On Monday afternoon, rumors spread that Arsenal were set to sell second-choice left-back Armand Traore to Premier League newcomers QPR, having already sold first-choice left back Gael Clichy to the Abu Dhabi-funded Manchester City earlier in the summer.
There has been little talk of any replacements, with Jose Enrique, available for a relatively cheap sum of £6m, signing for Liverpool, while no move for Leighton Baines has been mooted. Only an injury-prone Kieran Gibbs remains. Where's the logic?
The official line from the club seems to be that the club was so busy in negotiating the sale of several players, including big names such as Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, that incoming transfers were sidelined.
This appears to be an admission of supreme incompetence. There was PR spin from manager Arsene Wenger to defend the lack of incoming transfer activity, who spoke of a 'waiting period', while rivals Manchester United spent £50m on a new goalkeeper, a defender and a winger, immediately strengthening their title-winning squad.
This tactic has backfired spectacularly, as several experienced albeit flawed squad players have been sold, but, apart from Ivorian winger Gervinho, their replacements have consisted of talented youngsters, completely devoid of experience at the top level. These sales have taken almost three months, with some rightly questioning the capabilities of Richard Law, the chief negotiator. This until Wednesday at 11pm for Wenger to try and undo the damage done to the first team squad depth, which ultimately lead to the 8-2 mauling against Manchester United.
Arsenal have offered to cover the cost of a future away trip for all supporters who travelled to Old Trafford, a seemingly classy gesture, but one that some disgruntled fans have seen as a cynical ploy to deflect attention from the real problems. After the 6% ticket price increase at the start of the season, some even feel that Arsenal are practically handing back part of what is already too high a price for the current product offered on the pitch. Instead, they are imploring Wenger to spend money on much-needed replacements.
Yet, one is right to be pragmatic about arrivals, given that no sensible club would sell their best players in the final few days of the transfer window (unless offered a wildly inflated fee, which Arsenal would never do), given that there would be no time to find a replacement.
Wenger, who has until 11pm on Wednesday to achieve the seemingly impossible, has been sadly unsuccessful in implementing his footballing and economic ideology into reality. This is has been particularly evident this summer. Though the intention to remove unreliable squad players such as Denilson, Eboue, who were on wages far above what their performance and ability should dictate, and others is correct, the desire to replace them at cost is highly misguided. For the youth project to succeed, it must be supplemented with experienced players of high quality, as many have repeatedly said, and not budget signings such as Sebastian Squillaci and Mikael Silvestre.
In prolonging negotiations for the best value deal, Arsenal have been beaten to several targets this summer, including Spain internationals Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla. In a market where some clubs (Man City, Chelsea etc) are able to offer vastly inflated transfer fees and wages, Arsenal's adherence to their self-sustainable business model has left them behind. This is where the intentions of the new majority owner, 'Silent' Stan Kroenke, could be revealed.
The lack of media profile that the American sports magnate is known for is fast becoming a source of frustration for some Arsenal fans. His intentions for the club are not yet fully known, though he has been described as a 'custodian', that favourite word of the Arsenal board.
Though Kroenke has never sold a sporting franchise (He owns NBA's Denver Nuggets, hockey's Colorado Avalanche and NFL's St. Louis Rams, along with a lacrosse team and Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids) after buying it, there is likely to be cynicism regarding his motives. The American bought half of Arsenal Broadband in 2008, the club's media rights arm, which is likely to become the most profitable aspect of the club.
The initial results of this are evident in the profitability of the media rights of the recent pre-season tour to China and Malaysia. Although the commercial aspect of the club has been boosted by the new business team, fronted by Tom Fox (ex-NBA Asia), the income stream from this won't even remotely match Manchester United until at least 2014, when some of the current deals finish.
According to Forbes, "Long before he bought Arsenal Kroenke had proved he understood that stadium economics could be more important than winning when it comes to making money. In 2000 he bought the Nuggets, the Avalanche and the Pepsi Center, the arena the two teams play in, from Ascent Entertainment for $404 million."
Now, Arsenal already have a world-class stadium but it is another parallel that is more telling - "Denver's Nuggets and Avalanche have reached the finals only once between them (in 2001 when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup - some ten years now) while Kroenke has owned them." Arsenal have already gone six years without a trophy. If Kroenke sees making money via commercial income instead of winning trophies as the priority, then it is possible he is likely to indulge in Wenger's experiment.
Yet, stadium income will be impacted by lower attendances if the results on the pitch are still on the wane, as will the size of the commercial deals that the club will want to make. Champions League qualification for 2012/13 is a must, if not for sporting reasons than at least for Kroenke's fiscal ambitions. Surely failure wouldn't be tolerated here - even by Wenger. And maybe, just maybe, Silent Stan might finally speak up then.
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