Another day and nothing new to talk about. But enough about Ivan’s Q&A last night. As it’s Friday, over at Dad’s Jukebox, we’ve reached 2002 in Times of our Lives, with a couple of posts coming this weekend.
To be fair, the club doesn’t need to do these sessions and wouldn’t lose any sleep at all if they didn’t. That they do and manage to say very little is why Ivan is CEO; he’s a masterful schmoozer. There were several things which were slips when you read them back; even a mastermind like Ivan has those moments.
The first was almost immediate. “It’s difficult to process a season like that, because we won a trophy but feel disappointed,” he summarised accurately. “Last season we finished second and spent about £110m on transfers,” he went on, underlining why there is such little confidence in the club managing the transfer window.
£110m is not to be sniffed at yet we finished lower than at any point since 1995/96. Arsène’s 21st season at the club reflected his 1,000th game; a Premier League damp squib. The club has to understand why and be effective in managing the solution. They won’t be; they can’t even manage the manager.
Which is something Ivan sought to tell us they most certainly can do. From the board’s perspective, they didn’t care that it wasn’t a “popular decision”, just the right one although the past decade or more suggests their ambition to win the Premier League will remain unsatisfied.
If the Kids are United
Gazidis confirmed many suspicions that there isn’t a winning bone in any of the bodies of the club’s leadership:
“We wanted somebody that plays attractive, exciting football that people want to watch. Giving young players a chance is another one of the values of the club. Sometimes that costs us in points, but the emotional investment we all feel in watching a player’s journey with the club is an important part of what we want to have at Arsenal.”
Giving young players a chance is a fine attribute, but at the cost of points? Emotional investment? Yes, it’s great to see a youngster come through the ranks but that’s not a prime reason for the club’s existence. Too much emphasis is placed on tangential values.
He observed that the decision will be judged in May. OK, he didn’t but it’s the same kind of sentiment.
That the decision to re-appoint Arsène wasn’t unanimous is underlined by his hesitancy in answering that question. Stan is engaged with the club when it may impact on the strong balance sheet and Wenger is very good for the balance sheet.
Ivan was disingenuous – hardly a surprise – in talking about Stan’s reason for being involved in the club. It is all about money and just because he hasn’t sold the shares yet, doesn’t mean he hasn’t made money. His asset value has doubled, which the bankers of the world will unite in welcoming. Money isn’t always cash.
Inevitably, the timing of Arsène’s renewal came up. Inevitably, Ivan sidestepped admitting the fustercluck the board and manager made of it all. The rationale was clearly laid out; they were scared of the reaction.
Questions and Answers, Honesty, Lies
The longer it went on, the more we knew renewal was coming and frankly, the way the Premier League and Champions League campaigns panned out, there was never going to be a good reaction.
Would we have finished in the top four? Who knows and to be honest, is there any virtue in doing so? 10 – 2, lest we forget.
Soft-soaping the fanbase is something the club used to be able to do. I am not sure they realise it isn’t going to work anymore; they just hope it will. Is there redemption ahead? I don’t think it will be easy. Ivan wants us to get behind the team and the manager. We want a team to get behind although I’m not sure Arsène wants anyone behind him having heard the steel against whetstone.
There’s a straightforward way to inject enthusiasm into the atmosphere: getting busy strengthening the starting XI. According to Ivan, we don’t need depth, we need the real deal. He reminds me of the soldier played by David Essex in the War of the Worlds soundtrack. The 1970s one with Dickie Burton, Justin Hayward and more synthesizers than you can shake a stick at; “it’s just a brave new world, with just a handful of men; we’ll start all over again”.
His optimistic naïvety represents my perception of Ivan while I’ll settle for weary cynicism of Burton’s narrator. Still we don’t have to worry. The board is going to “communicate” the love of the club they have. They are in the pulpit, praising the light. Amen, brothers and sisters; amen! Can you feel the love? Have you seen the light?