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Monday, October 19, 2009

One Man Control at Arsenal: A Threat for Arsene Wenger and the Club

You know that American billionaire Stan Kroenke and Arab billionaire Alisher Usmanov are running towards gaining the overall control of Arsenal. Kroenke is, in fact, very close to reach his target as he has recently increased his Arsenal share to 28.9% spending £765,000. He is now just a percent behind the 29.9% mark that would allow him to make a bid for the rest of the shares. Usmanov is not far behind his American competitor as he also holds more than 25% of the shares. So, it is pretty much understandable that Arsenal is going to be controlled by one man in the near future.

Well, it could be a threat for Arsenal as well as manager Arsene Wenger. Wenger has so far been managing the club with its limited resources, but not at the cost of performance. It is true that Arsenal has not won any title since 2005 FA Cup, but Wenger boys have been pretty much consistent over the last four years both in Premier league and Europe. Wenger’s small spending attitude has been instrumental behind Arsenal’s £35.2m (after tax) record profit for the financial year 2008-09, thanks to a substantial increase in yearly turnover reaching to £313.3m last financial year, compared to £223m in the previous financial year. This financial triumph has happened at the time when the club is under huge debt for funding the construction cost of the newly built Emirates Stadium. Arsenal is paying a fixed interest of the huge loan every year.

You may say that the increase in match-day revenue from £94.6m to £100.1m since Arsenal’s shift to Emirates stadium helped the club achieve record revenue. Yes, it is true that match-day revenue has a contribution to Arsenal’s more than impressive turnover, but you can not deny the fact that Wenger is mostly responsible for Arsenal’s financial success.

I know many of you are pretty much angry at me as I am not talking about what Arsenal achieved on financial ground through Wenger. Yes, I agree that a manager’s first and foremost priority is to bring success on the field; but here you have to remember the fact that Arsene Wenger has been dealing with the huge debt too. He can not just splash out money in the market to sign some star players and bring silverware at the club. He has got to consider the club’s financial constraints and tight budget. Like many other coaches, he could have gone into the traditional way by signing big players in order to bring success, and in that case, Arsenal could have likely faced the same fate that Portsmouth is facing at this moment. Looking back to the past, many clubs were relegated from the first division (Premier league) because of financial problem, more specifically for reckless spending. Arsenal fans should be happy that Arsenal has been pretty much consistent both at home and Europe over the last few years.

The biggest and most significant achievement of Arsene Wenger’s low-spending approach as well as youth policy is that Arsenal has grown as a side that can dominate any side and I think, Arsenal is now on the verge of entering into another glorious era like 1930s. However, I think, the one-man takeover (either by Kroenke or Usmanov) could be a big threat for Arsenal. Why? Let’s see.

First of all, the club owner, who will hold at least 51 percent of total shares, could be tempted by his huge wealth to invest in signing some big stars like Ronaldo and Kaka. It is natural that this short-cut way of bringing success can attract any billionaire like Kroenke or Usmanov. So, you can see that Wenger’s approach of “Cut Your Clothes According to Your Need” could come to an end very soon following the club’s likely takeover by a billionaire.

Secondly, the excellent youth policy that Arsene Wenger has administered at Arsenal could be destroyed once the one-man control appears in the club. Wenger has always nurtured the young talents and made them big stars like Henry and Fabregas. He always gives chances to the young bench players in the FA Cup and League Cup matches, in an attempt to give his young boys more exposure to competitive football. However, if a billionaire owner buys some big stars spending big amount of money, then he would less likely be interested to continue the same youth policy at the cost of FA Cup and League Cup titles.

Third and the most important point is that a reckless spending spree of the club owner in the transfer market could destroy Arsenal’s self-dependent approach and bring a huge debt on the club in the long run. Arsene Wenger is also aware of the threat of someone taking over the club in the near future.

Telegraph reported:

"What I find dangerous for English football is that most of the clubs are not managing to live within their own resources," he said.

"We have the example of Portsmouth. They need the owner to be a multi-billionaire just so they can pay the salaries. That cannot be right. If the owner has to put his own money into the club just so it can live and survive, that is super-dangerous.

"I know at our club we have foreign owners who are billionaires, but it has no interference with the day-to-day management and running of the club. If one man controls the club, fine, but as long as the club lives within its own resources.

"It cannot rely or depend on one person."

I totally agree with Arsene Wenger on this regard. A team should never depend on the investment of a person or one shareholder. More than that, spending money recklessly is always dangerous for any side. There should have a balance in a club, if it wants to become successful in the long run. Chelsea is now under huge debt considering Roman Abramovich’s investment at the club in signing big stars. So, I just hope that Arsenal would not follow Chelsea’s footstep and remain self-dependent.

I truly believe that Arsenal has a number of good seasons ahead of them, unless they take any wrong step, denying Wenger’s expertise at managing a club successfully.

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