I know we’ve begun a new era, and as fans the majority of us are excited and enthused about that, but after so many years with Arsene Wenger, it’s not easy to completely shake off his legacy and personality.
This week, for example, would have been very interesting had he still been the boss, to see how he would have reacted to the Mesut Ozil situation. The Frenchman was always intelligent and erudite and it would have been fascinating to hear what he had to say about the German’s statement, the reasons behind it, and some of the reaction to it.
Unai Emery doesn’t yet possess the same fluency with the English language and while he’s backed Ozil and said the club will look after him and make him feel happy, this is one of those situations where you feel Wenger’s response would have been genuinely compelling.
Nevertheless, the new boss has spoken from Singapore – at a press conference ahead of tomorrow’s game with Atletico Madrid – and obviously he was asked about the entire affair. He said he hasn’t yet spoken with Ozil about it, preferring to give him time to settle in and get some ‘normality’, but has backed his decision:
It is a personal decision from Mesut and I respect it. He thinks what is best for him, he explained his decision and here we need to help him.
Yesterday, I wondered if it might be a positive for us in how Ozil approaches the new season, and Emery is keen to make that the case:
All of us want to help Mesut feel like it is his home here with us, like a family and it is a family for every player. He feels here with us that he can work every day, and it is good for us that he decided to come here and work with us before our two matches.
He has experience, he has quality and he has a great mentality and we are going to help him feel good and to show his quality with us. I am sure he is going to have a big season with us.
I’m certain that Ozil, his creativity and vision, are central to the Spaniard’s plans as he prepares for a new season. It’s a tough task to get us back into the top four this season, and to do that he needs his best players playing as well as they can. Over the course of the campaign things might well change, not just for Ozil but for any player who falls short of what’s required, but early on it’s impossible not to think that he’s going to be fundamental to what we’re trying to do.
I’m a little surprised there wasn’t something more official from the club itself on this matter, particularly in addressing the claims of racism and discrimination, but there you go. Hopefully Ozil is fully focused on what he has to do on the pitch, and I think there’s real potency in our attack that he will thrive on as the games begin.
We’ll have more coverage from Singapore and the pre-game chat over on Arseblog News throughout the day.
Meanwhile, some worrying news yesterday that Alisher Usmanov is considering selling his shares in the club. Not that I’m any fan of the Russian, but his 30.06% holding is the only thing that stands between us and Stan Kroenke owning the club outright.
Previously he’s been adamant that he’s in it for the long-haul, that he had no intention of selling because of how much he loves Arsenal (blah blah blah), but in a report in the Financial Times with information leaked from people close to him, he appears to have changed his tune. In fact, doing a bit of archiving, it seems he began the lay the groundwork for this position back in October of last year.
Not only does he now appear willing to sell, he’s come to the fairly logical conclusion that the only buyer might well be Kroenke. Last year the American made an offer of around £525m to purchase Usmanov’s shares, a bid which was turned down, and the oligarch was keen to make it known that he had no intention of dealing with KSE. Perhaps a bit of a PR, but the animus between the two camps is very real.
However, time passes, and even the most obstinate businessman has to face reality at some point. Usmanov knows that he’s got 30% that might as well be 0.000000030% for all the influence it gives him. Kroenke will never allow him a seat on the Arsenal board, a problem also faced by whoever might potentially buy that shareholding. Who in their right mind would spend £500m to own 30% of Arsenal but do so knowing they’d be left out in the cold with no influence or no say over anything that happened at the club?
The short answer is: nobody. Nobody would spend that much money.
So, if Usmanov wants out – and who could blame him if he did? – he’s only got one realistic option left and that’s to sell to Kroenke. I’m sure it might stick in his craw a little bit but he’d get over it. He’d make a lovely profit on his initial investment, he could then go and buy into Everton completely with his mate Farhad Moshiri (a situation many think he’s already heavily involved in), and ultimately for all his PR prattle, he doesn’t really give a fish’s tit about Arsenal so it won’t tug on his heartstrings for too long.
So, what would the consequences for Arsenal of KSE taking full ownership? They’re not great if you value transparency and accountability (even if the current situation pays lip service to that as it is), and Phil Wall from the AST outlines the effects it would have in this post.
It’s a real worry, the history of the club has been built on a plurality of ownership and while the world we live in perhaps makes that more difficult than before, it would be a sad day to see Arsenal fully owned by one man who would have the power and control to do whatever he wanted with the club and its assets. Perhaps people would sit more easily if it was a man who had demonstrated his desire and ambition to make the club as successful as it could possibly be, but instead it’d be with a billionaire who hasn’t so much as invested one penny into the team, only the shares, and who has, in fact, taken more money out of the club than he’s ever put in.
It sounds like Usmanov is laying the groundwork for a sale to Kroenke, and the Arsenal we know today will be a different one forever if that goes through.