Friday
Mar022012

AST backs AT wage bill figures/5Live discussion

On Tuesday, there was a Radio 5Live Arsenal Special with a panel discussing Arsenal’s recently announced half-year results and the peformance of the club and manager. Some of it (not all of it) is damning, but makes for interesting listening.

Chaired by Mark Pougatch, the panel includes: Christian Purslow (former Liverpool Managing Director), Nigel Phillips (Arsenal Supporters Trust), Martin Keown and Jeremy Wilson (Daily Telegraph).

Key stats to take from Arsenal’s half-year figures are:

  • The club is profitable at every level
  • Half-year results show that full-year profit is expected to be in the region of £45m
  • Stadium debt is no real burden to the club; the cost is £20m pa and the club generates £50m
  • Arsenal is sitting on significant cash resources of £115m; so why didn’t Wenger spend some in January?
  • The stadium is already half paid for (not including cash reserves)
  • There’s still £30m to come from property sales
  • The wage bill is now approaching £140m – 90% of which comprises of player/staff wages
  • Ticket prices are now amongst the highest in the world, with Club Level tickets rising another 2% next season

Other interesting speculations:

Arsenal blew £75m on players + agents fees in the summer, Spurs spent £8m.

Lower and mid-range players at Arsenal are paid significantly more than at Man Utd, Man City or Chelsea. Keown called the amount of money young players are paid as “staggering”.

Because of the wage equality, not inequality, Van Persie is paid way below his competitive market value in salary terms. Arsenal risk losing him because his salary is being kept down by the average of the others.

At Manchester United, young players such as Ravel Morrison, Federico Macheda and Paul Pogba have failed to agree new contracts. Ferguson is refusing to put them on salaries that would still be 50% less than what Wenger pays his kids.

Arsenal could attract a better class of player if the lower-to-mid-range players were not so handsomely rewarded.

Arsenal players out on loan are currently unsalable because of their high wages.

With the guests reading directly from the wage bill figures published by Arsenal Truth on Feb 23, the AST’s Nigel Phillips admitted the figures were a good guesstimate. Radio 5 tried to speak to Gazidis about the figures, but he refused

The panel does also defend Wenger; it’s not all one-way traffic.

Click here to listen to the hour-long programme (starts at around the 6-minute mark).

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Thursday
Feb232012

Arsenal's £130m wage bill exposed

With some outside assistance I've been able to cobble together an estimate of what Arsenal's current wage bill comprises of. 

Naturally, without access to the books, there is a (large) element of guesswork here. For example - despite the obscene wages in some (most) instances, I found that £15m was still unaccounted for, so had to put that amount down as "OTHER STAFF". Remember there are scouts to pay and probably a few hundred other individuals apart from the playing and coaching staff that draw a salary at the Emirates.

Take a look dear reader, you may find it illuminating.

FIRST TEAM WAGE (pw/k) WAGE (p/yr)
Robin van Persie £90,000 £4,680,000
Andrey Arshavin £80,000 £4,160,000
Mikel Arteta £70,000 £3,640,000
Theo Walcott £70,000 £3,640,000
Thomas Vermaelen £70,000 £3,640,000
Yossi Benayoun £70,000 £3,640,000
Gervinho £70,000 £3,640,000
Manuel Almunia £60,000 £3,120,000
Per Mertesacker £60,000 £3,120,000
Sebastien Squillaci £60,000 £3,120,000
Tomas Rosicky £60,000 £3,120,000
Bacary Sagna £60,000 £3,120,000
Aaron Ramsey £55,000 £2,860,000
Alex Song £55,000 £2,860,000
Jack Wilshere £55,000 £2,860,000
Nicklas Bendtner £52,000 £2,704,000
Marouane Chamakh £50,000 £2,600,000
Abou Diaby £50,000 £2,600,000
Andre Santos £50,000 £2,600,000
Carlos Vela £50,000 £2,600,000
Denilson £50,000 £2,600,000
Johan Djourou £50,000 £2,600,000
Laurent Koscielny £50,000 £2,600,000
Lukasz Fabianski £40,000 £2,080,000
Wojciech Szczesny £40,000 £2,080,000
Armand Traore £40,000 £2,080,000
Ju Young Park £40,000 £2,080,000
Kieran Gibbs £40,000 £2,080,000
Vito Mannone £20,000 £1,040,000
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain £20,000 £1,040,000
Carl Jenkinson £20,000 £1,040,000
Emmanuel Frimpong £20,000 £1,040,000
Ryo £20,000 £1,040,000
Francis Coquelin £15,000 £780,000
Henri Lansbury £5,000 £260,000
Ignasi Miquel £5,000 £260,000
     
RESERVES    
Zak Ansah £1,000 £52,000
Daniel Boateng £1,000 £52,000
George Brislen-Hall £1,000 £52,000
Craig Eastmond £1,000 £52,000
Benik Afobe £1,000 £52,000
Chuks Aneke £1,000 £52,000
Sead Hajrovic £1,000 £52,000
Conor Henderson £1,000 £52,000
Gavin Hoyte £1,000 £52,000
Sean McDermott £1,000 £52,000
Jernade Meade £1,000 £52,000
Rhys Murphy £1,000 £52,000
Nigel Neita £1,000 £52,000
Oguzhan Ozyakup £1,000 £52,000
Sanchez Watt £1,000 £52,000
Icholas Yennaris £1,000 £52,000
Martin Angha £1,000 £52,000
Kyle Ebecilio £1,000 £52,000
Damian Martinez £1,000 £52,000
Elton Monteiro £1,000 £52,000
Jordan Wynter £1,000 £52,000
Jeffrey Monakana £1,000 £52,000
James Campbell £1,000 £52,000
Samir Bihmoutine £1,000 £52,000
Philip Roberts £1,000 £52,000
Ben Glasgow £1,000 £52,000
Reice Charles-Cook £1,000 £52,000
Alban Bunjaku £1,000 £52,000
Isaac Hayden £1,000 £52,000
Zachari Fagan £1,000 £52,000
Jon Toral £1,000 £52,000
Anthony Jeffrey £1,000 £52,000
Serge Gnabry £1,000 £52,000
Hector Bellerin £1,000 £52,000
Kristoffer Olsso £1,000 £52,000
Kyle Bartley £1,000 £52,000
Wellington £1,000 £52,000
James Shea £1,000 £52,000
Pedro Botelho £1,000 £52,000
Samuel Galindo £1,000 £52,000
     
FIRST TEAM STAFF    
Arsène Wenger £135,000 £7,020,000
Pat Rice £30,000 £1,560,000
Boro Primorac £30,000 £1,560,000
Gerry Peyton £10,000 £520,000
Neil Banfield £10,000 £520,000
Tony Colbert £10,000 £520,000
Colin Lewin £10,000 £520,000
Gary O'Driscoll £10,000 £520,000
David Wales £10,000 £520,000
Simon Harland £5,000 £260,000
Kieran Hunt £5,000 £260,000
Darren Page £5,000 £260,000
Vic Akers £5,000 £260,000
Paul Akers £5,000 £260,000
Paul Johnson £5,000 £260,000
Tony Roberts £5,000 £260,000
Marcus Svensson £5,000 £260,000
Danny Flitter £5,000 £260,000
James Collins £5,000 £260,000
Ben Knapper £5,000 £260,000
     
RESERVES STAFF    
Steve Bould £20,000 £1,040,000
Liam Brady £20,000 £1,040,000
David Court £5,000 £260,000
Roy Massey £5,000 £260,000
Steve Gatting £5,000 £260,000
Lee Smelt £5,000 £260,000
Carl Laraman £5,000 £260,000
Steve Leonard £5,000 £260,000
Craig Gant £5,000 £260,000
Dennis Rockall £5,000 £260,000
Richard Goddard £5,000 £260,000
Alastair Thrush £5,000 £260,000
     
BOARD    
Stanley Kroenke £25,000 £1,300,000
Ivan Gazidis £18,000 £936,000
Peter Hill-Wood £1,500 £78,000
Ken Friar OBE £1,500 £78,000
Sir Chips Keswick £500 £26,000
Lord Harris of Peckham £500 £26,000
     
OTHER STAFF    
Wages £300,000 £15,600,000
     
Total £2,499,000 £129,948,000

 

My opinion is that the chief problem with the club has nothing to do with the amount of money spent, but rather who it's been spent on. The key word is, WASTAGE.

Take the following 15 players, all of which have completely failed to live up to expectations: Arshavin, Walcott, Almunia, Squillaci, Rosicky, Bendtner, Chamakh, Diaby, Denilson, Djourou, Fabianski, Traore, Park, Gibbs, Mannone. 

Add up the wage expenditure of that lot from between the 1-5 years of their employment at Arsenal and you will find £184,000,000 has been thrown down the toilet and another £46,300,000 blown on transfer fees. Have they really been worth £230,300,000 of your money dear Gooner?

Club denying Wenger funds? Or is it ALL down to Wenger losing the plot and paying silly money/ludicrous wages for his ego trip - better know as "project youth" - and average players imbibed with bad tactics that he can no longer motivate or improve? 

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Friday
Sep302011

Kroenke speaks at last

  
The Telegraph newspaper has published an interview with Stan Kroenke, proving that Arsenal FC keep their ears close to the ground when it comes to what the media and bloggers are writing.

The complaint was that Silent Stan is too silent, so a newspaper reporter was picked by the club and sent to St Louis, Missouri for a PR exercise with the Arsenal owner. 

So what did the man with a moustache like a privet hedge have to say for himself? Well, he likes Arsene - he likes him very much. He loves the way Arsene "handles himself" and apparently Wenger is so good at talking he should "hold seminars".

Stan gave the impression that Wenger will never be sacked, and that he, and he alone, will decide when to vacate his position as manager of the club; but I wouldn't read too much into that. When it comes to the future of football managers, owners have to hold very black and white opinions. Either you back the manager or your don't, you cant have one leg in or one leg out, as that would only serve to undermine the manager's position, increase pressure and create further speculation.

That's why managers often get sacked two weeks after the board have given them the dreaded "vote of confidence". It's not because the board is in the habit of backstabbing, but because if they're not quite ready to sack a manager, they still have to show 100% support - even if privately their support is 20%.

Although, on the surface, a lot of what Kroenke spoke of in his interview made sense and seems perfectly reasonable, it also demonstrated an element of subterfuge. His comments on the club being self-sustainable for example can, on the one hand, be lauded as commendable, but - by the same token - out of touch, ambitionless or quite simply the actions of a private investor protecting his profit margin.

Investment - and the inevitable debt that comes with it - are part and parcel of any business with an ambition to succeed. There's nothing wrong with debt; it only becomes a problem when you become addicted to it or overstretch your capacity to pay it back.

Arsenal is the 5th richest club in world football, with a highly manageable and ever-receding debt - they're nowhere near overstretched and there's simply no excuse for the mess the club is in on the footballing side; a paltry 4 wins from 17 league games, the leaking of big players every single year, raised ticket prices to stupidly expensive levels, cheapo purchases and the horrendous mismanagement of wages that has left us unable to pay top whack for top players on a par with Everton let alone Man City.

Quite simply, supporters are being conned and Arsenal is failing because they have a selfish, egotistical, parsimonious, duplicitous, self-serving, tactical imbecile in charge who has been give carte blanche control of every aspect of the club and has made a complete mess of it.

A few other comments from Kroenke should also be taken with a pinch of salt, such as his reasurrances regarding engaging with fan groups to "protect the club", even though earlier this season he made clear strides to disenfranchise those very same supporter groups by trying to convince them to sell all their shares to him leaving them vocally redundant.

My biggest concern is that Kroenke - and his pet monkey Gazidis - simply don't understand football. They don't understand the culture, are not in touch with the supporters - on any level, and haven't a clue about whether Wenger's signings, training ground methods or tactics are practical, efficient or workable. They simply don't live in a footballing reality.

For Kroenke, Arsenal is an investors toy, and as we have now seen countless times Gazidis is a reactor not a proactor. He provides accountancy and marketing in an industry where the rules are not like any other business, but require a flexibility and unique cultural understanding of the sport itself. All he's done is spend the last two years re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

And so, for now, Wenger remains in control of the club from top to bottom, although at least Kroenke put one theory to bed by explaining that in all his time as the main shareholder of the club Wenger has never been denied "one dime". All transfer signings are down to Wenger, even the decision to sell Nasri was apparently left to Wenger - so there's absolutely nobody to blame for the state we're in except Arsene Wenger. Nobody!

Meanwhile, the last Arsenal game I watched was the Man Utd debacle; all the other games I have found something better to do with my time. I have, however, watched highlights and read broadsheet match reports of all the games - except Wednesday's game against Olympiacos.

On Wednesday I didn't even bother to watch Arsenal on a stream, instead I watched Valencia vs Chelsea on ITV. This month I will watch Spurs away (Sunday) and Chelsea away (29th) - these are the only Arsenal games worth watching as they are the only games that will tell me whether Wenger's madness is receding or we'll continual to fail ad nauseam.

I won't be supporting Arsenal in the traditional sense because my support of Arsenal is indefinitely suspended until Wenger is sacked or walks.

Arsenal Truth has more been about my life as an Arsenal supporter; taking as honest and impartial a view as possible. I'm not one for writing the same old drivel every day, sitting on the fence, dressing up situations favourably or unfavourably or disguising facts. I'm not in the bullshit game. I think straight and talk straight - and I expect people to be lucid and rational, even though football is a highly emotive sport.

While I can understand the emotion of matchday and the insane ramblings that come post-match when one is in a heightened state of either grief or euphoria, I simply can't sympathise with the supporter that continues to ignore what's staring them in the face 24 hours later; when all emotion has subsided.

There's always time to be fun and flippant, but this is not the time. Arsenal is in a mess and a few poxy wins against dirge like Swansea, Bolton and Olympiacos do nothing to disguise the mess we're in. Those results won't stop Van Persie walking next summer and other top talent drip-feeding their way out of the club. Those matches are not the ones that will decide whether Arsenal finish 4th or 10th - they're bread and butter wins that practically any top-flight team would be expected to win at home, let alone a club of Arsenal's receding stature.

On Sunday is the North London derby, and I feel dead inside. I can't bring myself to WANT Tottenham to win just to hype up my anti-Wenger agenda, but I don't really care what the result is either. I'm more of an observer now and I'm certainly more interested in performances rather than results, because if you're team is not playing with confidence, quality, organisation or conviction you're clearly never going to achieve anything. Unfortunately, these are all faculties of which Arsenal remain severley depleted.

What's it like being an Arsenal supporter that doesn't care anymore? In all honesty, I feel a bit sad but also relieved. I can see clearly now that I wasn't enjoying supporting Arsenal, it was making me incredibly frustrated and angry. It's nothing to do with results and it's nothing to do with the players either. My disdain for all things Arsenal is uniquely identifiable to Arsene Wenger - and rather than hide my frustration by covering it all up with lies and excuses like practically all the other Arsenal blogs do, I had to stop, because the truth hurts and, unlike most, I've been forcing myself to face the real truth every day, every week for three years - and write about it.

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Tuesday
Jun282011

Lady Nina shoots from the hip!

  
Since being treated like an object on the bottom of the Arsenal board's shoe, booted ex-director Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith has finally broke her silence via Twitter.

In a series of 'announcements' on the social networking platform', Bracewell-Smith says of the events resulting in her departure from the Arsenal board, "[they] couldn't handle a woman with power on the board. Felt insecure. Male chauvinism".

What, Peter Hill-Wood? Male chauvinist?

On the subject of David Dein, Bracewell-Smith delivers mixed messages, saying Dein was the "Root cause of all the troubles at AFC" before updating that opinion with "I stand corrected. Dein loves the club and although sometimes personalities fallout, his contribution at Arsenal has been immense."

In other Twitter posts, Bracewell-Smith alludes to being caught in the crossfire of the battle between the late Danny Fiszman and Dein, which resulted in the latter's sacking - and, ultimately, her own boardroom demise.

To cut a long story short, it appears that at one point Dein was plotting to add his shares to Stan Kroenke and further hoped to nefariously acquire Bracewell Smith's hefty 17% holding to help take control of the club - she grassed him up and the remainder of the board grouped together and kicked Dein out.

Despite conceding that Bracewell-Smith's heart was in the right place, Dein later cited her inexperience in dealing with boardroom politics as the overriding reason for her dobbing him in; an opinion which was later proved accurate. Half an hour after suffering the charade of being publicly re-elected as a board member during Arsenal's 2008 AGM, Hill-Wood told Bracewell-Smith she was no longer required as a member of the Arsenal board.

Why? Because according to Hill-Wood, Bracewell-Smith was "not very easy to deal with" and becoming too cosy with Alisher Usmanov's Red & White Holdings - an excuse dreamed up after she was apparently seen, during one particular game, chatting in the Red & White Holding's director box at half-time.

Having denied any wrongdoing and initially resisting the board's wishes to resign, Bracewell-Smith quit within a fortnight having effectively been forced out. It was obvious that the board felt Bracewell-Smith's influence as a shareholder and non-executive director was seen as some sort of obstacle to their future dealings with Stan Kroenke. I don't know, maybe they presumed she'd kick up a fuss when they eventually conveyed their decision to make a mint for themselves by flogging all their shares to him.

Hypocritically, Hill-Wood claimed that Bracewell-Smith was "not right as a director" before displaying his hurt and bemusement that Lady Nina did not accept his so-called olive branch of still being allowed into the directors' lounge on match days. Many might wonder exactly the same thing about Hill-Wood. After all, what difference between him and Bracewell-Smith? Both obtained their position on the board through transferral of family ownership, what does either of them know about running a football club?

Regardless, why Bracewell-Smith has decided that this is the time to lay into the Arsenal board is a mystery, maybe she's just bored.

Lady Nina's latest Twitter statement? "I agree that current board should all go. They are passe. Have nothing more to give to the club at all. In time we will need a more dynamic pro-active, younger board, and a good directional leadership."

On current evidence, can't disagree with any of that.

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Thursday
Jun162011

AST meeting: Ivan not so charming this year

  

The AST meeting with Ivan Gazidis was held on Monday, and here’s my long-winded analysis.

The first thing to say is, forget the guff from Ivan Gazidis initial speech - saying fan groups, fans with shares and fan forums are “important” and “the more we communicate the better”. 

Lest we forget, it was only a few weeks ago that the Arsenal board recommended ALL shareholders sell-up to Stan Kroenke. How can you communicate with shareholders if you don't have any?

Predictably, the first five minutes of the meeting was spent by Gazidis trying to throw water over anyone that might be spoiling for a fight; telling us all about how far the club has come in recent years (???), the wonderful new stadium, financial stability (yawn) and the giant myth that is Arsenal’s great brand of football which mesmerises the universe.

According to Ivan, the club is about a lot more than some flaky losers in the first team who can’t compete for a trophy, it’s about all the above-mentioned things and also how Arsenal operates within the community.

Of course, if Arsenal was winning things – or genuinely close to it, none of these peripherals would be spoken of, they would be treated as irrelevant. When Wenger took Arsenal to the Champions League final or semi-final, or won an FA Cup, who was talking about all this stuff? No one.

However, at least Ivan could share with us his “profound disappointment” at Arsenal’s annual end-of-season collapse.

Gazidis then pointed out that at least the season hadn’t been a disaster (yes it had) and that there will be new signings and we “shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” (yes we should).

Question 1: How did Clichy and Nasri get into a situation where their contracts only have one year to run?

Gazidis hereby laid down the foundations for the rest of the Q&A by intimating that he cannot talk about individuals because it will be “spun” by the media, before citing the complexities of making subjective decisions about the value of players, married to unsustainable spending and “errors of judgment” blah blah.

Basically, a muddled answer that struggled to hide the fact that Arsenal are making a mess of these contracts and it’s probably because Wenger is allowed too much input in an area where what he “thinks” a player will do is overriding business logic. Remember when he thought Flamini would stay and he didn't? How can this sort of thing still be happening?

In my opinion, Nasri, for example, should have been offered a contract last season – and probably was – and if he was and didn’t sign then Arsenal should have looked to sell last summer. Through this inaction, Nasri now holds all the trump cards leaving the club in a very weak position. For a club, and manager, perpetually moaning that it doesn't have the funds to compete, they seem pretty blase about losing talented players cheap, or on a Bosman.  

Question 2: Under what circumstance would you remove Arsene Wenger? Again, Gazidis would not give “fodder” to the media by answering the question. Although he did mention he was 100% behind the manager and waffled on about other clubs “unlimited” spending power, as if that was the sole reason for Arsenal’s failure to compete.

Thankfully, AST’s Treasurer Nigel Phillips picked up on that and asked Gazidis if he could at least respond to how he thought Arsenal were developing in footballing terms. Rather worryingly, Gazidis claimed that “all clubs were moving forward”, the assumption being that is what has made it harder for Arsenal to compete for trophies. Gazidis also claimed Arsenal had moved ahead/improved (albeit not enough).

From an objective perspective that’s drivel, and from a statistical perspective it’s wrong. It’s complete nonsense to suggest other clubs are overtaking Arsenal in terms of performance levels; Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, and arguably Man City – considering the quality of their side, all had average seasons, whilst even champions Man Utd look incomparable in terms of quality to previous Utd sides.

A poor answer – and he knew it, Gazidis began repeatedly sniffing and shifting nervously, and it further looked like Phillips would poke him in the eye with his pen, but it turned out he was in fact pointing to an audience member.

Question 3: Arsenal has not done great business in the last four transfer windows, so how about removing Wenger from the financial element of transfer negotiations or bringing back David Dein (cue applause).

Gazidis mentioned that it is a necessity to turn to Wenger for advice on transfers and that the club always goes by his recommendations – although why that has to extend to whether or not it should be Wenger’s decision as to whether the club spends a few million pounds extra to get their man is unclear.

Again, it sounds like Wenger is running the whole show, and furthermore there are no plans to bring back his old mate (Dein) either.

An audience member picked up on Gazidis’ response by claiming that the market should set the rate for the player, not the manager – and if that’s how Arsenal is operating then no wonder the club loses out on the majority of its transfer targets.

Gazidis responded that he has to be interactive with the manager (fine) but more baffling was the comment: “we spend all of the money we generate but we do have some in reserve”. Surely ALL of the money INCLUDES what you have in reserve. If you went to court to settle a divorce, I doubt they’d let you off if you said, “she can half of everything I own, except the £200k I’ve got in reserve.”

Question 4 revolved around Hill-Wood’s outrageous, and Wenger’s dismissive, comments this season pertaining to supporters/AST and their uneducated opinions, dumb players Tweeting, and away fans being ignored by players – all indicative of a lack of respect towards the Arsenal fan base.

Gazidis sympathised and agreed, but ruined that by mentioning it’s not only a problem at Arsenal but right across the board. This is a contradiction considering earlier in the meeting he claimed Arsenal have a responsibility to set the standards. He did, however, accept that more needs to be done in respect of the players and the board connecting with supporters.

Question 5: A complaint about the rise in ticket prices, particularly for Silver membership, which has risen 50%.

Gazidis response was that for two of the last six years prices have been static, whereas the club’s overheads have increased massively leading to the requirement to make unpopular decisions regarding ticket pricing. In respect of stadium atmosphere (a separate question), safe standing will be explored in the future, assuming it turns out to be feasible. Assuming he’s serious, this was probably the only valuable thing to come out of the meeting.

Skipping a couple of boring questions about the reserves, ticket announcements and dividends (no plans for Stan Kroenke to pay himself one), it was interesting to note that Gazidis mentioned season ticket renewals were extremely healthy, in fact, unhealthily so, presumably meaning many fans still have no chance of getting a season ticket.

This is a blow for those hoping Wenger will be put under pressure due to droves of supporters no longer wishing to renew their season tickets. However, the situation doesn’t entirely surprise me as most season ticket holders I know are happy to renew for as long as they can sell their ticket on whenever they don’t fancy going. Sometimes they can’t find a buyer, and that’s why there were so many empty seats at games – especially towards the end of the season when everything went down the shitter.

What Gazidis probably doesn’t realise is that just because people renew doesn’t mean they are satisfied supporters; they simply don’t want to end up on the waiting list (for all they know next season Arsenal might have a better manager), and for as long as they can find a buyer for the games they don’t want to go to they can reduce their annual outlay whilst following the club.

Next major question: Why are Arsenal players so unmotivated and have such a poor work ethic?

Gazidis gets lots of these letters apparently, and considers the view valid and legitimate, but personally thinks it’s more down to lack of know-how and experience. However, he then mentions that when dour performances happen consistently over time something needs to be done to address it; in which case the last 3 or 4 months of the season should have given him considerable pause for thought (and a better answer).

Next up, what percentage of Wenger’s budget is actually being spent, and are wages included as part of the transfer fee? Gazidis fudged the answer, saying it was complicated and that there was no fixed way of doing things and, no, Wenger did not spend all of his budget, although it’s best to keep some in reserve anyway - even though he earlier told us that Arsenal spends “all the money we generate”.

He then said “We don’t hold back money”. So what’s a reserve then?

What a mess.

Next question: “Who is Arsenal Wenger accountable to?”

Ultimately, “the fans” suggested Gazidis (cue laughter). Apparently, we are the ones who will decide whether Wenger’s position is untenable. True to some extent, but not really the answer I was looking for. It would be preferable if a CEO could take a little more responsibility rather than throwing any difficult decisions he might have to make back at the fans. Regardless, Gazidis seems to thinks the majority of supporters remain in full support of the manager.

Nigel Phillips then stepped in, suggesting that if such decisions are solely down to the fans – who are not inclined to boo the manager/board/players during a match to let their feelings be known – then what avenues ARE open for them to voice their dissent?

Gazidis said the board monitors the fan base and, as long as they’re not leaving in droves and Arsenal play good football then nothing will change. He then waffled on about the respect other countries hold for Arsenal’s style of football etc., completely glossing over the fact that there was a small anti-boardroom march at the Aston Villa game, which I’m surprised no one reminded him of.

Clearly losing patience with the line of questioning, Gazidis’ answers now start to become short and to the point.

Who’s helping Wenger to make sure Arsenal aren’t making the same mistakes season after season (defence coach etc.) asked one audience member. Gazidis’ response, Wenger won’t say in public what he’s thinking privately and he’s not the stubborn individual portrayed in the media and the club shouldn’t be listening to people on the non-football side telling them what they should be doing. He does, however, understand the supporters’ frustrations and assures us that such things (such as changes to backroom staff) are monitored and discussed, and Wenger is receptive to suggestions.

The final response of any worth ended with Gazidis talking bollocks about Kroenke’s wishes to keep Arsenal listed and the owner’s support for fan share schemes/AST etc. when it’s blatantly obvious that the American would snap up 100% of the shares tomorrow given the chance, without giving a rat’s arse what the supporters think. That’s my humble opinion at least, which will only change if and when Kroenke has a choice in the matter. At the moment with Usmanov holding nearly 30% of the shares and supporters the other 5% – he couldn’t take full control of Arsenal even if he wanted to.

I seem to remember not so long ago the Arsenal board saying that Arsenal will never allow single ownership, so why we should believe them when it comes to divulging Kroenke’s future plans?

So, what have we gleaned from this year’s AST meeting? Not a lot. Nothing specific can be discussed because the media will pick up on it and spin it, whilst the board remains 100% behind Wenger and it’s likely to stay that way until there is civil unrest amongst supporters.

It seems obvious that Wenger remains far too influential at boardroom level, and there is no discernible pressure on him whatsoever to change his ethos or methods. In some respects, it seems that the club has allowed Wenger so much power, influence and control that they’d be utterly bereft at what to do without him. Since Dein left, there’s quite simply no one running the club that seems to know anything about “football”, or, more to the point, is able to measure Wenger's performance from a "footballing" perspective (tactics/coaching/motivation).

I also hold the view that despite his welcoming demeanour, Gazidis treats the AST as a pesky irritant. Ivan wined and dined supporters without the food and drink; spinning empty platitudes designed to give a fraction of satisfaction to a group of individuals with very little stomach for a genuine fight.

The problem for the AST is if it becomes too vocal all avenues of communication will be closed (as threatened by Hill-Wood earlier in the season). It’s probably only this that’s keeping a lid on things, but despite that, the board must surely realise that the majority of supporters are unhappy with Wenger, as not one positive word in support of him spilled from the lips of any single individual during the meeting’s entire 90 minutes. 

Do I thank Gazidis for his involvement? Yes and no. Sometimes you can glean as much information by what people don’t say as much as what they do say, but his decision to attend the meeting is more likely politically influenced rather than stemming from a genuine desire to congregate with supporters and take on board their opinions.

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