by Alex Fynn & Kevin Whitcher
Billed as the sequel to Arsènal: The Making Of A Modern Superclub, the book reflects on the current state of play at Arsenal against the backdrop of the FA Cup win at Wembley in May. Had that silverware not been landed, the tone of the book might well have been more downbeat. As it is, publication has arrived on a mild wave of euphoria.
Which is just as well for, as with its predecessor, the truth behind the club is somewhat murkier. Arsène is rightly given the respect his career deserves but not uncritically so. The mistakes that we have all discussed regarding team selection over the years are laid bare once more. Indeed, that is probably the book’s weak point in that there is little new added to the debate on this. The exception to this is the assessment of the drawn-out renewal of the manager’s new contract and the reasons behind it.
The repetition of mistakes, be it a failure to replace key personnel in a timely manner or injuries is something only the manager can fully explain. Protective of his players from any criticism, Wenger has sought to protect them from injury with the appointment of Shad Forsyth. Whether he is the panacea that is hoped for remains to be seen.
Where the book’s real strength shows through is looking at the club away from events surrounding the first XI on the pitch. The in-depth look at the failure of the Academy is interesting, from the heights to the fall in the second tier at younger levels. It ends too soon for me, a touch too abruptly. A little more analysis or opinion on how the problems might be solved would have taken the chapter to a higher level.
If not unstinting in its praise for the manager, the activities of the commercial and marketing departments are well received. There are interesting views on the club and its engagement with supporters through the media, social media and blogs. What is apparent are the strides made to ensure that Arsenal are at the leading edge of the new media technologies and platforms and there is a lot of praise for the efforts of the club in this direction.
The relationship with supporters is mixed though. Reflecting on the various supporters groups and their mixed agendas, the overriding feeling is that supporter representation on the board is nothing more than a pipe dream, a utopian ideal that is impractical since there is little evidence that consensus could be reached on any subject. The general fracturing of the relationship between the club and groups is apparent, its roots in the dismay that Stan Kroenke has remained distant and aloof ironically at a time when the CEO is more accessible.
Overall the book is a worthy successor to Arsènal: The Making Of A Modern Superclub. It will be interesting to read the full assessment of Wenger’s reign in three years time. You can buy Arsène & Arsenal here