Deadlines, shmedlines. Two of the least reliable sources at two of the least reliable sources claim that Arsène (a) has been offered a new deal, and, (b) has until the end of the month to accept it. As if. Maybe I should have put ‘Headlines, shmedlines’ instead or preferably, something altogether more pithy or witty.
Claims of deadlines or meetings in a fortnight’s time are meaningless; the board long ago ceded authority over the manager. Generally from the moment they accepted the directorship. Stan’s answer every time anyone broaches the subject of Arsène leaving is, “Hey guys, he’s making me money”, and that ends the discussion. We’ve known from early on, he’s a “hands off my money” investor but honestly, that’s not going to change – neither his ownership or attitude – any time soon.
Managers are the owners lightning rod. Unless the boss is either hugely popular or in the honeymoon period – sometimes both – the puppet master gets a free run. One who is thousands of miles away won’t care what supporters think. It’s a long game to remove owners, which generally begins they take control of the club. The days of plurality of ownership are long over; the value of the club pretty much precludes that. At best, we can hope for supporter representation on the board, which in the current ownership model will be nothing more than a PR sop.
Yesterday’s press conference summed up the situation at Arsenal; everything is about Wenger’s future. The line about objectivity rings hollow in the maelström which surrounds the club as a result of his indecision. The club could sign Messi tomorrow and it would still be a PR disaster; that’s purely down to one situation.
Out of all this, I still believe Arsène will renew his contract. Out of the turmoil rises the hero, to save the club and turn around its fortunes; two more years becomes four. It’s less about objectivity than not wanting to see everything he has built crash amid acrimony. The only job I think he will leave for is at PSG; that’s a personal opinion, nothing more. I don’t believe the stories about China beyond it being agent-speak; “if you managed there…”
They are utterly irrelevant to Arsenal’s future. The manager still has the dressing room, that’s apparent. The Sanchez and Özil situation won’t impact on that either. While they are the ‘stars’, others have more loyalty to the manager. That’s football loyalty, by the way, which carries less strength that wet tissues. It’s about to be tested anyway. A number of the ‘squad’ players are waiting to talk about contracts or move on. With one year or so left, Arsenal must sell this summer or lose on a free.
Potentially, there will be a lot of activity for first team players and it’s the perfect time to get a new boss in to remould the squad. Arsène doesn’t hide his distaste for the transfer business of football and I have strong reservations that the club has the experience or capability to handle a multitude of negotiations at once. I don’t recall one summer where we have been dynamic or pro-active; there is no evidence this one will be any different.
With no tournaments this summer, the football winds will howl around the transfer window. Arsenal’s PR, notoriously poor, needs to be spot on from May onwards in the event of Arsène remaining in charge. It’s a tough sell in the first place but any sign of the usual lethargy in squad strengthening/overhaul, and the tinderbox seems set to ignite.
And here’s where the contradictory nature of football comes in. Why would Arsène want to renew? The legacy, I think, is intact. Taking Arsenal forward as he did, changed the club irreversibly; he put the building blocks in place and now it’s maintenance, keeping the structure well-maintained and modern. Trophies are written into football’s historical scrolls, they aren’t Arsène’s legacy; it’s the modern club which is.
We’re now talking about how he is remembered, and there are two strands to that. While the short-term will be clouded by the period 2009 to date, the cloud of dust which needs to cleaned off the trophies to let the good times shine through brighter in the longer-term. Some will always remember him more fondly than others; it’s always the way but it’s generally some time before a genuine appreciation can be made of the overall impact of one person.
Winds of Change
In years to come, it will be viewed in a positive light when the current acrimony has subsided. But this is superfluous; it’s emotional and a legacy – in football terms – should be tangible. Arsène’s is and it shouldn’t impact on his thinking. He changed the footballing philosophy of the club while maintaining his standards through what is a tough period. Home moved and infrastructure in place; job done. The current squad isn’t part of that; it’s transient and needs to be spoken of separately from legacy.
Let’s face it, we know how the story goes. New manager wins trophies, it’s down to the core of the squad he inherited; it’s the same tale with a different narrator.
But the club needs a new book. This one is weighing heavy on its’ shelves and that only leads to it crashing down to the ground.