Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal
0 – 1 Diaby (18)
0 – 2 Eboue (21)
1 – 2 Taylor – Flectcher (52)
1 – 3 van Persie (75)
It was a day of milestones, all at once expected, unexpected and jaw-dropping. More on the unexpected later. As it was Cesc and Jens Lehmann reached 300 and 200 first team appearances, celebrating the first win since Orient were efficiently removed from the FA Cup.
Victory was necessary, Manchester United having won the previous day. Victory was necessary for confidence, it had been a torrid previous six weeks. The gap at the top is ‘as you were’. The coming weekend is going to be crucial as Arsenal’s game in hand is played when Liverpool visit The Emirates. Win that one and pressure returns to United.
Crucial. The word that will be used to describe every weekend between now and the end of the title race.
Blackpool started brightly, beavering away but it became quickly apparent that they were going to be the sort of opponents Arsenal love playing against. A high defensive line, designed to squeeze play, compress midfield. Perfect for pacey attackers and runners from midfield. Arsenal proved the point.
Eighteen minutes in, Diaby rumbled a Blackpool attack in midfield. Within a minute, the ball would be in the back of the net as swift movement and interplay between Cesc and Robin van Persie found Diaby ambling into the Blackpool penalty area, unmarked and giving the move the finish it deserved.
Lessons needed to be learned by Blackpool but they weren’t. Within three minutes, Eboue attacked down the right, interchanged passes and positions with Wilshere, stormed into the area and emphatically finished past Kingston. Would that Arsenal full backs would always show this endeavour. Would that they were always able to show this endeavour.
Diaby could and perhaps should, have done better once van Persie had broken the offside trap, the chance snuffed out by the weight of Blackpool numbers. Nasri was then released by Cesc, beat the offside trap and Kingston but not the woodwork, the ball bouncing off the outside of the post to safety.
Blackpool started brightly in the second half and might have scored more than Taylor-Fletcher’s solitary reply. Adam found his range of passing and drove the hosts on from midfield. The returning Lehmann might have conceded a penalty, Koscielny definitely did. Well, aside from the continually inept Lee Mason failing to award it. Payback for Everton, perhaps?
As it was Theo Walcott’s return provided the perfect antidote to slack marking and a high line. Creaney had been turned inside out, upside down and round and round. His marking might well have been the same as Diana Ross although she turns a lot quicker on stage than he did when the ball went past him from Cesc’s deft touch. van Persie’s finish was as unerring as Walcott’s cross.
At which point the match report gets curtailed. Suffice to say, Lehmann did well on his return whilst the remainder of the team coped with their rocky spell. Bob Wilson observed how impressed he was with the German’s reflexes, noting that some of the younger keepers struggle to get down to stop shots so the 41 year old did well.
There are some interesting provisos attached to the offer from Kroenke. KSE has confirmed to the current Board that there is no intention to follow Aston Villa and Manchester United out of the public share arena although there is a get-out clause, “unless Arsenal’s PLUS corporate adviser advises at any time there is not sufficient liquidity in Arsenal Shares to maintain an orderly market in the shares)“.
Crucially, Alisher Usmanov is not expected to sell his shares. In order to wholly own the company, Kroenke would need to purchase that holding, triggering the threshold whereby all shares must be sold to him. What this means is unclear. Usmanov can block matters and become a nuisance but overall, if Kroenke owns 62.89% he has no obligation to take any notice of Red & White Holdings.
This is almost ‘fluff’ around the edges. The final two assurances given are the ones which have been at the forefront of any discussions,
— it is their current intention that, if the Offer becomes or is declared unconditional, they will continue to support and adhere to the self-sustaining business model hitherto pursued by the Board of Arsenal;
— the Offer will not be funded by way of any debt finance (banks loans, payment in kind loans or other debt or quasi-debt interest bearing obligations) for which the payment of interest on, repayment of or security for any liability (contingent or otherwise) will depend on the business of Arsenal.
In other words, the debt-loaded model of the Glazers has not been followed. Yet in confirming that the self-sustaining model of business will continue to pursued, KSE is making no commitment to investing in the club. We need to be quite clear about this. So far, the only beneficiaries of any investment in Arsenal that Stan Kroenke has made, have been the shareholders who have sold their shares to him.
The club has seen no funding. No debt has been paid off and reading the official notice, none is intended to be.
With no promise of this in the future, the clamour for Wenger to spend is not going to be sated by the owner’s money being put at risk. No guarantees of a £50m signing. No guarantees that Arsène is going to be forced to spend any moneys at all. In other words, this is business as usual.
The question is forming, why is Kroenke doing this? He has been in a co-ownership situation before with a ‘sporting franchise‘. Quite what relationship he has with Usmanov, if any, remains to be seen. If he pays a dividend, which must be more likely with a single owner that plural shareholders, I dare say that Red & White and KSE will have a very cordial relationship.
Perhaps this is motivated by a desire of the Board to see Usmanov blocked from owning the club. This might be a permanent realisation of that dream; it might just be a temporary barricade on that particular road.
One thing is for certain. If Arsenal becomes owned by one or two individuals, the model of plural ownership as we have seen it, is gone. Whether that is permanent or not remains to be seen but appears highly likely.
And this is where the doubts about motivation arise. KSE has other sports interests and there is no question that Kroenke is a fan of sport. But this is not an act of philanthropy. He is investing his money to earn a return. If successful, he has seen that the business model can generate returns.
Whether that impacts on the playing side remains to be seen. At this moment in time, he is the lesser of two evils. There are too many unanswered questions, answers that are not going to be forthcoming in a short space of time. Until they do, we are struggling to make a good judgement over whether KSE’s offer is good for Arsenal.
The problem is that by the time they come, it might be too late.