Thursday
Jan092014

Steve Bould; Wenger’s saviour

The footballing fraternity may well be surprised at Arsenal’s recent transformation from perennial underachievers to plausible title contenders, and while many perhaps seem at a loss as to where to attribute the progression, for me it’s clearly down to Assistant Manager, Steve Bould.

Bould was linked with the role of Assistant Manager at Arsenal in early 2011 when rumours began to circulate that Pat Rice (fingers crossed he is successful in overcoming his recent cancer diagnosis) was ready to step down from the role. Indeed, Arsene Wenger was forced to comment on the subject in January that year, stressing that he “200 per cent” wanted Rice to continue, before revealing that Rice’s contract was due to expire at the end of that season.

The speculation evidently had some basis in reality, as Rice did want to retire at the end of the 2010/2011 season, upon which Steve Bould was offered the position. However, Bould - in charge of the youth team at the time - turned down the role due to concerns over whether he would be allowed full access to first team coaching, and the fact that should Wenger have been relieved of his duties, he too would likely find himself out of a job.

Rice was therefore convinced to stay for one further season while Wenger extended his search for a replacement. At one point, existing first team coach Neil Banfield was touted as the favourite to take the role, yet when this did not materialise, and with Wenger loathe to look towards an outsider that might question his philosophies, he returned to Bould having obviously made concessions that went beyond him simply being the guy that hands out the bibs at training.

After a good start to the 2011/2012 season in defensive terms; with three clean sheets in the first three games, Wenger claimed Bould had ”taken over from Pat Rice for the defensive job where he is doing very well.”, however, before the New Year Arsenal’s collective defending had once again fallen into the usual bad habits. In the first 13 games of the season, Arsenal conceded 11 goals, in the next 13 they conceded double that amount. Something had clearly gone backwards in training.

Tensions rose after a 2-0 home defeat to Swansea on the 1st December 2012, with reports of Bould tearing into the players amidst a growing rift with Wenger due to Bould’s increasing frustration at his lack of input on the training ground. It appears Wenger was renegading on his promise.

Yes, Bould had been allowed to work separately with the defence earlier in the season, but these sessions had stopped and it is understood that Wenger was unable to take training the day before the 2-0 defeat to Swansea, yet the session was not led by Bould.

Perhaps Wenger did not like Bould taking the credit for the defensive improvement in the team, in the same way he had disliked the recognition given to Martin Keown who occupied a temporary role of specialist defence coach in 2006; guiding Arsenal to a Champions League final where the club set a new competition record for minutes played without conceding a goal.

Certain players were also understood to want more defensive-based training sessions, notably Bacary Sagna, whose form had noticeably nosedived since joining the club; he subsequently refused to sign a new contract.

On the pitch, there was worse to come, including an embarrassing defeat away to Bradford in the Carling Cup and later Championship side Blackburn in the FA Cup, with Arsenal conceding a further 29 goals from January 1 up until the 2-1 away defeat at Spurs in early March.

You could clearly see the friction on the touchline during games, with Bould and Wenger hardly communicating with each other; the former often mouthing barely concealed words of contempt as the ball kept hitting the back of Arsenal’s net.

Clearly, something had to change. With antagonism towards Wenger from Arsenal supporters at an all-time high, CEO Ivan Gazidis made a rare criticism of Wenger after the Bradford debacle, stating. “I think I am frankly tired of getting up here and delivering the same message… Last night was not good enough and it made us all upset and angry. I would like to apologise to all of you, especially the fans who travelled up there. You deserved better.”

With Arsenal set for another battle for fourth place against an emerging Spurs side, and Wenger clearly fearing for his job, it appears he now had little choice but to grant Bould the access he craved - the rest, as they say, is history. With Bould back working with the squad on defensive shape, both individually and collectively, Arsenal conceded just 5 goals in the remaining 11 games, securing fourth place on the last day of the season.

Just as Sir Alex Ferguson did not know how to put on a training session and so appointed coaches to do the job he couldn’t, Wenger had no choice but to make a decision: risk losing his job and the humiliation that goes with it, or make some concessions and allow the role of his number two to extend beyond being  a ‘yes’ man, even if it meant somebody other than him taking the credit for the team’s performance.

Moving into this season, new signings have helped further the enormous progress Bould has overseen as Assistant Manager since the tail end of last season. The acquisition of Flamini on a free transfer and the board’s early Christmas present to Wenger of Mesut Ozil has helped transform the psyche of the players from doubt and timidity to conceivable Premier League challengers – albeit the biggest psychological tests still to come.

Although Bould should not take all the credit, history has proved that, on his own terms, Wenger would not have been capable of instilling the defensive discipline that has been the backbone of Arsenal’s form over the past 10 months. Without Bould, Arsenal would still be defending like showroom dummies, and Wenger might well have been given the shove last summer.  Wenger clearly has a lot a lot to thank Bould for, as do the Arsenal supporters.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Tuesday
Jul092013

Summer of lies goes into overdrive

Haven’t been thinking much about football this summer and haven’t watched much except for some of the Confederations Cup – out of sheer boredom.

Clubs have been signing players, but transfers have been few and far between, contrary to the fact that every time I go online or pick up a newspaper, the story of a big-name footballer leaving to play for club A or B is a bigger headline than the war in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the civil unrest in Egypt combined.

All the more galling is that these transfer story headlines are such obvious bollocks I can scarcely believe that people actually believe them to be true. As usual, the London clubs have been the biggest victims – probably because the Metro and Evening Standard are huge drivers of readership for the region.

With all due respect, they’re putting out the wrong statements. It shouldn’t be “Wayne Rooney is going to Arsenal!” or "David Villa to Tottenham!", but “Why the fuck would Wayne Rooney want to go to Arsenal or Villa to Tottenham?”

If I may get philosophical for a moment, I’d like you to consider the fact that human behaviour is the outward projection of the selfish survival mechanism that vibrates in every cell of our body. Manifestations of this greed are responsible for the cycle of capitalist boom and bust, immorality, and the ugly face of ever-spiralling market competitiveness, infatuated with treading all over the competition and doing everything in its power to get us to succumb to their vapid sales tactics – these days known as, football transfer stories.

Due to the Internet, the published media has taken a kicking of epic proportions over the past 10-15 years. Most newspapers are operating at a loss and salvage those losses through print or online advertising, which in itself is dwindling. Ask any executive, when times are tough the first thing they do is cut the advertising budget. However, moving to an online presence means you’re not only competing with other newspapers, but every sports website, radio station, TV and cable channel or Tom, Dick and Harry with a popular blog.

Now EVERYONE has a voice, and it’s not just competitive but hyper-competitive, and in order to survive, in order to attract attention, even the once reliable broadsheets are moving beyond blowing whispers out of all proportion to operating within the realm of printing pure fantasy, and in many cases, unadulterated lies – feeding off the naivety of the reader, hankering for the drug of the nation, football.

There’s a method to their madness of course. By using any reprehensible tactic to drive huge readership to their media portal, people will no-doubt spend five minutes browsing other stories and clicking a few ads, making the paper some much-needed bunce. The more desperate the media becomes for cash, the more nonsensical and outrageous the stories - evidently.

Watching this escalate year on year, as everything capitalist wantonly escalates until it self-destructs, what I find the most amusing is how eventually the bubble bursts when someone genuinely ‘in the know’ emerges to make a contradictory yet categorical statement – an actual quote. Even then, despite making the original publisher of said story look completely stupid for being so conclusively (and predictably) wrong, the latest information is still made front page news by said publisher – as if to rub salt into its own wounds.

Even worse, perhaps, is the public frenzy to scrutinise and analyse, word for word, said statement for secret intentions to the contrary. Meanwhile, previous assertions (lies) on said story, initially made as statements of fact are somehow now supposed to be ignored or thrown into the psychological garbage can as if they never happened. There was a time when a newspaper had a reputation to protect, no more it seems.

It will only get worse, as that is the way of the modern world where deception, in all its forms, reigns supreme; the truth is mixed in with the lies so efficiently and for such scrupulous reasons, that we can no longer believe anybody or anything, and so, my question is, what’s the point of reading any of it? The saying "Actions speak louder than words" has never appeared more pertinent.

I foresee a day when newspapers will merely report that every player will join every club, therefore covering all bases and making it impossible to be wrong, in which case to outfox each other they will have to make up new stories, for example, the accuracy of the transfer fee down to the last penny, eventually leading to a co-existing stock market based purely on football triviality spread betting.

My advice? See it for what it is. If you have to read it, don't believe it for a second and don't invest a shred of hope or emotion in it. Especially ignore those writers that bemoan the entire activity while themselves reporting on the futility of said news stories every single day, fooling you into thinking they’re on your side when they really want your clicks just as much, if not more, than the filthy lucre-loving newspapers trying to create their own branch of Footballholics Anonymous.

Surely there must be someone we can believe? Yes, me. I have not written anything for six weeks, therefore, by default I’m honestly admitting I don’t know anything, which happens to be 100% accurate as absolutely nothing of interest has happened. Unfortunately, however, during my self-enforced sabbatical my readership has plunged. I suppose it all goes to prove, it really does 'pay' to be a liar.

—oo— 

Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.

Monday
Jan072013

Wenger’s selfish ‘socialist’ wage structure

There was an excellent article in the Telegraph this week by Jason Burt, who somehow managed to get Arsene Wenger to admit responsibility for Arsenal’s ‘socialist’ wage structure that has proved so destructive to the club.

It quotes Wenger’s principled approach to spreading wages across the squad, and to “pay something that makes sense and is defendable in front of every single player”, adding: “We have a more socialist model. We make exceptions sometimes but they are not maybe so high.”

The newspaper sets in stone the assertion that Wenger sets the pay bands amongst the players with the board “deferring to his judgment”.

When asked point-blank, whether Wenger sets the wage structure, the Arsenal manager responded: “Yes. I don’t know how it works at others. But it’s not only me, it’s in co-operation with the board.”

This gives huge credence to my post last year, “Arsenal's £130m wage bill exposed” and the updated version “Arsenal’s £143.4m wage bill exposed”, published in November, which shows a ceiling of approx £100k per week for Podolski, with smaller incremental gaps for the vast majority of the remainder of the first team, themselves on fairly equal footing irrespective of age, talent or contribution.

This idiotic implementation of wages across the squad has caused massive problems to Arsenal on multiple levels, and doesn’t even make sense as a socialist model.

First, to even assert that paying any one individual £60,000 a week equates to a ‘socialist wage’ is fundamentally preposterous. Furthermore, it seems Mr Wenger is more than happy to exclude himself from his own socialist model, as his wage is twice that of the average player at the club. An average that, according to The Telegraph is £61,000 p/wk to Manchester Utd’s £64,000 p/wk.

This was also pinpointed by Arsenal Truth back in September, when I also suggested, now in agreement with The Telegraph article, that a relatively inexperienced player like Danny Welbeck earns roughly £15,000 p/wk at Man Utd compared to world class stars such as Van Persie or Rooney who earn around £200,000 p/wk.

The problems that the wage structure has caused the club are clear and obvious. Most notably in the tremendous amount of money wasted on young players that have never fulfilled their potential at the club; money that could have been spent on older, experienced professionals who would have no-doubt accepted a similar wage.

A player like Abou Diaby for example, who has played 117 times for Arsenal in seven seasons and has never proved his ability nor contributed to any success, has cost the club around £23.8m in wages/fees. Of course, it may not be Diaby or Arsenal’s fault that he is perennially injured, but why should the club suffer the cost of Wenger’s economic stupidity when at a ‘normal’ big club Diaby would have joined on £15k p/wk or less and had perhaps one increase commensurate with his productivity (or lack of it) throughout his injury blighted career.

Yet Wenger shows no sign of conceding to this madness, re-signing an average player such as Aaron Ramsey – who has already cost the club a £4.8m transfer fee and an estimated £13m in wages – to another 4 year contract, probably on more money. Imagine the waste if Ramsey remains as average as he is now? By 2017 Ramsey could well have cost the club somewhere in the region of £30-£35m - will he ever be worth that sort of outlay?

Apart from the obscene wastage noted above, you also have the more obvious problem of being unable to shift overpaid players from the wage bill, such as Djourou (scary to think how much he’s cost the club since 2003 – I’d estimate at least £20m), Chamakh, Park Chu Young, Squillaci, Fabianski, Denilson, Bendtner, Mannone, Miyaichi and previous hard-to-shift drivel such as Traore, Almunia and Eboue. The club even has to subsidise much of the wages of many of the players that go out on loan.

The contract situation of Theo Walcott only highlights the insanity of Wenger’s model. Like many other young players, Walcott was grossly overpaid upon joining the club, and now that Arsenal are in desperate need to keep him – presuming he even wants to stay, will have to fight off outside suitors by offering him a significant wage rise that is likely to cause restlessness amongst other players that have far more talent and experience that are currently on an equitable wage. This could conceivably create a situation whereby if Walcott does re-sign, Arsenal will have to throw a load more money at other players to ‘keep them sweet’.

However, I don’t fully believe Wenger is interested in a socialist model. I actually think it’s a ruse. He put those players on massive wages so that nobody would touch them. He experimented with Arsenal’s financial future in order to indulge himself in “project youth” and the club has paid, and continues to pay, the consequences of his selfish idealism.

Equally astounding is the board’s complicit ignorance in going along with Wenger’s wishes, probably due to their professional ineptitude. As Peter Hill-Wood does no worthwhile job as far as I can see, the majority of the blame should lay at the door of Ivan Gazidis. One thing’s for certain, this would never have been allowed to continue unabated (or even happen) under David Dein’s watch, nor Danny Fiszman. Neither man would have allowed Wenger to ride roughshod over them in the media, contradicting them at every turn over who was responsible for what in the boardroom.

Indeed, in the summer of 2009, Fiszman claimed “Arsene can afford to buy any player he wants, he only has to ask” and told the media that when the board asked Wenger what he would do with a £100m windfall, his response was that he’d hand it right back again. With the cat out of the bag, Wenger’s bitter response was, “I believe the more everybody shuts up inside the club, doesn’t talk about anything and works hard is [for] the best”

At the end of that season, Wenger also commented: “We want to run the club by respecting the financial balance and by developing the players who have been at the club for five years. If we do not get there next year, or the year after, then I will be responsible and stand up for it, don’t worry.”

Nearly four years ago now - and only going backwards, we’re still waiting for Wenger to stand up and be responsible, but he appears to have conveniently forgotten his pledge.

Of course, Arsenal could easily have afforded to pay 2-3 players £200k per week. Instead of having 77 players on the books, including reserves such as Wellington that Wenger blew £3.5m on yet can’t even get a work permit, the squads could be downsized, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to change now as the club can neither keep or attract world class players - nor get rid of the dross that contributes so little, while any new young player that joins has seemingly to be fitted into Wenger’s ‘socialist model’ and immediately put on a daft wage on a par with all the others.

Gazidis needs to grow a backbone and take firm control of the club, and he should start by shoving Wenger out the door before even Champions League qualification becomes a dream, let alone competing for a paltry domestic cup. Then perhaps he can earn his corn by focusing on revolutionising the wage bill in a sane fashion, rewarding players for success and incentivising young players to earn what their peers have achieved - while keeping any future appointed manager’s nose well out of the books, as normal clubs do.

—oo— 

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Sunday
Nov042012

Arsenal’s £143.4m wage bill exposed

Last February, I gave estimated figures of Arsenal’s wage bill, citing the huge amount of money Wenger had wasted on (a) flops, and (b) overpaid youngsters he couldn’t get off the wage bill.

My overall assessment was that, contrary to popular opinion, Arsenal’s failure to compete with the heavy spenders in the Premier League has nothing to do with how much money is available for Wenger to spend, rather how he chooses to spend the considerable resources made available to him.

Yet, while the sum total of my wage bill estimate added up mathematically, the breakdown lacked accuracy and I’ve long been meaning to perfect it. So, armed with further information - and recent access to Arsenal’s full-year accounts, the below update should be a little more accurate an estimate of how Arsenal’s current £143.4m wage bill is made up.


FIRST TEAM WAGE (pwk) WAGE (p/yr)
Lukas Podolski £107,000 £5,564,000
Tomas Rosicky £80,000 £4,160,000
Per Mertesacker £80,000 £4,160,000
Andrey Arshavin £78,000 £4,056,000
Santi Carzorla £70,000 £3,640,000
Mikel Arteta £70,000 £3,640,000
Thomas Vermaelen £70,000 £3,640,000
Theo Walcott £60,000 £3,120,000
Olivier Giroud £60,000 £3,120,000
Gervinho £60,000 £3,120,000
Bacary Sagna £60,000 £3,120,000
Marouane Chamakh £60,000 £3,120,000
Andre Santos £60,000 £3,120,000
Jack Wilshere £60,000 £3,120,000
Abou Diaby £60,000 £3,120,000
Denilson £60,000 £3,120,000
Laurent Koscielny £60,000 £3,120,000
Johan Djourou £50,000 £2,600,000
Kieran Gibbs £50,000 £2,600,000
Nicklas Bendtner £50,000 £2,600,000
Sebastien Squillaci £50,000 £2,600,000
Aaron Ramsey £50,000 £2,600,000
Wojciech Szczesny £50,000 £2,600,000
Lukasz Fabianski £50,000 £2,600,000
Ju Young Park £50,000 £2,600,000
Vito Mannone £30,000 £1,560,000
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain £30,000 £1,560,000
Carl Jenkinson £30,000 £1,560,000
Emmanuel Frimpong £30,000 £1,560,000
Francis Coquelin £30,000 £1,560,000
Ryo Miyaichi £18,000 £936,000
Ignasi Miquel £10,000 £520,000
Joel Campbell £10,000 £520,000
    £90,636,000
RESERVES    
Alex Iwobi £750 £39,000
Alfred Mugabo £750 £39,000
Anthony Jeffrey £750 £39,000
Arinse Uade £750 £39,000
Austin Lipman £750 £39,000
Benik Afobe £750 £39,000
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill £750 £39,000
Chuba Akpom £750 £39,000
Chuks Aneke £750 £39,000
Conor Henderson £750 £39,000
Craig Eastmond £750 £39,000
Damian Martinez £750 £39,000
Daniel Boateng £750 £39,000
Deyan Iliev £750 £39,000
Elton Monteiro £750 £39,000
Glen Kamara £750 £39,000
Hector Bellerin £750 £39,000
Nicholas Yennaris £750 £39,000
Isaac Hayden £750 £39,000
Jack Jebb £750 £39,000
James Shea £750 £39,000
Jernade Meade £750 £39,000
Jon Toral £750 £39,000
Jordan Wynter £750 £39,000
Josh Rees £750 £39,000
Josh Vickers £750 £39,000
Kristoffer Olsson £750 £39,000
Kyle Ebecilio £750 £39,000
Leander Siemann £750 £39,000
Martin Angha £750 £39,000
Nigel Neita £750 £39,000
Philip Roberts £750 £39,000
Reice Charles-Cook £750 £39,000
Samir Bihmoutine £750 £39,000
Samuel Galindo £750 £39,000
Sanchez Watt £750 £39,000
Sead Hajrovic £750 £39,000
Serge Gnabry £750 £39,000
Tarum Dawkins £750 £39,000
Thoma Eisfeld £750 £39,000
Tom Dallison £750 £39,000
Wellington £750 £39,000
Zachari Fagan £750 £39,000
Zak Ansah £750 £39,000
    £1,716,000
FIRST TEAM STAFF    
Manager    
Arsène Wenger £135,000 £7,020,000
Assistant to Manager    
Boro Primorac £7,500 £390,000
Steve Bould £5,000 £260,000
Coach    
Gerry Peyton £1,300 £67,600
Neil Banfield £1,300 £67,600
Tony Colbert £1,300 £67,600
Tony Roberts £1,300 £67,600
Paul Johnson £1,000 £52,000
Marcus Svensson £1,000 £52,000
James Collins £1,000 £52,000
Ben Knapper £1,000 £52,000
David Wales £1,000 £52,000
Physio/Medical    
Colin Lewin £1,000 £52,000
Gary O'Driscoll £1,000 £52,000
Simon Harland £1,000 £52,000
Kieran Hunt £1,000 £52,000
Darren Page £1,000 £52,000
Danny Flitter £1,000 £52,000
Kit    
Vic Akers £600 £31,200
Paul Akers £600 £31,200
Scouting    
Steve Rowley (Chief) £1,000 £52,000
Gilles Grimandi £600 £31,200
Tony Banfield £600 £31,200
Danny Karbassiyoon £600 £31,200
Sandro Orlandelli £600 £31,200
Pablo Budner £600 £31,200
Everton Gushiken £600 £31,200
Bobby Bennett £600 £31,200
Francis Cagigao £600 £31,200
Jurgen Kost £600 £31,200
Peter Clarke £600 £31,200
    £8,938,800
RESERVES STAFF    
Liam Brady £3,200 £166,400
David Court £1,000 £52,000
Roy Massey £1,000 £52,000
Terry Burton £1,000 £52,000
Steve Gatting £1,000 £52,000
Lee Smelt £1,000 £52,000
Carl Laraman £1,000 £52,000
Steve Leonard £1,000 £52,000
Craig Gant £1,000 £52,000
Dennis Rockall £1,000 £52,000
Lewis Manning £1,000 £52,000
Richard Goddard £1,000 £52,000
Alastair Thrush £1,000 £52,000
Kwame Ampadu £1,000 £52,000
    £842,400
BOARD    
Ivan Gazidis £39,423 £2,049,996
Ken Friar OBE £10,980 £570,960
Peter Hill-Wood £1,500 £67,000
Stanley Kroenke £481 £25,000
Sir Chips Keswick £480 £24,960
    £2,737,916
OTHER COSTS    
Pension/social security £387,500 £20,150,000
Player bonus pool £192,307 £10,000,000
Peripheral staff £160,000 £8,320,000
     
Total £2,756,771 £143,341,116


(Note to other websites: please link to this weblog rather than publish salary statistics as the figures are being constantly revised) 

The wage bill has risen by 19% from last season and is currently only £19m less than Manchester United’s and £25m behind Chelsea. All clubs trail behind Manchester City, although just because Man City have a wage bill of £174m doesn’t mean you need a wage bill of £174m to compete for the Premier League.

Money will get you so far in competing for the Premier League, but paying ridiculously over-inflated salaries to beat off the competition is not necessarily a true reflection of a squad’s overall ability or the ultimate route to success. The missing link is a management team’s ability to convert that financial outlay into trophies.

Basically, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal have much fewer resources than Man City, but still have more than enough to field a world class first team + bench that is capable of outstripping the rest of the Premier League and winning consistently enough to mount a title challenge.

This notion can be further assessed by looking at the spend of a team such as Tottenham, who competed with Arsenal for a place in the top four despite spending £30m less in wages, while Newcastle finished just 5 points behind Arsenal despite spending £110m less in wages! The Northern club has halved its wage bill from £74m to £34m over the past two seasons, yet still managed a top four challenge.

If Newcastle can compete with Arsenal notwithstanding a £110m wage deficit, why can’t Arsenal compete with Man City, Chelsea or Man Utd for the title when the wage gap, in relative terms, is far smaller?

This evidence re-establishes the fact that Wenger’s inability to challenge for the title has little to do with being unable to compete financially, but everything to do with inefficient wage spend allied to poor player purchases and rank bad management.

Based on my salary estimates above, we can better view Wenger’s horrendous cash wastage by examining the salary spend on the following distinctly average players over a 4-year period.

Vito Mannone £6.2m
Kieran Gibbs = £10.4m
Ju Young Park = £10.4m
Wojciech Szczesny = £10.4m
Lukasz Fabianski = £10.4m
Aaron Ramsey £10.4m
Johan Djourou £10.4m
Sebastien Squillaci = £10.4m
Nicklas Bendtner = £10.4m
Denilson £12.4m
Abou Diaby £12.4m
Andre Santos £12.4m
Marouane Chamakh = £12.4m

From that list, Wenger has, or will have by the time their contracts expire, blown £139.3m on wages. Add another £24.6m in transfer fees = a total expenditure of £163.9m. In fact, the cost is actually considerably higher as some of those players have been at the club far longer than 4 years - up to 7 in some cases.

Some might bemoan my choice of targets to pick on, but it would only make for worse reading if I chose to include some of Wenger’s other grave disappointments such as Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin. Many might want to add a prize dud like Gervinho to the list, or judging by Arsenal’s abysmal defending, Mertesacker, Vermaelen or Koscielny.

The jury’s also out on new signings Giroud and Podolski, who so-far have only 3 goals between them in 10 Premier league games. Early days, but that £24m outlay doesn’t look like coming good either.

The players mentioned in the above two paragraphs have cost the club a further £86m in transfer fees, and over a 4-year contract Arsenal has either spent, or is committed to spending, at least £119.6m in wages on those players.

The question is, how many of these Wenger purchases have proven to be the absolute top quality required to sustain a title challenge or compete for the Champions League? The total expenditure on wages and salaries for all of the above players combined amounts, or will do by the time their contracts expire, to £369,500,000.

Sorry, but the idea that Arsenal is a club unable to compete due to lack of finances is utterly preposterous.

Now that we can take Wenger’s resources out of the equation, we can focus on the real reasons Arsenal has been unable to challenge for trophies going on 8 years, such as the obscene amounts of money Wenger wastes on average players, his total failure to coach defence, fundamentally flawed tactics and clear inability to motivate the squad.

—oo— 

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Wednesday
Oct032012

Ivan Gazidis fills his pockets

Yes folks, that’s what Ivan Gazidis earned last season £2.13m! A £1.36m basic salary + £675k bonus and £100k towards his pension.

That’s a 24% increase!

With Arsenal’s end-of-year accounts now in full view, and with help from an excellent analysis by the Swiss Ramble blog, the accounts show profit before tax for last season at £36.6m.

The other notable sum is an increase in staff costs by £40m, with wages up 15% to £143m. This is puzzling as the club sold two of its highest earners in Fabregas and Nasri, while other big earners, namely Eboue, Clichy and the overpaid Traore, also departed.

Swiss Ramble apportions blame to Wenger’s round of panic buying at the end of the transfer window, with deals rushed through for numerous players without sufficient time for full salary negotiations. In other words, Nasri is on, say £70k a week – fuck it we haven’t got time, give it to Santos or Mertesacker.

On further analysing the accounts, in terms of promoting growth and making the most of the money sitting in the bank, you have to wonder what on earth Gazidis is doing to earn his salary – let alone his bonus, especially as Arsenal has won nothing throughout his tenure, competed for nothing and only scraped automatic qualification for the Champions League last season by a point, while finishing almost 20 points behind the top two.

Quote Gazidis, “All of the money we make is made available to our manager and he has done an unbelievable job in managing that spend.” Except it doesn’t seem very outstanding when you consider that Arsenal only finished 1 point ahead of Spurs – whose wage bill is £30m lower, and 5 points ahead of Newcastle who have a paltry wage bill of £34m.

Read that again, Gazidis/Wenger spent £100m more on wages than Newcastle and only finished 5 points better off.

More bad news for Gazidis is that despite the fact Arsenal are in the Champions League every season and football clubs are earning more money now than at any point in the history of the game, Arsenal Football Club is simply not growing, with Arsenal reporting an operating loss of £18m last season.

Commercial Revenues are only £4.4m higher now than they were in 2009. Yet, according to Gazidis, a miserable 9% increase in commercial revenue streams over the past three years is acclaimed as “well ahead of our five-year plan”.

To add more salt to the wounds, match day income dropped last season from £100 million to £95 million, and that’s despite season ticket hikes. It’s the first conclusive evidence that Arsenal fans are no longer willing to shell out for mediocrity.

Arsenal’s gross debt now stands at £253m, and with cash reserves of £154m the club is now £99m in debt. Property deals are expected to conclude over the following two years bringing in a further £36m.

This raises another question, why are Arsenal’s cash balances so high? Manchester United’s cash reserves are only £71 million, implying they invest their surplus and don't just leave it sitting in the bank.

While we should not expect all of Arsenal’s £154m cash reserves to be provided for transfers, a huge chunk of it could be – and the reason it’s not is because Wenger refuses to touch it.

Cue Gazidis: “I want to be clear that the money we generate is available to our manager, Arsène Wenger, and that he quite rightly makes the decisions regarding how to invest those funds.”

Again, unambiguous evidence that Wenger is 100% in charge of spending, without restrictions, and has sizeable transfer funds at his disposal sitting there unspent.

Gazidis £675k bonus is a disgrace. Yes, he’s making money for the club, but the profits are coming from Wenger selling all of Arsenal’s best players not from any revenues that he's responsible for. In fact, since taking the job nearly four years ago, I can’t find many - make that "any" - examples of where Gazidis has succeeded in significantly enhancing the profile of the club, either in footballing or financial terms.

Although Arsenal’s commercial weaknesses are undoubtedly linked to the long-term deals put in place to provide financing for the Emirates Stadium, Gazidis’ poor record in sponsorship deals doesn’t exactly provide confidence in his ability to put in place a team capable of making the most from the renewal of the major shirt sponsorship/commercial deals that expire in 2013/2014.

One final quote from the CEO, “Can we compete at top salary levels? Yes we can, but we have an ethos at the club - the way Arsène expresses it is that it is not about individual players, it is what happens between them.”

If you can figure out what that means, drop me a line.

Clearly, Wenger is running the whole show. No wonder the board is terrified of losing him, far too much power has been invested in the Frenchman and the CEO/manager relationship is totally back to front.

Gazidis/Wenger salaries simply do not reflect their achievements, they’re grossly overpaid and the club is being badly run too, with huge wastage on player salaries, overpriced tickets, feeble progress on commercial activities, undernourished investment - despite it being available, and zero leadership from the board, including its missing owner, Stan Kroenke.

The longer this apathy continues, the more you start to wonder if the whole lot of them do not require clearing out – including the good-for-nothing Hill-Wood - and replaced by an ambitious, results-driven boardroom that takes responsibility for its failures instead of serving up feeble excuses and has a more transparent and healthy hierarchical structure.

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