This time next week, the international break will be well and truly over with all of the players back in training at the club. Uefa’s compromise with the European Clubs Association (ECA) is beginning to bear fruit with these double-header matches now taking place on Friday and Tuesday. Those from Arsenal do not appear to have arduous journeys which, injuries aside, will allow Arsène the chance to select from a full squad for the encounter will Southampton. The absence of Wojciech Szczesny from Poland’s squad is interesting; is it a hangover from Euro2012 or is his injury genuinely not cleared up? Lukasz Fabianski has as much competitive playing time as the younger Pole this season which gives the situation the air of conspiracy. Whatever the case, it is one less player to worry about during this ten day break.
England will be sans Jack Wilshere but Arsenal won’t be for much longer if reports are to be believed. The manager observed that the midfielder would be playing within a month or so and that is translating in media minds as the Capital One Cup clash against Coventry. It will be a strong line-up if that is the case with irregulars such as Walcott and Arshavin presumably lining up in that match to counter the inclusion of Squillaci and Djourou - something for everyone in today’s post – at the back.
Away from the building international, ahem, frenzy, Arsenal’s competitive spirit is being brought into question by headline writers and the inability of the chairman to remain silent when things do not need to be said. Inspired – if that is the right word – by the open letter from Fenway to Liverpool supporters, Peter Whimsey has pointed out the obivous in that Arsenal cannot compete financially with those clubs backed by the oil barons. A startling astute observation from someone who so often seems out of touch. There had been hopes that the board would be freshened up this summer but I suspect that KSE recognised that young talent cannot hope to compete with the knowledge that has been acquired by the Whimsey family over what is very nearly, a century of involvement with the club. When that happens, will the designers ensure that the heads of all of the Whimsey’s who have passed through the marble halls are imprinted on the new kit?
Whilst Peter might be the last, he is making sure that we do not forget his contribution by speaking more regularly with the media although this time it was not his pet project, Daily Star, but Mihir Bose, the Tottenham-supporting former BBC hack now at London’s Evening Standard. Perhaps that was the rationale for the dig that Tottenham did not pose a threat this season? If it was, have a brownie point.
You always wonder if Whimsey is genuinely out of touch or just playing it that way? For a while I wondered that but realised you have to look at the manner of delivery. For example, his observation about Theo Walcott seems telling when you consider that the England international was dropped for Sunday’s trip to Anfield, “As for Walcott, he did not accept our offer so nothing is happening“; designed to show a toughness about the club, alluded to in yesterday’s post, or just nobody has told Uncle Pete what the situation really is? I’m leaning toward the former on this occasion.
Worryingly, he offered hope to Alisher Usmanov. Dismissing him as the sort that would not “fit in at all” is not a good sign; the last two people who suffered the Whimsey curse of disapproval – Dein and Kroenke – ended up running the club. That the oligarch is reportedly looking at a £2.5bn profit by a partial flotation of his empire on the London Stock Exchange is only going to fuel further ruminations and rumours over the coming months. It’s the sort of disposable income which can make KSE an offer they do not feel inclined to refuse, particularly as R&W are now apparently admitting that they own 30% of Arsenal’s total shareholding. The American would need to buck the trend in football, money would find itself relegated to also-ran as civic duty takes the starring role. In a sport where the administrators, players and supporters have the morals of an alley cat, bucking that trend would be an admirable stance.
Whimsey underlined the commitment of KSE to the principle of self-sustainability – or football’s version of it – but I find that the argument is becoming too polarised, perhaps in response to the extreme views that the two owners generate. It’s either living within your means or oblivion, despite the fact that most clubs bumble along between the two. It is only through the avaricious nature of the owners of clubs such as Leeds and Rangers that they ended up in the financial mire which engulfed them.
Cutting costs is as much of a key to the Arsenal model as raising revenues. As part of this, Arsenal are reportedly prepared to give Andrey Arshavin a free transfer in order to remove his wages from the payroll. I would like to suggest that the deal is dependent upon the Russian foregoing bonuses but this is football and such altruism is unlikely. Who can blame him? This is the flipside of the contract management from yesterday.
In fact and to the consternation of some, I doubt Arshavin will leave before the end of this week. The prime movers of Zenit appear to have spent their transfer funds on Witsel and Hulk although the backing of Gazprom means that anything is possible, including riding roughshod over FFP. Many times we read that the Bundesliga example is the one to aim for and in part it is, that part being supporter ownership. Yet even then there is a de minimis level which allows for largesse from the commercial world in the form of soft loans and other machinations which ensure that the rich stay richer than the rest. Every silver lining has a potential cloud.