Yaya Sanogo is a not a name that many will be familiar...
Fixing the Arsenal
Last week we discussed how Arsenal could become title contenders from a purely transfer related perspective this week I want to focus on what Arsenal need to do to become a force to be reckoned with by fixing itself in the way it conducts business behind the scenes.
First, I am not suggesting going down a path that would put the financial model that the club has built at risk. I certainly applaud the club for living within its means. Personally, in this day and age of financial volatility knowing that our club remains on sound financial footing is reassuring. Remember ownership of the club is more along the lines of stewardship. Stewards of the club have come and gone it is the fans that always remain.
No, the model is viable and even within the confines of how Arsenal currently conduct business there only need to changes to certain ways the club approaches business.
Transfers: Shrewd business vs silly business
I’ve never been of the mind that Arsenal need to buy players that have price tags of £25 million or more. Certainly a lot of those players are talented stars and some even warrant the exorbitant amount of money they sell for. But no, that is not what Arsenal need to do.
When you look at the list of players that are out there for transfer there are a group of talented, quality and strong players that fall into the £10 to £20 million range. Players like Ibrahim Afellay (who might actually cost only £6 million), Oliver Giroud (rumoured around €16 mill equalling £12million) and more. These are good players, players who can add to a squad.
It’s great having star players. Star players put butts in the seats and offer us highlights to ooh and aah over. To me what wins trophies are a team of good solid players. With a strong squad to back them up. Overall, I think the core of a good solid team is there. It only needs like players to fit into the gaps and round out the entire team of 25. Forget about big names. Go back to finding those gems who cost relatively little compared to the huge fees being floated out there. Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen come to mind as players of this ilk. Lukas Podolski is the latest like this. Focus in on buying quality players that don’t cost a ton. You can win that way. It was evident in France & Germany. It can be so in England even as Chelsea and City continue to battle against such business.
I get the wage structure at Arsenal. I don’t like it but I get it. The wage structure was set up in a way that no one player felt inferior or superior to another based on pay. On pay the players should’ve felt equal but when all are paid a huge wage what is the incentive to fight and be hungry.
There is none.
Arsenal have done more harm than good with the wage structure that has paid under-performers as well as it some of the team’s better players. Firstly it has created (inn my opinion) a level of players who feel they don’t have to perform at any level worthy of the pay they receive. There seems to be be no hunger or drive to spur those players on.
Secondly, now that it seems the club have realized the error of their ways in this regard it is hard to move those players because who really wants to pay Denilson or Nicklas Bendtner £50k per week. They don’t deserve it.
Arsenal need to have a wage structure that pays based on performance. No one is saying taking the wage structure to the levels that Chelsea and City are. As good as Eden Hazard has been I can’t see paying someone near £200k per week for only performing on the Ligue 1 stage. No need to pay like that. But Robin Van Persie should be getting what he wants because of his performance and being the club’s top star.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a rising star and will likely be a great player. He is not deserving of £50k per week and as I said the club have reached their senses here and are paying him based on what someone at 18 years old and a rising talent deserves.
Players need to understand – you want over £100k per week. Earn it. Show week in week out at training and in the matches that you deserve to be compensated. It creates hunger, desire and competition in the squad. Which in my estimation improves the squad all the way around. Competition is good. Make it that way by creating a wage system that rewards for performance not because you are some up and coming talent that may never deliver.
Fix the commercial deals
Arsenal currrently draw in around £46 million from their various commercial deals. That places them well below the biggies like Bayern, Madrid, Barca, and United. Even nouveau riche City have surpassed Arsenal in terms of commercial revenue. At £46 million Arsenal are slightly below Juventus and just above Lyon and local rivals Tottenham. For a club that is supposed to be a global brand this is completely inadequate.
When Arsenal locked in their deals the rationale was necessary and immediate funding for their stadium financing. Up front cash from both the Emirates and Nike to the tune of £100 million was used to fund the the initial payment of the stadium. But now in the growing era of big deals, Arsenal’s pale in comparison.
Arsenal get about £5.5 million a year for their sponsorship deal from the Emirates for the shirt. This is paltry in terms of what United get from AON or the £20 million Liverpool (a team not in the UCL for 3 years running) get from Standard Chartered. Even Spurs a team that has had little to no success in recent memory (besides their one stint in the champion’s league) gets better from its shirt sponsorship than Arsenal. This needs a drastic overhaul.
Throw on top of that lousy terms they get from Nike at £8 million a year and in just these two major deals, Arsenal are severely hamstrung in comparison to its peers. If Arsenal are going to compete, and compete in the Premier League and in Europe, it needs to look to improve its overall commercial standing. Contracts for both Nike and Emirates come up for renegotiation in 2014. Word is at least that a new Emirates deal could be done earlier. There are new deals done with Carlsberg, Citroen, Thomas Cook, and Indesit. But is it enough? Not when you look at what others around you are doing.
New back room team members have joined Arsenal from the likes of major sports in the states. This isn’t a bad thing. The deals major sports in the states get dwarf a lot of what gets done in the Premier League. But they need to get going. If we want to live in a self-sustainable world Arsenal need more than their match-day revenue and paltry take from poor deals to do it.
Restructure the Board
If you are a long time reader of YAMA you know that I place a lot of blame on the board for our woes. You have a group of 70+ year olds steering the ship that is Arsenal in waters that seems to have passed them by. Led by an invisible majority shareholder, the club has no vision or direction forward. At least not one that anyone is aware of or can point to with any certainty.
The club needs to not only move into the 21st century but it needs to come up with new and exciting ideas to take the club forward. The current board has done admirably. But it now seems like they are more of hindrance rather than help. Not one of them has ever invested in the club from their own cash. Not one seems to be able to provide the direction the club need in the modern football game.
Alisher Usmanov needs to be given a voice at the table. I am not saying I am in favor of him becoming the majority share holder. He would place us into the realm of living with a sugar daddy and becoming his toy. That is not what I want for the club. I don’t want us to be in peril when Usmanov would decide he needs to move on. What I want though is someone willing to challenge the club on the way things are being done and Usmanov is showing himself to be a thorn in the side of the current board as he continues to buy up all available shares.
Another thing that is needed in this structure is to let Ivan Gazidis worry about the commercial side of the business and bring in a director of football to work along side Arsene Wenger. Is this a call for David Dein to come back? Yes and no. If he is the only that will work then do it. But if there is a DoF out there that can work with Wenger than find him and make it so. If you fear that Wenger will say no, remind Wenger how the club hierarchy goes. I love Wenger but he is not the club and maybe he does need some reminding that he works for the club not vice versa. Move Gazidis out of every day overall football duties and let football be run by footballing men.
Grow Some Balls
I am tired of ‘player power.’ These mega millionaires come to the club get paid handsomly by any means and then piss off without honoring the terms of their contract. Cesc Fabregas, signed a new five year deal and two years into it, basically went on strike to force a move to Barcelona. We are now embroiled in a case with Robin Van Persie where he has one year left on his contract and while not being the git that Fabregas was, he could still force a way out.
It’s time the club said no. You have a contract. We want you here. You will honor the terms of your contract. In the Van Persie case that could mean letting him go next season on free. For Fabregas it might have meant benching your best player. But in both cases it would’ve sent a message – that the club are in charge not the players. It would’ve also told interested clubs – we will sell our players when we are ready not when you want us to.
Roberto Mancini was quoted on two occasions this week talking up Robin Van Persie and saying Arsenal had to sell Clichy and Nasri last season. Well Clichy I believe they wanted to move and Nasri I think they wanted to stay but they let the player dictate the story and in the end had to sell. Arsenal need to come out and say enough is enough. First they need to tell Roberto Mancini to shut his classless yap and worry about his own club and players. Secondly they need to tell Robin Van Perise that regardless of transfer moves they have no intention of selling.
Arsenal need to develop a rather large set of heuvos. It sends a strong message that they are not a selling club and that our best players are not going to be the fodder for other clubs. Arsenal have allowed this perception of a ‘selling club’ to develop and frankly it has to stop. If they want to move forward and be recognized for the great club they are this is one area they need to specifically clamp down on.
Plan for life without Wenger
No, this is not about getting rid of Wenger. But it is time for the club to start thinking about life without him. He is either going to wind up with a cushy office as part of the board or he is going to go. Retire. Or should we experience another bad season, be let go (the worst case scenario any would like to see).
But it doesn’t hurt to have that plan ready to go in any contingency. Identify who you want. Begin the overtures now. Lay out the plan and vision. If Wenger is going to go to a board room position, let him on the wooing process. He is highly respected throughout Europe. People will sit down and listen to him.
Don’t be afraid of that eventuality both as a board and as a fan base. We all love Wenger, some a little less than others, but he has brought great fortune to this club of that we all can agree. It will be sad the day he goes but there is no need to look like Chelsea, rudderless, or like Liverpool who courted anyone they could. Get the plan in place and get it started now.
Each one of these topics could like be a blog post unto itself. But together they are steps some of them more critical then others needed to turn Arsenal in a winner again. Arsenal are used to winning. We need to get back to that. The way the game is going if the more critical changes like board, wages, and commercial deals aren’t looked at and approached differently we will be fighting up a long slog we may not be able to over come.
Arsenal can win under a model of financial self-sustainability. It just needs to refocus its efforts in other areas to make sure it can. If it does that we can all be glad as the silverware starts to come in again.
FYI – Special thanks to Darren (@DarrenArsenal1) Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) and Phil (@AngryofN5) for their help in discussing certain components of this piece. The information on Arsenal’s commercial dealings can be found in fuller detail in this piece on Swiss Ramble