AGM thoughts + Arsecast 214

Morning all, I woke up a bit late this morning so I’m going to have to fly through this.

I guess the main talking point this morning is yesterday’s AGM. There’s a fairly in-depth report over on Arseblog News, but even that tells you that a lot was said but not much of it was of great interest. We got a speech from new owner Stan Kroenke, the usual waffle from the Chief Executive and the Chairman and a fairly rousing speech from Arsene Wenger at the end when he called for the club to be united in order to succeed.

It seems there were some contentious moments relating to the Q&A when some shareholders felt their questions weren’t answered, but personally I’m finding it hard to summon up any outrage. I think, at an event like this, when somebody from the floor calls for a board member to resign and to be replaced by somebody who cashed in his shares to the tune of £75m by selling to an oligarch you’re never likely to get a satisfactory response. What was the expectation there? An on the spot resgination? ‘You’re right, old chap! Thanks for the memories’?

The question as to why Usmanov hasn’t been given a seat on the board doesn’t really need answering, does it? Everyone knows the relationship is hostile, that Dein’s involvement with him, and the relationship between Dein and Fiszman meant that before his death Danny made sure the club didn’t fall into Uzbeki hands. He may well have 30% but that doesn’t entitle him to anything. I mean, I can understand him wanting a seat on the board but if the man who owns the majority of the shares doesn’t want him there’s not much he, or anyone else, can do about it.

And let’s be brtually honest about it, the shareholders in attendance yesterday make up a very small percentage of the shares in Arsenal. That’s not to say that their voices shouldn’t heard, or that some of what they say doesn’t need to be said, but there can’t really be an expectation of having genuine influence. Two men, who have no relationship whatsoever, own 96% of Arsenal Football Club between them. One man has control over the club and it doesn’t seem as if that’s going to change any time soon. That’s the reality. Would I prefer a more diverse ownership, with the plurality we had before? Of course, but for now this is what we’ve got.

If the event failed as a glorified PR exercise, which is really all it is, it’s because you’re not dealing with PR men or an organisation renowned for their PR skills. On that basis you can say the club didn’t handle it very well as it was certainly a good opportunity to mend some fences, but as I said earlier, I’m much more interested in what’s happening on the pitch than off it. Kroenke’s reign is barely months old and support for Usmanov seems very much a case of the grass being greener. I’ve yet to see any evidence that his involvement would make things better and from a position of opposition it’s very easy to trot out the populist line, knowing you don’t have to make good on what you say.

Football has changed, no doubt about it, and not for the better. I struggle to understand how fans, on one hand, can bemoan the financial influence the sugar daddy owners have, yet on the other demand we go down exactly the same road. Even if we have two billionaires with most of the shares in the club, trying to keep up with Man City on a financial level is just not the right path to take. You can soup up your Honda Civic all you like but a Forumla One car is always going to leave you behind. Injections of capital sound good in theory but billionaires don’t become billionaires by just giving away their money. It all has to be repaid one way or another. And when we’re in a position when we have £60m in the bank, available to spend on new players, on wages, on renewing contracts, it doesn’t seem like that’s even the issue.

If Arsene Wenger is missing somebody who will encourage, cajole or convince him to spend that money then by all means bring that person in. It will not be David Dein, however. And again, even if the transfer budget was increased through various methods we have a manager who is notoriously reluctant to spend money – as the surplus in our bank account clearly shows. There are other ways of competing, it is just 11 v 11 at the end of the day. Better management, from top to bottom, and making better use of the resources we have available to us is, for me at least, the obvious path for us to take.

Maybe I’m being naive, maybe the only way to maintain our presence at the top of the game is to sell our soul even further but I hope that’s not the case. I have no great expectation that FFP will make a huge difference, the rich can always hire the clever to find ways around it, but what seems to be overlooked is that as a business we are fantastically well run with the potential to generate a lot more income, especially when the sponsorship deals can be renegotiated.

There’s certainly room for improvement, on the training ground and in the boardroom. I hope those can be made without increased dilution of our traditions and embracing a side of football which, for many fans, is compromising the game we’ve spent so much of our lives watching.

In other news, early team news ahead of tomorrow says that Vermaelen ‘might’ be available but they’re slightly concerned about him playing against Chelsea so soon after making his comeback. It strikes me it’ll be down to the player to advise them how he’s feeling and I think he’ll tell them he wants to play. Jenkinson has a small chance of being fit while Kieran Gibbs remains injured.

Arsene’s press conference is taking place early this morning so we’ll have updates on the news site and more thorough look at the Chelsea game in tomorow’s blog.

Finally for today, a piece I wrote for The Arsenal Collective: One room, lots of lessons.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and joining me to discuss the AGM plus all the on-field stuff is Tim Stillman, of this parish and many more. There’s Arshavin, Internet Joe and a drunken stumble down memory lane right at the end.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (20mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode214.mp3]

And that’s yer lot. Have a good Friday. More on Chelsea etc tomorrow.

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