Yesterday was supposed to be about the Champions League. It was supposed to be a celebration of a highly professional performance in reaching the group stage, and the extremely promising draw that followed.
But David Dein had other ideas.
With ‘Arsenal’s best interests at heart’, he announced, with uncanny timing, the sale of his shares to Red and White Holdings Ltd, owned by Russian mogul Alisher Usmanov and British citizen Farhad Moshiri. I’ll come to those characters in a moment.
But first, what about the timing? Dein keeps on insisting that he has the club’s best interests at heart, so why exactly did he choose to announce this at the exact same time the Champions League draw was gearing up? The day should’ve been about excitement, looking forward to another season in Europe, with a feelgood factor brought about by our decent start to the season.
I’ll tell you why he did it – publicity. He knew that overshadowing the draw would give him the most column inches. Self-promoting nonsense, because as Dein surely knew would happen, this promptly created a storm of dramatic headlines (“Arsenal at war!!”, screeches the Daily Mail).
So exactly how does this serve the best interest of the club? At the exact moment where the team were riding high, working together, seemingly stable, the orange man comes along and rips the carpet out from under them. Great ‘best interests’, David.
Little of what I know about Usmanov or Moshiri would surprise you, suffice to say that as a Russian oligarch, Usmanov has a similar working ethic to Roman Abramovich.
Sorry, did I say ethic? My mistake.
As for their intentions, they are businessmen, and as businessmen, they desire profit. So can the interests of Arsenal and these businessmen be synonymous? Some would argue that by investing in the team, the value of the club rises and everyone is happy. To me, this is a painfully simplistic view. Throwing money at a club does not make it instantly better, it is not like extending your house by putting an extra room on the end.
Wenger has carefully assembled what is probably the last squad he will manage at the Emirates, or at least the core of the last squad. He will tinker throughout the contract it seems he will shortly sign, but he has made it clear that he is not about to make drastic changes. The money is there if he wants to, but he chooses not to. His energy now goes into moulding the team into a true force once again. That is his choice, and we should and do respect that.
Does David Dein? A man who claims more than anyone that Wenger is vital, to the point that he tries to give the impression that he alone can make the Frenchman stay, but who also claims that Arsenal need major investment to compete over the coming years. This view seems entirely opposed from Wenger, who already has such money to spend.
And what about the investors? If they mount a hostile takeover, and Wenger doesn’t spend their money, then they can just milk the profits from the infrastructure set up by the previous regime. If they want to invest in the team, can they possibly step back and let Wenger make all those decisions? I can’t help but think not.
You may have gathered my feelings on this by now. No matter which way I think about it, I cannot imagine a circumstance in which this is a good move for Arsenal. I can see exactly why it is a good move for Usmanov, Dein and even Kroenke, who may now sell his shares for an instant profit, but not for the club itself, the club whose interest is apparently of central importance.
One final point – Wenger has stayed so long because the current board have simply let him do his job. It is clear that Dein wants the existing board gone – he would not seek to embarrass them otherwise, so who knows how our enigmatic manager will respond to the new crop?
I believe that Wenger’s next contract will be his last, and have done so for a while. When he hit ten years, he said he would not stay another ten, and a new deal will take him past fifteen. I can see him moulding this team into winners, and then retiring at the top. And good luck to him.
But the way the club is now moving, we should enjoy the stability while it lasts.