In spite of their status as one of the country’s pre-eminent footballing powers, a club that regularly packs out its 60,000 plus stadium and boasts a vast global fan base, Arsenal have never really seemed to be a club entirely at ease with the commercial realities of modern football.
Even at the Emirates Stadium, one of the most modern and well-designed stadiums in Europe, the boardroom remains exactly the same as it was at Highbury.
The more 'crass' side of football: spiralling wages, worldwide pre-season tours and expensive endorsement deals, were considered beneath the elder statesmen who ran the club before the takeover led by Stan Kroenke in 2011.
And yet the tide has turned noticeably in recent years. Though Arsene Wenger stills professes his belief in the benefits of training camps in Europe, commercial realities have led Arsenal to pre-season tours to Indonesia, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
Wenger’s attitude to signings has also changed, with more established players such as Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla being brought in to take roles the manager may otherwise have given to those developed within the club.
And now with the majority of the Emirates’ debt paid off, Arsenal are in a position to reap the rewards of their strong financial standing, a position that will only improve when new sponsorship deals enter into effect next year.
As Ivan Gazidis made clear in his June meeting with fans, this has put Arsenal in a position to challenge for the sort of superstars that have been beyond them in the past and this summer they are finally attempting to throw their financial muscle around, if so far to no avail.
Their £40,000,001 move for Luis Suarez, a move Brendan Rodgers described as lacking in the sort of class he would expect of the Gunners, is the sort of deliberately provocative and aggressive move that many would believe Wenger and the board to be incapable of.
As a move that was clearly designed to push Suarez into demanding a Liverpool move, Arsenal’s bid brings to mind the sort of aggressive transfer manoeuvrings more commonly associated with Real Madrid.
It may not make them popular but Real get their man more often than not. Sir Alex Ferguson might have claimed he “wouldn’t sell them a virus” but he still ended up losing Cristiano Ronaldo to them six months later.
The key criticism of Arsenal on and off the field in recent years is that they lack a cutting edge. In the transfer market Arsenal’s indecisiveness has cost them Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Gonzalo Higuain. On the field Arsenal appear to be lacking the bite Suarez would inevitably provide.
Even if they don’t sign Suarez the Arsenal board have shown a new drive that should serve them well in the future. It may not win them many points for style but come May Arsenal’s new found cut-throat nature may get them the points that matter.
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