside the club tell me it is even worse than we realise. Wenger is regarded as every bit as obstinate as those outside think he is. He takes nil notice of the best advice from his coaches, medics and of course the fans … who have generally been right. At the same time. I am told, he agonises for ages – unable to decide. AND he is regarded as more powerful than any UK Director. I have kept my season tickets but don’t go to matches any more. I am elderly but determined to outlive him.

  2. Alex Field April 26, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    I dont think he has done enough to be honest thanks for that history lesson you wrote but me i live in the now and the now has been very painful.
    Mr Wenger has very successfully sunk any reputation he had any asked me at this moment re a statue and i will tell them firmly where to shove it.
    Looking at his stint over twenty yrs or even the first ten he should with the players he had won much much more like back to back titles for example

  3. Victor Thompson April 26, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Gary this excellent article is a replica of many that I have written, so I am convinced that there is a huge groundswell of resentment within the fan base and all for the reasons you have so aptly described.

    I do share your distaste for the highly personal abuse being directed at Wenger and I have asked the people who are doing it to remember the good times he brought us. Unfortunately those pleas are falling on ears as deaf as Wenger`s so there is not much room for compromise.

    I agree that the longer Wenger ignores the opinions of the fans, the more difficult it will be for his successor when he does decide to leave. He will leave a club riven by the opinions of the fans who progressively are saying that they want him out. They may disagree about the methods of protesting but they are a majority who do share the single wish to have him gone.

    He may be a proud and stubborn man as you say, but he has also demonstrated an arrogant streak because he has said in the past that when it is clear that he can do no more, he will leave. It could not be clearer that that time has come but he is too arrogant to listen.

    I am beginning to lean to the conclusion that if he will not listen, then we need to convince Kroenke that he should. We all know that Kroenke is only interested in “The Brand” and therefore the levers available to the fans are limited. Withdrawal of gate money will not be too damaging because even though we have the dearest tickets in the world, the gate money pales into insignificance compared to the TV monies.

    In order to achieve the result we want, all of the fans would have to unite and bring the attention of the media to the situation. Whilst I condemn the more vicious banners, it has to be admitted that the empty seats combined with all the banners ( including the polite ones ) certainly attracted comments from the commentators in the media.

    I believe that Kroenke would not be best pleased if “The Brand” became tainted by a fans revolt. It happened to one of his football teams in The States and it succeeded in forcing him to reverse his decision to re-site the club to its traditional home. The problem is that assuming Wenger intends to stay to finish his contract,for the reasons you have outlined in your article, it is likely that it will be much harder to qualify in the top 4 next year. If we don`t and the season has been blighted by fans unrest, what top player would even consider Arsenal as a career choice?

    We could be heading for a LIverpool type decline. Spurs and West Ham will be more attractive alternatives and you then have to consider Utd, City and Chelsea and even Liverpool so it will be 4 places from 7 next year. If Wenger really had the best interests of the club in mind when he refused these rumoured offers from Real Madrid etc. then why doesn`t he show the same consideration now and do the decent thing. Leave now, before it gets to the stage where he will forever be remembered as our Grand old Duke of York who led us to the top of the hill and led us down again.

    It will be much harder for the next man to take us up again, because dont forget, Wenger inherited a good team which had won the double just 4 years before and which still had the best defence in Europe. What will be his legacy to the new man?

  4. Graham April 26, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    The article is an interesting read and highlights some of the issues, but for me it doesn’t paint an accurate enough picture.

    The reality of where we are today is partly created by Arsene’s success in his early years, the mismanagement by the previous shareholders and the sense of entitlement many Arsenal fans feel. The sense if fuelled by irresponsible journalists who see Arsene as an easy target and know Arsenal fans will lap up all they write because of the desperation for success.

    Firstly, I hear people constantly talking about David Dein. I appreciate he was good at his job, but let’s not forget he was the one that brought silent Stan. I wouldn’t go as far as calling the fallout a vendetta. It was a difference of opinion. Dein wanted us to move from Highbury to Wembley, an absolutely ludicrous plan and Fitzman wanted us to build a new stadium.

    I do agree that what is missing at Arsenal is a true football man which Dein was. Alex Ferguson’s success was partly due to having a CEO (David Gill and Peter Kenyon) that understood football and football financing. No one currently at Arsenal understands this so Arsene is having to do more than he should. People see him as taking absolute control, but if his employer will not employ someone in that role then he has to do it. This means he is not able to concentrate 100% on football coaching and management.

    The role of the previous shareholders including Nina Bracewell-Smith. The financial management for the stadium move was mismanaged and the club had to sell players to keep the banks from the door. Their negotiation of sponsorship deals was also poor in the extreme. I would actually argue that Stan is better than all of them because he is actively trying to negotiate these deals and getting new ones. In terms of sponsorship revenue Arsenal is way behind its main rivals because of the poor stewardship of previous directors and shareholders.

    Let me move on to player acquisition. I have seen for several months this figure of £200m mentioned. I am an Accountant and I can tell you this figure can never be available for player acquisition because the difference between our current assets and current liabilities was only £47m, so at most we had that amount to spend. We also have instalment payments to make for players we recently purchased. The reality is that we don’t have as much money for transfers as many fans have been led to believe.

    Many fans have also been fed the lie that the stadium debt is fully paid or almost paid. If you call £200m of debt almost fully paid then ok. The reality is that as at the end of November 2015 the club still had over £190m of long term debt associated with the stadium. Why is it taking so long to pay? It’s because of the incompetent management we had at the club for many years. Increasing our revenue and accelerating the repayment is proving difficult. The old saying that good thing can be damaged in an instant but can take many years to repair. I don’t know the exact phrase.

    The assertion that the club did not invest is not entirely true. The reason Nasri and others left was to meet a shortfall in our financial commitment to the loans provides for our stadium Arsene said so himself recently.

    The article also claims he did not invest in new players when we had all the money to spend. While I am not party to the inner workings of the club, but we don’t know if Arsene was ever given a sizeable transfer fund. I don’t.

    Fans are also unhappy with Stan because he won’t put his hand in his pocket to fund transfers. Why should he? He is a businessman who has acquired a good business with tremendous potential and is cash generating. He is doing what any other businessman will do. Let’s be clear here, he is not a fan and has never claimed to be one. He is going to get the business to a valuation that suits him and sell. If we don’t like it we can all try and acquire the business from him. I don’t like it one bit but it is what it is. He is not Abramovich or Sheikh Monsour who were both looking for expensive toys.

    That said, I think there are issues at the club that have been there for a long time and have not been addressed. The first one is the endless injuries we keep having. This has been going on for many years and there appears to be no solution. Another is player scouting. I don’t consider our scouts to be at the level of other clubs that can be considered our competitors in EPL or Europe. It needs a complete overhaul. I think fitness also needs to be improved.

    So who is to blame for where we find ourselves as a club?

    I think Wenger must share a large part of the blame. He has shown incredible faith in the players he has bought even when they have been shown to be poor and not up to the task or good enough for Arsenal football club. His decision making is also becoming increasingly questionable. However, I will not question some of the so called strange comments he makes. He has to be positive.

    One more thing on Arsene. I think he has committed the serious error of becoming a fan. This, in my opinion is also clouding his judgement. It should be a job to him and nothing more. Becoming a fan of the club means he wants the best for the club at all levels, on and off the field. He should be much more selfish in the Mourinho mould and spend, spend, spend.

    Those responsible for the club’s finances and the running of the club must also share a portion of the blame. The club’s finance is not as healthy as it should be, but I accept that the likes of Gazidis are making efforts to improve it, but I think this is at the expense of neglecting the football side of the business. Arsene needs a football man on the board, so will anyone that comes in after him.

    The fan must also share part of the blame. Season after season or away record is one of the best but our home record is average. This cannot be a coincidence. The players always appear tense when playing at home because the fans are unforgiving of even the most basic error and demand perfection. The level of support is also far less than expected where away fans are louder than us. There is also a sense of entitlement among some fans. They believe we should be winning the league every year, competing for it is not good enough.

    Arsene is in his final year and I think he has earned it. This summer he needs to be brave and but quality players that will genuinely improve the team and be less loyal to the underperformers. He also needs to show many players the door and bring a few of the high achievers in the under 21 side to supplement the team

    • peanuts&monkeys April 29, 2016 at 8:39 am #

      @graham, i did not find anything new in your comment. Few points: You said Arsene Wenger is an Arsenal fan. I think he is not. He could be a Arsenal Finance (read Wealth) Club fan. Certainly not a Arsenal Football Club fan.

      Arsenal home fans are all elites. And we know elites only ‘rattle their jewellery’. Unless ticket prices are evened out, you will never get a BVB or Schalke type of atmosphere. This chicken-and-egg situation is also a Wenger creation BTW.

  5. Victor Thompson April 27, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Graham, thank you very much for this comprehensive reply. I apologise for the delay in replying, I have just come across it.

    This is a superb reply. I am grateful for your enlightenment on much of the workings of Arsenal PLC.

    Without actually disagreeing with you I have to say that there is a bottom line regarding many of the issues and they are largely generated by AW`s statements which are responsible for many of the misunderstandings ( primarily our financial position ). I am aware that a season ticket does not represent a share in the Company or even an input to decisions but why distribute misinformation to appease the thirst of the fans for success?

    I agree too about the murky goings on in the boardroom regarding the share dealings. There has been disloyalty, backstabbing and underhand deals done which would shame “House of Cards”. If you haven`t seen it, just look at the political backstabbing in the current Presidential election in the USA.

    Do you think that the position now is that we are not in a position to buy the class of player required to compete at the top level?

    If we are not and we have to rely on what we have, we still could not win the league this year with a squad which most people agreed was good enough. It won`t be next year. The failure to win it this year was down to Wenger`s inadequacies. I need not repeat them again they are self evident.

    I have often said that what is needed is a good dose of transparency. If we don`t get it soon, these protests will get worse because the protestors are trying to reconcile their ambitions and desires with the statements which are released by Gazidis and Wenger which apparently have no relationship to the truth.

    Sadly the fallout from the machinations which took place at Board level has descended upon the fans and we are the net losers.

  6. E.Hawkins April 27, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    A good sum up really. I believe that AW is too valuable to the board finishing 4th or 3rd and NOT spending money on TOP players rather than he is finishing 1st and splashing the cash. The board has made so much cash with AW as manager. The board and AW has forgotten what football is for and that is to entertain the fans, those who pay for the tickets season after season. They cant even use the excuse that Arsenal play exciting football anymore, it’s boring and teams now understand how to defend against them. I am fan of AW but I believe he should have announced his retirement after winning the FA cup last year and given the board the time to search for the perfect replacement rather than going out, down and out. AW has given the fans so much joy and success over his time as the manager, he is after all the most successful manage for Arsenal, it seems a real shame for his time at the club to be tarnished.

  7. Bdbdb April 27, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

    The decline began when we lost to UTD ending the invincibles. The players were mentally scarred and Mourinho changed the game. Ironically if Wenger had continued the Arsenal of old with counter attacking and physical presence he would have adapted quite nicely. Instead he bought Hleb and a bunch of lite weights.

  8. peanuts&monkeys April 28, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    Too many fans here care too much about (a) legacy of Wenger, (b) Arsenal’s new Stadium (c) Arsenal’s growth of wealth; they kinda take solace from all these non-footballing reasons.

    IMO, according more respect (a) to a set of such less-footballing fans, (b) and to a fallen hero are the key reasons of the mess Arsenal is in since 2008.

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