Wenger not Accountable? An Arsenal Fan’s View

15 06 2011

We are frequently told on radio shows and in the print media that nobody in their right mind is calling for Arsene Wenger’s head. Maybe that’s right. But we thought it was worth seeking the views of an Arsenal season ticket holder, and a man who attended a key Arsenal meeting this week. Here’s Paul Silton. You can debate the matter further with him on Twitter @Silts81 … 

I was one of 200 people fortunate to attend the Arsenal Supporters Trust Q&A with Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis on Monday evening. I went in hope, more than expectation, that faith in the vision and management of the club would be restored.

Firstly, let me agree with many that it is admirable for Mr Gazidis to hold this annual session.  He doesn’t have to and not many major clubs do.

He spent 15 minutes talking to us, providing his thoughts of where we are and ultimately trying to stave off the questions he was expecting. None of us were shocked to be told that we had to put things in perspective – we’re a fantastically well run club, we don’t rely on one man’s deep pockets and we still play fantastic football (an assumption that really should be challenged these days).  The most interesting aspect was his ‘profound disappointment’ at how our season turned out. This was stronger than anything we have heard from the manager and therefore quite encouraging.

The evening focused on four themes: The manager, transfer strategy, player respect and ticket prices.

Discussions about transfers and players began with criticism from the floor regarding the current contract situations of Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.  Unsurprisingly Gazidis would not be drawn on specific issues. In the club’s defence he maintained that there had to be a balance between being a financially well run club and paying players the top market rate. Fair enough. But, with Nasri for example, buying a player for £11m, cultivating his talents to allow him to become one of the best creative forces in the Premier League and then putting yourself in a position whereby you won’t make a profit, smacks of financial irresponsibility of the highest order.

The chief executive followed his manager in confirming that this would be an active summer for Arsenal. He reiterated this three or four times. Perhaps more promisingly was the recognition that two key areas to be addressed are in defence and experience. Better late than never I suppose (let’s put to one side that we are on the verge of signing a 24-year-old winger from Ligue 1).

It will surprise few that the issue of ticket pricing was raised. Of course he was ready for this. It is only the second ticket rise in six years and the stadium running costs have doubled.  Admittedly, there was an acceptance that these running costs are increasing in people’s everyday lives but at some point the club had to do something. 

There was more than one question about the conduct of the players. From not clapping away fans at the end of the game, to the captain rocking up at the Spanish Grand Prix while his team mates were playing, to not showing the heart and desire befitting of Arsenal players. Mr Gazidis did not believe that it was a case of heart and desire citing the best away record in the league. This led to him being reminded of performances at Stoke and Newcastle, the performance post Carling Cup, let alone some of the Champions League away games. If they bothered to turn up for those and avoided Barcelona in the next round you could have covered your price increase Mr Gazidis.

Finally we came to the subject of the manager and the one that I feel most passionately about. I was first with the question ‘Do you envisage a situation where you would remove the manager and what does that situation look like?’ This was met with a response offered many times that evening, ‘I will not answer that so not to fuel media speculation’ adding that the manager has his and the board’s 100% backing. I get that. I didn’t expect anything else and frankly I just wanted to get across that there are some people, many in fact, that think his time is up. I have no idea whether they get that in the Arsenal boardroom bubble. And all I want to know is, what does £1,400 a year get you from an expectation point of view? Fifth place? Tenth? How about if we maintained our end of season form over 38 games and got relegated, would he then remove the manager?

Someone made the very valid point that perhaps Mr Gazidis could suggest a change in the coaching structure, bringing in a strong no. 2 to challenge the manager or, perish the thought, a defensive coach. There would be no shortage of former players suitable for the role. We were informed that there was no bigger critic than the manager himself and that, despite public perception, this is something that he reviews all of the time. Now, Mr Gazidis, if Mr Wenger reviews his set up all the time and has concluded that there is no need to change, let me assure you there are bigger critics.

For me the best question of the night and, coincidentally, the one where the answer drew the biggest laughter was as to who the manager is accountable to. Now for most football clubs this is pretty straight forward. But not a club whereby so much of what you see today is derived from one man.  And the answer encapsulates so much that is wrong right now. You see, apparently, Arsene Wenger is accountable to the fans.  Not the owner who has invested hundreds of millions to take control, not the chief executive whose job it is to oversee the club’s progression, but us fans. Fantastic. How do we do this then? Weekly polls? Clapometer?  And who qualifies to vote? The 200 of us there that night? 60,000 at the Emirates? Perhaps the six million on our Facebook page? Just let me know and I’ll get the campaign going.

What that answer shows is what we have all feared. Arsene is not accountable to anyone.  It’s his club and he’ll do it his way. And that’s the problem. That’s why there is so much disillusionment. His way hasn’t worked. We’ve moved to a 60,000 stadium, we pay the highest tickets in the world and we watch one man’s youth development project. And I came to this evening hoping to hear something different, hoping to be encouraged that next season may be different. But it won’t be. It’s fourth or fifth. I have never been more convinced that we are a club slowly drifting out of contention and out of the Champions League.  Thanks for your time Mr Gazidis. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

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8 responses

15 06 2011
KWolf

Reasoned and balanced, a big surprise to see from an arsenal fan on the Internet.
A key point relates to where you suggest that the Arsenal ‘beautiful football’ cliche should be questioned. I never found you as entertaining as I was told I should have. You are certainly less so of late anyway. Add to this the fact that Wenger’s behaviour and that of your players, particularly in 2011 has been atrocious and you have a recipe as to why you are fast becoming one of the most disliked sides in England.
Being a bunch of arseholes is understandable if you’re winners. United of the 90s and mid-late 00s, total wankers but winners = begrudging respect.
Something has to give from a neutral perspective. Either behave like a top half also ran team and behave or start winning. I fear you’ll do neither.

15 06 2011
Stroller

Accountable to fans ? Sorry – no. I can’t understand why Ivan said this. If that were true what is the purpose of the Board? ( I know that many already have a ready answer to that!) The problems is that isn’t a genuine footballing man among them now that. Dein and (sadly) Fiszman have departed.

A good Board should be setting a vision and objectives for all areas of the club – including the playing side. The Manager’s job is to realise them.

If that’s not happening it’s hardly Wenger’s fault. He’s filling a void in the Board level above him.

15 06 2011
GOD

David Dein – hired
The rest of the board – fired

15 06 2011
Goonerman

Will AW have, by now, watched a recording of the Q&A session on the Arsenal website?

Lets hope he gets the message to understand where he stands!!!!!

16 06 2011
Dan Heathcote

But you have to accept the make up of the premiership has changed. It is hard to compete with Man United, Chelsea and Man City’s transfer budget. Unfortunately it is very difficult to compete when clubs like City come along who can basically blow anyone out the water financially. Abramovich is back on the case now and you even have Liverpool spending £20million on the most ordinary 20 year old midfielder in the premiership. You moan about Wenger but the grass is always greener. You were in contention till March and beat Barcelona.

16 06 2011
Carl Mungazi

For me, Arsene has sacrificed on-pitch performance for profitability. Everything looks rosy on the balance sheet but the trophy cabinet is groaning under the weight of no trophies.

16 06 2011
luke

“Someone made the very valid point that perhaps Mr Gazidis could suggest a change in the coaching structure, bringing in a strong no. 2 to challenge the manager or, perish the thought, a defensive coach. There would be no shortage of former players suitable for the role. We were informed that there was no bigger critic than the manager himself and that, despite public perception, this is something that he reviews all of the time. Now, Mr Gazidis, if Mr Wenger reviews his set up all the time and has concluded that there is no need to change, let me assure you there are bigger critics.”

The arrogance of some football supporters is astonishing. You have literally NO idea how the Arsenal coaching staff work behind the scenes.

18 06 2011
silts81

Luke I may have no idea how they work but I have a pretty good idea that it isn’t working.

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