The Arsenal road not taken: how we got here [Part One]

NOTE: This was written before the So’ton game.

But for me, the issues at Arsenal Football Club have been a cascade of continually BAD decisions.

It’s like a butterfly-effect of poor actions and wrong points, leading to our stellar mid-table placing currently.

1 Brighton-Hove-Albion-v-Arsenal-FC-Premier-League

There is the poem of the “road not taken…” and how choices shape life.

I’ve been thinking what may have happened had we taken the better options.
I’m not a god, so I cannot see all possibilities.

But I argue here that our current state is from our deliberate incompetence and bumbling. Our rivals have in some ways acted in varying ways, and why they’re ahead of us now. Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and dare I say it Spurs’ successes are all due to this:


2006 – moving to the new Stadium?


My view is that the stadium move, given the nature of modern PL football, was required.
Of the current twenty PL clubs, there aren’t many who haven’t expanded their grounds, moved to completely new ones, or have active plans to construct new grounds.
Match-day revenue is not as important as it was 30 or 40 years ago. TV monies, prize money, and commercial revenues, are more important these days, but clubs want as much revenue as possible, hence the Emirates, Spurs stadium, Anfield expansions, and the Etihad expansions.

So whilst it was in my view required amidst the wider footballing context – we didn’t manage the move as well as we could have. We didn’t open late and over budget like Spurs did (haahahahhhaaha!!)

But we should have Arsenalised it way sooner – including adding club legends’ pictures on the outside, legends’ statues such as Chapman, Henry and Bergkamp, and the naming of the North Bank and Clock End (clock inclusive).

20 Ground Breaking Projects - No1 Arsenalisation - 20.20 - Brand ...

The club could also have sought additional revenues to buy players, even if it were short-term loans to buy players on reasonable terms. At that point, the top four was assured as Liverpool and Spurs were so-so and Manchester City wasn’t owned by the UAE royals yet. At that point, a top-four place was not difficult to get, even though Chelsea and Man United had more money than us and were winning leagues and Champions Leagues apiece.

If anything, this could have appeased the fans, or brought in more goodwill, but making the stadium more homely could have been more beneficial.

I don’t believe staying at Highbury long-term was feasible. Yes, we won trophies when we were there. But then even in the late Graham/Rioch years, there was talk of expanding the stadium to get in more revenues. Highbury though was surrounded by housing, and the West and East stands were (and still are) listed buildings. The North Bank had to have a TV aerial installed in its post-Taylor Report renovation, as the houses at its rear lacked signals. I doubt residents would have welcomed more works, and the club may well have suffered from protracted legal disputes and

And due to the tight nature of the ground, we probably had to knock down housing to accomplish this. There are compulsory purchase orders, where the government can buy private properties for use. But Arsenal isn’t a state-owned organisation, and it’s rare for compulsory purchase to be used in this manner. At least, it would have been a major issue for the then Labour government to justify this (and in a city where they held the Mayorship as they do now, let alone Islington Council which has been Labour for many years).

So our options were limited – we saw some old industrial grounds near Drayton Park station, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What we did – Moved from Highbury to the current ground
What we could/should have done – still moved from Highbury, but made the stadium more homely as Arsenal-esque from the very start.


2013 – More than Ozil


The club after several years at the Emirates had gained enough funds to start to splash out big.
The increased PL TV deals, more commercial income, and CL revenues, led to this, and the club in the 2013 season needed a big name to compete again for the title.
Talk of Higuain and Benzema drew on, with stories of how Higuain was supposedly at the training ground but Wenger declined to sign him.
However, we ended up getting Ozil on deadline day, and whilst views on him are highly mixed, he was a major signing at the time, unquestionably.

So then, why didn’t the club go further than Ozil?
This also was the summer of Suarez and the “£1” debacle.
But the club should have gone harder – and whilst we won the FA Cup via beating Hull City, we could have put ourselves in a better position to compete.

It’s opportune to sign players when one can – and there were no financial issues holding us back.

So we are losing out now due to a catalogue of events in this case.

In a forthcoming piece, I’ll analyse further decisions, to see how we’ve fallen from grace.

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