Saturday, 18 August 2012

Arsenal Are Re-defining "Success"

Have you ever seen a Dog chasing it's own tail ? That's what Soccer Clubs do when they borrow heavily in pursuit of sporting triumph. Such a venture is like driving a fast car to nowhere. Money is the common denominator, and the driving force behind social relations. If that is a given, then it's a crystallization of the fact that most soccer fans inhabit an Ivory Tower.

Yes, i know.... It's still summer, there is lots of day light and sunshine, so why the clunky prologue, I imagine you asking ! The Robin Van Persie move to Man United sparks it ! Like i did in the past, scores of Fans and commentators have Lampooned Arsenal F.C  and Manager Arsene Wenger. James Olley of the Evening standard offered a critique of the more civil genre :

    " Robin Van Persie's departure to Manchester United raises
     tough questions about whether Arsenal can thrive with their admirable
     business model and if Arsene Wenger can deliver success in a
     sport driven by wealth ".

For all those who find resonance with James Olley's stance, history tells us that the desire for players to be wealthy has cascaded from the opportunity of the Bosman ruling, which i have no qualms with. You see, in the old order, Robin Van Persie would still have remained an Arsenal player, even after his contract expired. They would have been able to slap a transfer fee on his back, and practically force him to stay. That was an era when contracts meant more. The European court of justice in redefining the status-quo 17 years ago, has given players from the European Union an avenue to maximize the potential to sell their services, enhance mobility of labour, and most of all, enshrine the sanctity of human rights in an industry that had become a relative back water. 

The Bosman Ruling has fed the symbiotic relationship between players and clubs, with the net effect being an enhanced potential to derive surplus income by both parties. If players can willfully stall on contract extension negotiations in order to walk away for free, and earn bigger wages; so also for Clubs, it's fair-game to sell players past the threshold of their supposed market value if there is a demand. The Bosman ruling therefore unleashed perhaps, the unintended consequence of overly monetizing the football industry.

OBJECTIVES : Clubs are then faced with two clear priorities : 

* sporting and financial success - which is the purest state, and a distant reality when you line-up net profit with overall debt.

* A healthy financial position - which involves prudent capital investment and maximization of gains through asset sales.

The Manchester Clubs have gone for the first choice, but have yet to make a complete success of it, because they spend more than they earn, the price for success you say.... yes, with debt !!!. Even the seismic sporting success of Barcelona and their iconic player Lionel Messi has not forestalled a huge overdraft for the catalan giants   Arsenal have gone for the second option, and are making a success story of it. Most importantly, it's sustainable.

When James Olley questions Arsenal's ability to "thrive" and "deliver success", he belies a shallow recognition of the fundamentals that have generated the dynamic for Arsenal F.C and Robin Van Persie. 
Lazio, AC Millan, Inter Millan, Real Madrid and Parma maxed-out credit in the early part of last decade, a legacy of unsustainable borrowing to achieve Sporting Success, that led to zero. Today, Parma and Lazio are under financial lock-down; Millan and Inter contrive behind wealthy benefactors. For Arsenal, "success" needn't be the pedestrian defined dogma; rather the purveyor of  perennial participation in the Champions League, and income from the premier league by finishing in the top four, and marketing it's brand is the end game. There are updated paradigms of success in soccer : it's no longer solely about winning trophies. The new strand involves commercialization and financial reward. If this is an incontrovertible reality, then James Olley should be persuaded Arsenal are thriving. It should not be all about players wages, Arsenal are correct in managing their resources to maximum effect. 

MANAGERIAL NOUS : Arsene Wenger has a streak of moulding excellent goal scorers. It has been his stock in trade. From Thierry Henry, to Emmanuel Adebayor, and Robin Van Persie, he has been able to consistently bring in players in that position, hitherto unknown, and given them a platform to become 30 goals plus - a - season strikers. I am convinced same shall apply to Luckas Podolski.  Furthermore, The team looked dead and buried a year ago with the departures of  Cesc Fabrigas and Samir Nasri, but not only did Arsenal rake in super profits from their sale, they finished third comfortably in the premier league; which leaves one asking where is the difference? 
Arsene Wenger has become legendary for keeping the team ticking over nicely despite the departure of star names over the years. If he has done that, and raked in surplus cash from transfer fees for the club, the Arsenal creed is a winning brand. 

The argument has shifted, and as i mentioned in the beginning, some of us remain deluded and out of touch in the ivory tower. Ask yourself if success is  to pay a manager multi-millions, and assemble a squad of players costing hundreds of millions in order to short-circuit winning trophies! The overall value is negligible. Where as, there is a greater value getting the optimum from moderate costing investments. If the Soccer environment has evolved to a business stand point, then accumulating surplus value constitutes success. Those of us who question the Arsenal culture are missing the point.


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