News that Arsenal are on the brink of being taken over by a Middle Eastern investor will doubtless excite the Emirates regulars and raise hopes that the silverware drought is about to end. The men from the desert are looking to buy majority shareholder Stan Kroenke’s 66.8% stake in the Gunners.
A huge injection of cash and a change of direction may well bring new glories to Arsenal, but it will send the club down the same road as Chelsea and Manchester City (as well as Paris St. Germain) – something that Arsenal fans have decried over the past few years.
It may also signal the end of Arsene Wenger, for there will be no excuse for under achievement. Arsenal have, for the best part of a decade, taken the moral high ground when it comes to financial prudence. At the same time, support for this code of conservatism has started to wear thin at the Emirates and with Tottenham now leap-frogging the Gunners as North London’s top club, Wenger’s stubborn resistance to speculation has few acolytes.
There’s no doubt that Wenger’s record deserves respect, but his glory days are very much in the past. A dignified end to his regime is required. Nobody will want to sack him, but if he does go – and I believe he will before his contract is up – it will be a resignation as a new order comes to the club. That said, the vibe from the Middle East is that Wenger is held in high regard.
While it’s clear that Arsenal need to do something to shake of the malaise that has set in at the Emirates, they should also be applauded for not taking knee-jerk decisions. The media focused on the £ 120m that the club has in cash, urging Wenger to spend, but this is a club with £ 250m in debts.
One question, among many that need to be answered, is whether the new investors will gel with Alisher Usmanov, who owns just under 30% of the club. He has been sent to Coventry (God forbid!) by Kroenke, who refuses to negotiate with the Russian.
Kroenke, like the owners of Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United, is an investor who expects a return. But it has been said that he has “no feeling” for the club. In which case, he needs to go. Arsenal fans should feel reasonably relaxed that Middle Eastern “investors” have a decent record – they do not adopt the Abramovich approach to boardroom decision-making, but they do expect success.
It could just be that they will consider that a new paradigm demands a new style of management. In which case, while the future for Arsenal may be brighter than it’s been in the past few years, the way forward may not involve the scholarly and decent Wenger.