Despite rumours in the blogosphere of a Middle-Eastern takeover, Arsenal are best off left alone.
Chairman Peter Hill-Wood has been denying the possibility, which should be a relief to all Arsenal fans - but I can imagine it’s not. There will be those rubbing their hands together and grinning from ear to ear about the prospect of a huge cash injection into the club. But this will surely be the demise of Arsenal Football Club.
If we look at the history of clubs that have been taken over by billionaire consortiums it’s not hard to see why Arsenal’s board would be so against this. The first thing to note is that sometimes it doesn’t breed success. Take Liverpool as an example: it’s true that we don’t know where they would be if they had not been taken over by John W. Henry and the New England Sports Venture (NESV), but the influx of cash into Liverpool’s transfer market budget has done little – if anything - to push them to the top of the table.
And look at Queens Park Rangers. One of the wealthiest football clubs in the country - the wealthiest in 2007 if we listen to The Sun - is battling the relegation zone. And let’s not forget Blackburn Rovers. It’s true that they beat Arsenal in the FA Cup, but considering the amount of money they have put into their club the Championship is not somewhere their owners would be happy with.
Perhaps this has been because these teams have spent unwisely; people will say that the examples of clubs that have been taken over and flourished show that it can work, if the club buys the correct players at the correct time and QPR and NESV’s Liverpool haven’t done this very well. But even if they do, eventually clubs like this capitulate.
Buying extreme talent, instead of nurturing it, opens you up to an ageing squad and the prospect of having to rebuild from scratch, as Chelsea have had to do. Manchester City won the FA Cup in 2010/11, the Premier League in 2011/12, and this year are 12 points adrift of leaders Manchester United. So buying big might bring short-term results, but realistically the most successful club in modern football is United, and their owners don’t throw money at them.
Supposing this takeover was to happen, there’s still no guarantee that Arsenal would spend the new money at all. Arsenal reported a £17.8million half-year profit in February, with cash reserves of £123.3 million, and yet the biggest names to come to the club were Lukas Podolski and Santi Carzola. Both of whom have played well for the club, but neither of whom has filled the gaping holes left by Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie.
Arsenal is already under pressure to spend big in the next transfer window and a takeover, which brings in mounds of foreign currency, won’t force Arsene Wenger’s hand. He already has enough money to buy Falcao and Alexandre Pato, but that’s not his way. There will be shouts from all corners of the Arsenal faithful suggesting ‘that’s what we need, a big name forward and a dominating centre half’, and they're right. Arsenal do need reinforcements at the back and at the top end of the field, but new owners won’t do that for them, because Wenger won’t spend like that.
With the Financial Fair Play Rules (FFP) that the Premier League have just passed into legislation, a new owner pumping wads of cash onto the pitch would be a huge mistake. The losses from teams with billionaire owners are extravagant to say the least: Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool have all reported losses over £105m over the last three years. Arsenal have long been in favour of running the club ‘the right way’, spending what they earn and turning a profit to spend on new players, so introducing a new owner that will cause financial losses for footballing gains seems like a backwards step, especially in the wake of the FFP sanctions that the Premier League has announced.
What we’ve seen in club takeovers since Roman Abramovich’s historic takeover of Chelsea is a huge lack of managerial stability. Chelsea have had nine managers since the 2003 takeover. Manchester United fans will tell you that stability and consistency is key to success. A takeover at Arsenal could answer many of the Arsenal fans’ wishes by removing Wenger from the helm of the north London side. But who would come in next, knowing that they can’t spend that much money because of FFP and that anything but instant success will mean the chop? I’m not sure many ‘good’ managers would take the position.
Many of the big names that Arsenal does attract, like Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, come to Arsenal to play with the genius that is Arsene Wenger. People say he’s past it, but it’s his name – not the lack of trophies over the last eight years – that brings in the players. Despite Arsenal’s inability to win anything since 2004, Arsenal players have a certain grace that no other team (with the possible exception of Swansea) have, and it’s down to him.
So a takeover would be bad. Bad for Arsenal, bad for the Premier League, and bad for football in general.
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