Supposedly this Arshavin saga will come to some kind of conclusion today and none too soon. The last word I read said that Arsenal made their final offer, which went to the Zenit board, who, either not well versed in English or collectively crazier than a shit house rat, made a counter final offer on Arsenal’s final offer. Zenit are also claiming that there are “other teams” who are showing an interest in Andrei, which the press are saying is Man City.
Ok, first off, if City was interested, City would have signed the player. Given the manner in which Zenit has gone about this I can’t see them being honorable about the negotiations and giving Arsenal first rights. Arsenal’s final offer was £12m plus £3m in incentives so City just need to offer say £15m all at once and they could have the player, I suspect.
Second, and this is fact, Arsenal are at their limit. This is a self imposed limit, for sure, but a limit no less. In Arsenal’s 2007/2008 annual report they listed £93m in cash reserves but the club is not going to spend that money in the current climate, and I can’t blame them: that money is a safeguard against several seasons out of the Champions League. You may not like to hear me say that but Champions League football is not a birthright and besides which buying a player like Arshavin is no guarantee we’ll overtake Aston Villa. We all know that Arsenal have more problems on the pitch than just one player can solve, no matter how good that player is.
So, the board are going to hold on to that cash and spend only profits they make from player sales and other annual profits after tax. Which brings me to the main point here: Arsenal are taking a long term view of this project and one or two or even three years out of the Champions League won’t kill the club.
You can disagree with them, and that’s all well and fine, but this conservative financial model has served the club very well up to this point, winning trophies that the older fans didn’t get but once a decade. Yes, they will lose a significant amount of potential money if they don’t make the Champions League but even finishing 4th doesn’t guarantee the numbers that I see all the time. Numbers like £40m in losses are silly, I’ve been a fan long enough to remember several early exits from the Champions League that certainly didn’t earn even £5m for this club. Arsenal didn’t collapse and the world didn’t come to an end. In fact, a quick glance at the numbers shows that Arsenal would be profitable even if they didn’t play ANY European football.
The other oft-cited argument is that Arsenal won’t be able to recruit world class talent if they don’t finish in the top four. I think Wenger doesn’t care. Arsenal are not out in the market recruiting top talent, they are too busy creating top talent. So, yes, finishing out of the top four means that Arsenal will lose their ability to recruit the David Villas of the world, but it’s not going to stop them from getting the Aaron Ramseys, Jack Wilsheres, and Jay Simpsons and as long as Wenger is the manager those are the players Arsenal are going to be recruiting.
The third argument we hear a lot of is that people will get sick of Arsenal if they don’t start winning something. Maybe, and maybe combined with the global economic slump gate receipts will be lower, television revenues will fall, and there could be a host of other problems. Maybe all that will come to transpire, but if Wenger’s project does what he keeps claiming it will do, those fans will return, gate receipts will go back up, Champions League football will come back, and everyone will hail him as a genius and we’ll all be super happy. If his project fails, the board will replace him and some other manager with a different approach will come along. But no matter what happens, Arsenal are in the financial position to weather this storm.
Wenger’s youth project is so insanely divisive that it’s not even funny anymore. I’m no wide-eyed optimist, nor am I a sheep just following Wenger’s every move. I’m not a shill for the club, nor am I a gloom and doom part time supporter. Most importantly, while I get frustrated that Alex Song is our starting DM and Emannuel Eboue is our starting RM and I write about it and analyze the club, I don’t think for a minute I know more than Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board. I’m just a supporter and while I’d love to see a player like Lorik Cana at the club, I think we all would, in the end, I support the club. Their plan is logical, responsible, and may actually produce some of the best football the world has ever seen. It could also fail miserably. We’ll have to wait and see and by wait and see I mean “where will Arsenal be in 10 years?”
In the mean time, it doesn’t really matter if he buys players or not; because all of us are right. It could be right to buy players, in the short term, and even in the long term. Having some fresh blood come in could energize the team, having some more older players could provide some leadership, having a new DM could add some steel. All of those benefits could bring Arsenal some Champions League football, which could put more buts in the seats, which could improve our transfer abilities, and could fill out coffers even more. There’s no guarantees here but it could happen. It could also be right not to spend any money and build the team from within as I have outlined above. Both positions have merit, equal merit, and what I’ve seen happening is that both sides are talking over each other.
Let’s all take a deep breath, step back, and try to enjoy Arsenal as a distraction from the insanity of the world right now. If Wenger signs Arshavin, great. If not, let’s just move on, we’re all on the same team aren’t we?