Adversity on the pitch for the Gunners quickly boiled into turmoil at the club’s annual general meeting on Thursday. Following two consecutive disheartening defeats, Arsenal have reached a tipping point in their season.
Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis, and Arsene Wenger faced a disgruntled crowd of Arsenal supporters on Thursday. Had the gathering taken place two weeks ago, attitudes would have been more relaxed. Unfortunately for the three most powerful men at the Emirates Stadium, the meeting came after disappointing defeats to Norwich and Schalke.
Gazidis’ address only echoed the policy of self-sustainability that has come to define Arsenal. He did add a new wrinkle by saying: “In the next two years, we will have the financial resources to sit and compete among the leading clubs in the world, which is an extraordinary achievement.” Presumably, the further implementation of Financial Fair Play will allow the Gunners to “compete” with Europe’s elite clubs. However, as many Arsenal supporters will have been wondering, what have we been doing for the past seven years?
Whenever he speaks publicly, Gazidis always seems to give the impression of a clever con artist trying to lure in buyers. If the club fail to meet their ambitions in two years, the promise from Gazidis will certainly be revisited.
Stan Kroenke attempted to reassure the Arsenal faithful of his involvement in the club. The American said, “The reason I am involved in sport is to win. It’s what it’s all about. Everything else is a footnote. I can assure you no one is more ambitious than me.” Like a politician, Kroenke referred to his record: “We have a record in sports around the world.”
Indeed, Kroenke definitely has experience in sports (his properties include the St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids, and more), although the sporting rules vary greatly between North America and Europe. English football clubs have massive amounts of financial freedom when examined against their counter-parts across the Atlantic. North American leagues operate under a quasi-socialist system. Despite Kroenke’s continued insistence, the two worlds cannot be compared.
In staying with political theme, Arsene Wenger introduced the concept of doublespeak at the AGM. The Arsenal manager said: “We speak about trophies. For me, there are five trophies – the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.”
As mightily as he may try, Wenger will never be able to redefine the word “trophy.” Qualifying for the Champions League is an achievement, not a trophy. Certainly, it is a worthy accomplishment that will have a positive effect on external factors such as revenue generated and the persuasion of potential transfer targets. However, since no one victor emerges, it cannot be counted as a “trophy.”
The leaders of Arsenal football club are behaving like fearful politicians in order to stem the tide of supporter unrest. The patience of Arsenal fans has run thin; and it may evaporate entirely if the Gunners continue to frustrate year after year.
After two poor performances, Arsenal supporters are already very tense. Imagine the reaction that will occur if Arsene Wenger’s side descends into a terrible spell of form. A desperate comeback similar to last season’s phoenix-like-rise-from-the-ashes may not be possible or even likely. The pent-up frustration of Arsenal supporters may finally come pouring out.
And that is why Saturday’s match against QPR is as close to a must-win for Arsenal as any game can be at this point in the season.