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Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus

Lonely this Christmas

By Boris Mellor
June 28 2009

Most people expect the present to continue into the future. When I first started supporting Arsenal they hadn't won anything for a long time, and I didn't expect much different in the future. Indeed for 17 years the Arsenal didn't win a pot, not even a pot to urinate in, nor even a milk cup, or whatever they called it then.

Oh yes, I recall,  they called it the League Cup, no sponsors, no ads on shirts, no names, just numbers. Anyhow we didn't win it.

Victim of success

Now there is a new generation of supporter whose "present" was winning trophy after trophy, and they expect that to continue. If Wenger made a mistake it was not to understand these fans. He realised they could not all fit into Highbury, they wanted to see their beloved Arsenal play Wenger ball, so he pushed for a bigger stadium.

What he forgot was that these new fans and many of the old, now expected to win something every season, just providing a seat for them to park their bum on was not enough. They wanted trophies too.

The unanswered questions:

Did Wenger really have a strategy for winning trophies at the new stadium? Was his youth policy a holding operation until the money arrived from the sale of the old stadium, or did he really believe he could win big time?

If the strategy was meant to save money why does the wage bill continue to be amongst the highest in the land?

Why pay 5 million for Ramsey, pay him high wages, and rarely use him? Even if he was fully developed is he what was needed? Would spending the money on Alonso have yielded higher dividends? The youth policy does not come free, and certainly not cheap.

Was the strategy his alone, or was it developed by the board in conjunction with the manager? It seems to me that the board has played a devious game, letting Wenger take flak, and claiming any glory when they can.

Asset stripping

Was the selling off of key players, and not replacing them, a deliberate policy or a reaction to a worsening financial situation? Did a cynical board more interested in property values than footballing ones allow the situation to deteriorate to protect their investment?

Will the corporate strategy succeed?

The strategy of 7000 high cost seats, raising as much as the old Highbury in total, was seen as a stroke of genius. Will that strategy survive the credit crunch? Empty seats were increasingly visible at club level this season, and they were paid for in advance. Now these people have to renew - will they?

How much damage will the credit crunch do?

I remember writing on this site that it would mean unsold houses at Highbury stadium, that there would be no bonus from Highbury Square. The only fans that replied told me I was wrong, well they still haven't sold all the now completed homes. Many of the homes are not aimed at the rich but average London earners, and they cannot get mortgages. Meanwhile the club still carries the debt for developing the old stadium. Queensland Road remains undeveloped; it's a ghost town, not a building site.

There is no Setanta Claus

Even Billionaires are keeping their money tight and are reluctant to spend. The collapse of Setanta demonstrates there is no bottomless pot of cash. Usamanov is not talking about putting his own cash in, he is suggesting we the fans cough up thousands of pounds each on a rights issue. We would pay and the billionaires play. Kroenke continues to hoover up shares, but no gifts from him either.

How much longer can the strategy continue?

The best match I saw all season (as an Arsenal fanatic) was the first leg of the youth cup final. Eleven players giving their all without any prima donnas or slouchers, it reminded me of what Wenger ball looked like. Last season was unsatisfactory for me not because there were no trophies, but because at time there was a lack of commitment, and too much sideways passing.

For other fans the main gripe is no trophies, either way the question has to be raised how much longer will fans put up with it? This season I know of a few season tickets that were not renewed. Will the trickle become a flood if things do not change?


No doubt there are many questions I have not raised and should be asked. Also Wenger has not completed his transfer dealings, who will come in, and just as importantly who will go? Has he already abandoned his over reliance on youth? That's a question that cannot be answered until late August.

This is not a veiled attack on Wenger, I don't believe that any manager could have achieved as much as he has done on such a limited budget. He has done for Arsenal in the 21st Century what Chapman did in the 1930's, carried out a revolution.

When Chapman departed his legacy was a team that dominated for a decade. When Wenger decides he has had enough of managing Arsenal I sincerely hope his legacy will be more than a shiny stadium.



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Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
Arsenal Times (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 11:34
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2009:07:11:19:27:15 by Padre Pio.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
Zainy (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 11:53
But its a very shiny stadium.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
Zainy (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 11:59
Personally I think it was a sincere strategy to succeed that simply didnt pan out exactly like it was intended.
I believe everything Wenger has done was in the best interests of the club. He is not a omnipotent power.

I think the global recession has put a spanner in the works, but did anyone, anywhere even contemplate that at the time of these plans? So i think it would unfair to blame anyone for that.

There is still time and things can change.
I think they made it very clear that it would take some time for AFC to see the fruits of moving to the new stadium, and I believe the instant gratification nation need to cool their jets a bit.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
Gööfle11 (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 13:10
Ramsey will be better for Arsenal in the long term than non-defensive midfielder Alonso would have been in two years.

Official 1000th poster in the classic transfer rumors thread of 2014.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
karsene16 (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 14:18
we got Song, Denison, Ramsey, Diaby and maybe Cesc and also Nasri for the long term CM, two or more will leave for first team football.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
eduardo (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 21:22
I think on the playing front Wenger expected more loyality from his players in his attempts to win trophies, he expected Henry to stay and honor his contract, he expected Cashley to be a gooner for life, he expected Hleb to stay and honor his contract, he expected Flamini to keep his word and sign a new contract, he expected newly signed Diarra to stay and fight for his place, he expected Rosicky and Eduardo to avoid serious injury, he expected Reyes to become accustomed to english life and stay, he expected old timers like Pires and Ljunberg to stay loyal and accept high wages for short term year on year contracts and most of all he expected that this would be enough to keep us challenging until the move payed off with the sale of Highbury Square, sadly the credit crunch and the lack of loyality from some first team players left alot of Wenger's plans in a mess

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
Zainy (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 21:35
Extremely good point eduardo. Its difficult to have a contingency plan in place for all the events that have taken place over the years especially with the resources available at AFC.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
eduardo (IP Logged)
28/06/2009 22:04
on the resources we have, I find it amusing how some think that if we had stayed at Highbury we would have now far more money to spend, Highbury was getting quickly the point that we would have been losing money by staying at it, our wage bill was like every other clubs getting higher and higher and our limited capacity was not fit to even get close to covering the wages and more and more of our other incomes was going on wages,
we make far more money from each game at the emirates and the club if it had stayed at Highbury would never have nor should they borrow money to sign players
if we had stayed at Highbury we would have reached a far weaker point than we are in now.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
H.C (IP Logged)
30/06/2009 18:16
Padre, for my money the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final was the best game of the season not just for the reasons you (correctly) describe, but because of the attitude of the fans who came.

I went to the game with my daughter Lily, my friend Jim and his grandson Sol. I took them all into the Supporter's Club (who were letting in kids free). There were plenty of people showing their kids all the pictures of Arsenal greats on the walls and giving out a bit of history, and it occurred to me that we were all in the same boat.

Predominantly old school working class Gooners who have been priced out of going to the Emirates, and taking their kids to the Emirates more importantly, and who took the opportunity of the FA Youth Final to 'school' our kids in the Arsenal way. For 2.

Inside the ground the crowd was supportive, loud, knowledgeable, and patient. A brilliant night.

And Wilshere? Bloody Hell.

Re: Unanswered questions - No Setanta Claus
Padre Pio (IP Logged)
02/07/2009 01:00
Couldnt agree more HC. I took my Nephew who attends the home games prem games regularly, but he enjoyed this more, and was even prepared to listen to his uncle drone on about how some of the greats of the 1971 double team came from a successful youth team.

He also enjoyed joining in the chanting, something they rarely do in the west tier upper where he has his season ticket. And even though he is a young un he finds the telephone number salaries and transfer fees nauseating.

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