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What if Alisher Usmanov had put £100m into Arsenal rather than Apple?

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Arsenal are currently smack-bang in the middle of a civil war. In one corner is Stan Kroenke, the Gunners’ majority shareholder and the subject of much fan criticism for his passive ownership of the club. In the other is Alisher Usmanov, Britain and Russia’s wealthiest man. Could the Russian’s financial muscle prove the difference in this battle of wills?

Since the infamous Robin van Persie transfer saga, Alisher Usmanov – chairman of Red and White Holdings, which owns 30% of Arsenal – has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the club.

Kroenke and Wenger What if Alisher Usmanov had put £100m into Arsenal rather than Apple?

The board, the financial model, and the club’s inability to keep their best players have all come under scrutiny from Usmanov, who penned a letter after van Persie’s statement highlighting his concerns.

Those concerns, naturally, mirror those of a section of Gunners fans who see current majority holder Stan Kroenke as a passive, unconcerned enemy of the club, and Usmanov as Arsenal’s potential messiah.

This week Usmanov capitalized on a drop in Apple share prices, buying up £100 million worth of stock. The 39th richest man in the world has money to burn, so let’s indulge fantasy for just a moment.

Say Usmanov, rather than purchasing £100m of Apple shares, had pumped that money into the Arsenal transfer coffers. Say the Gunners, overnight, went from a club living sensibly within their means to a club capable of affording anybody in world football, a la Chelsea in 2003, Manchester City in 2008, or PSG in 2012. What affect would this have on Arsenal?

In two words, it would be utterly disastrous. And here’s why.

Arsene Wenger’s style has never been that of the big spender. The Frenchman’s reputation for signing young, promising players has long borne the brunt of criticism but his policy exists for a reason. Wenger has a philosophy on how football should be played. And that philosophy emphasizes, above all else, the team.

No player is bigger than the team. No player is more important than the team. Team chemistry, tactical knowledge and awareness of team-mates are paramount to Arsenal’s style. This is the reason that Wenger did not immediately dismantle the aging Arsenal defense when he arrived at the club in 1996.

This is why his recent teams have been so mercurial – capable of sublime football one week and impotent losses to League One opposition the next. Because above all, great teams and legacies are developed through stability, and stability is one thing that has been sorely lacking at Arsenal in recent years.

Publicly depositing £100 million into the Arsenal transfer coffers is the fantasy of many Arsenal fans. That kind of money could buy almost anyone on the planet. Suddenly the prudence with which Wenger probes the transfer market would surely be cast aside and big names – think Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Mario Goetze – would arrive.

Records would tumble, the mighty would fall, and long-suffering Arsenal fans would finally be vindicated. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

Usmanov Wenger What if Alisher Usmanov had put £100m into Arsenal rather than Apple?

Wrong. This is not how these things work.

Problems arise when such sums of money are involved. Expectations are raised to levels which cannot possibly be met. Anything less than a Double is considered a failure, and if you think this is an exaggeration, take a look at the respective feats of the Chelsea managers in recent past.

Avram Grant, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto di Matteo between them secured two Champions League finals, one Champions League victory, two FA Cup trophies and a Premier League crown, yet only Ancelotti lasted longer than a year.

This is because each manager who takes charge of a financially doped club immediately has huge pressure on him to spend money. Mark Hughes, Manchester City’s manager when the club first rode the wave of Sugar-Daddyhood, spent over £150 million on players in the immediate aftermath of the club’s takeover.

His purchases including Craig Bellamy for £14 million, Wayne Bridge for £12 million, the Brazilian striker Jo for £18 million, and his countryman Robinho for £32.5 million, but of the 20 players Hughes brought in, only Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta remain on the books at City.

This being said, Arsene Wenger is an infinitely more talented manager than Mark Hughes, and given a kitty of £100 million he would surely spend it in a much more sensible fashion. But another problem arises: motivation.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of financial doping. Manchester City’s victory in last year’s Premier League was a triumph for the Citizens, but given the tremendous cost at which it came the margin of victory was surprisingly slim, and this year the team has imploded.

Likewise, Real Madrid’s La Liga victory in 2011-12 came in comprehensive style, but the team has seemed strangely disinterested this year.

Manchester United and Barcelona are not inconsistent. Year in, year out, they challenge and scrap and win, or come very close. This is because those clubs have a culture. Their players want to win – for themselves, for each other, and for the club.

Arsenal training What if Alisher Usmanov had put £100m into Arsenal rather than Apple?

Arsenal has a culture. Wenger’s culture. His way is liberal, to allow the players to think and interact and play as they like. He studies his players. He nurtures their talents. He maximizes their potential and he forms resolute bonds with them; he makes his players care about him.

These bonds develop over time. They cannot be bought. Falcao will not have the kind of passion or desire to succeed at the Emirates that Aaron Ramsey has simply because Arsene Wenger shelled out £60 million for him, and it makes a huge difference having players who care.

Look at QPR: man-for-man, Rangers are certainly not relegation material, not even close. But the result of their pre- and mid-season spending sprees is that they bought players for vast sums of money who enjoyed a good reputation, but who didn’t care about the club.

Jose Bosingwa was infamously caught laughing seconds after the final whistle that condemned QPR to at least one season in the English Championship. If I were a Rangers fan, I would be sickened.

Now, this article is not suggesting Arsenal could not benefit from the addition of one or two quality players. But the last thing the Gunners need is to join Chelsea in selling themselves to a wealthy oligarch. And the most resonating argument against this is that now, such an action is utterly unnecessary.

Arsenal whoring themselves at this point in their history would undo all of the hard, disciplined work Wenger and the board have done to pull Arsenal through one of their most testing periods in recent history.

For more than six years the Gunners’ stadium debt and unrewarding-but-necessary sponsorship deals have meant that they simply have not been able to compete with the likes of Chelsea and City in the transfer market.

They have had to rely on Wenger’s eye for talent and quality to guide them through; and the Frenchman has delivered, even if there is dissatisfaction among some fans.

Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Wojciech Szczesny, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere form a young, vibrant base – a springboard from which the Gunners, finally relieved of the worst of their financial inhibitions, can launch.

Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford What if Alisher Usmanov had put £100m into Arsenal rather than Apple?

There is money available for transfers. It might not be £100 million, but it doesn’t need to be. Such a vast sum could secure five or six big-name players, and while that may seem fantastic on the surface it would necessitate yet another rebuilding, another phase of acclimatising the players to one another.

Arsenal doesn’t need that. They have a base, and it has been founded upon principle.

There is nothing to be gained from running the race, climbing the wall, and then stopping to take a taxi with the finishing line in sight. It would be forsaking the Arsenal way, and it would be disrespectful to Arsene Wenger’s achievements.

£100 million could benefit Arsenal. But not if it was only to be spent on transfers.

Writing off stadium debt, improving youth facilities, expanding their worldwide market, or (gasp!) even subsidizing ticket prices would all be far more productive ways Arsenal could, and likely would, use that money. Because Arsenal Football Club is not about the Easy Way.

It’s not about cheating the system. It’s not about buying the title. It’s about honour and class and stability. Arsenal is a legacy, and Arsenal selling their soul for a 30-goal striker with Daddy Sugar cheering in the corner would only tarnish that legacy.

Nobody is bigger than the club, not even Alisher Usmanov. And especially not Alisher Usmanov’s chequebook.

Comments (20)

  1. This is d best post i’ve read in years! Everything you’ve mentioned is spot on… We need more of people like u in d arsenal fan base,dat can sit,think and show d way forward even under immense pressure! I’m looking forward 2 reading more of ur articles… Thanks 4 being a true gunner!

    • There are some good points in this article but some stupid ones aswell… Arsenal and Wengers problem is that they tried to replace genuinely qaulity players with average players instead of a like-for-like replacement, for example selling Nasri and buying Gervinho. Also the price tag of a player doesn’t really matter if they are good enough, Think Ba for £8 million or vertongen for £11 million both wanted by arsenal but both now playing for our rivals. Sorry but Wengers transfer policy is seriously flawed and that’s almost entirely why we are not challenging for the title. Finally, Man city way have been disappointing this season but I would rather have had their last 3 seasons than ours.

  2. If wishes were horses, beggars could ride! :)
    When people have rich owners who aren’t ready to spend on the club, why point fingers at others who have it and are spending it? The same old Have’s and Have not’s story!

  3. Nice article. Interesting points. Apart from the critical financial situation Arsenal has found itself in due to the new stadium, stability has been a major issue. Loosing key players every season hurts a team. Even if we were to replace Van Persie with Falcao last season, what guarantee did we have that he would have immediately acclimatised to British football? What if it took him 2 seasons to settle? A few new additions to cover for the areas that we are shorthanded in and one superstar would be perfect this summer. Maintain the current squad and we will be doing good stuff soon enough.
    By the way, isnt Mancini Italian? Robinho is Brazilian.

  4. Because theres no guarentee satan kronke wont just bank the £100m and buy another ranch

  5. You are absolutely right about the principle and the culture in AFC. The way of Arsenal is building up economically and being an independent “company” of football is definitely the right way things should be, not like other clubs that are spending insanely and win a little.
    However, you should ask why arsenal dropped that much in recent years while (comparing to another english club) ManU is still challenging every year in all competitions and still winning despite they are not big spenders in the market. I’ll not compare between the two coaches since both of them are the most experienced in the EPL and I don’t want to make such an argument who is better.
    The difference is that ManU keeps their best players and pay them huge amounts of money to convince them to stay, on the other hand, AFC doesn’t. Just imagine if only RVP, Cesc and Nasri stayed then we would have won something for sure.
    Sure thing ManU is a more rich club than Arsenal and has a huge fans base especially in Asia, but this is not an excuse for Arsenal not to compete any more with them. Anyway, I hope the club will be able to compete on a European level soon and win something an make their fans happy cause they deserve that.

  6. Why would someone put 100mil into a business he only owns 30% of?
    Its the best way to turn 100mil into 30mil overnight!

  7. I am amazed that someone who clearly knows so little about football finance is allowed to write an article at all. First of all Arsenal is not this brillant well run club you seem to think it is and Usmanov isn’t suggesting dopping the club to the extent that you suggest. Year on year for nearly ten years now our operational profit ( you understand the term operational right?) has been dropping every year. That is why we sell our best players, so we can pretend we are making profit when in fact we are not. Do you know who’s name was on 60% of the shirt sales last season for AFC? just a certain RVP so these buisness genius’s who you clearly idolise not only gifted them the league title but also massive buisness oportunities while killing our own. So these brillant people running our club have been selling our key assets to make themselves look good! Does that sound like a well run club? You go on to say that Man U and Barca are not financially doped. Barca is one of the most financially doped clubs in the world, its just not one individual its a group of individuals. The EC owns contracts of players from both Real and Barca because the corrupt banks that have been lending them money endlessly and not asking for a penny back have surprise surprise gone bust. So now our european tax money is supporting both the la liga giants. man U on the other hand are a great example of running a club right? wrong the owners are borrowing against the club, would you like Stan to do that? If we start being successful he will for sure, but then no worries about that happenning. Usmanov realises that we don’t need to do a chelsea we just need to compete. You know what competing means right?Not just making sure that Mata gets the wage he should rather than going to Chelsea but also meaning that we don’t pretend that top four is good enough and therefore sponsors will be associating themseleves with a club that is perceived to at least try to be winners. You should really be ashamed of this uneducated and pointless article which only proves that you haven’t got the first clue about buisness or the buisness of football. Our club is becoming a joke and its idiots like you pretending that Usmanov is going to ruin the club who are holding us back. All he wants is to compete and stop being this heritence gift for a spoilt american billionaires son. The fans make up Arsenal and the fans have made it clear, we don’t care who owns the club as long as we compete for the title as we are the fourth largest football brand on the planet. Educate yourself.

  8. Excellent article and i agree totaly. Its good to know there are other supporters out there thet understand the Arsenal culture. Good on you mate.

  9. i would like to see arsenal came back like befort. buy a good plaies because u are a good manager have a caracter.make as happy . just to let u no we losing energy and money,the ticket is expve. all the players ho live arsenal has wine someting we want see arsenal wine please please……………………….

  10. Just like to add that its not that ime against Usmanove per say, its just more of a case that we have come to the point were we are beggining to shake the shackles of the move to the Grove.

    Lets see were it takes us.

  11. stupid article indeed….so you think finish fourth evry season is good??what type of a fan are u??Jack is overated statistics show that Arsenalwin more game when his is injured or on the bench….how are gonna challenge for a trophy if we keep selling our best players ???? and Kroenke pocketing all the money???enough of that shit….we need a trophy sooner than later u idiot

  12. Why do I get the feeling that this article is meant to single out usmanov for some serious and biased criticism? You don’t see one thing wrong with the way kroenke runs the club, the way fans are charged exorbitant prices to watch arsenal crawl their way to a top four finish every season. What’s the point in getting to the champs league only to get knocked out by far more superior teams? I’d rather take a Europa league trophy than a useless spot in the champs league. Finally, I would like to know how much you got paid to criticize usmanov the way you did. This article is totally pointless to me!

  13. indeed arsene wenger is the ideal manager for arsenal.Let the money be used to add few big names and remainder to motivate the players,remember RVP only left because of payment increment,Nasri the same.

  14. “No player is bigger than the team. No player is more important than the team.”
    Wenger builds teams around players and then we are in the shit when they are injured or sold.

    No depth in his squads because of poor transfers, all Wengers fault.

  15. The best article on Arsenal I’ve read in a long time, well done!

  16. First of all the board and Wenger confirmed thre has been sufficient money in the transfer kitty. The problem is that Wenger penny pinches and goes for bargain buy mediocrity and failures (Santos, Gervinho, etc) while the other top clubs improve with better players each season.

    You do realize that Arsenal is one of the riches clubs in the world as listed by FIFA and Deloitte don’t you? Trophies is one thing but regressing over the past 8 seasons while the other top clubs in our financial tier have passed us by as another matter cause by Wenger’s hubris and a failed transfer policy.

    As for the rest of your article, you seem to be all over the place with your rationale and I have no idea what point you are tying to make.

  17. Ladies and Gentlemen,please stop talking about MrUsmanov like that,at first,he is very busy businessman,having several different businesses,high educated,wise and polite person,he didn’t bought part of the club just to have a fun,and it doesn’t mean that he would like to destroy Arsenal’s traditions.To be honest,I was lucky to meet his wife Irina 25 years ago at the Olympic training centr for swimmers and gymnastics.She was so smart,nice,beautiful,wise and very talented trainer with good heart and cool mind!The best in the World!So many girls have been though by her,Olympic,World and Europe Champions!They had a studio in Moscow,she was sleeping on the floor in the kitchen,letting to her pupils(6-7 gifted girls)to live in the room,because they hadn’t place where to stay in Moscow,coming from different cities of the USSR,without any money…She was waiting her husband all those 6 years from the prison,visiting him at jail travelling just stopping lorries on the roads in winter (cold:-30C) with some food for him in her bags…Wikipedia is giving sometimes wrong information,just 2-3 rows says about her that she is Jewish…Sad,she is working hard,loves her pupils as her own daughters.Now they are wealthy people,he is not following Abramovich,likes Arsenal and generously doped FC ,cos it needed money,supported it,to have it in order ,it must be only one owner,and an old fashion way playing could be animated a little bit,cos sometimes it’s boring,Mr Usmanov is reach enough,wise enough and is not making any competition on this case,Arsenal has not to spend money buying a new players,there is a lot of Arsenal Junior Soccer Schools around England coached by Arsenal coaches…Academies needs money to grow up new talented players,my 13 years old son left Harrodian London one of the best independed school just joining Football Academy coached by ArsenalFC coaches,but they are only 2 good guys…It is not enough…No money again,and very strange attitude,cos before entering to BCS we asked them about entrance criteria,an assessment for players BC wishing to join BCS Sports Academy in partnership with Arsenal Soccer Schools,he was ready for it,came from London with his kit,but they just checked his previous school reports and a lot of diplomas and awards for playing excellent football,after an interview with Principal and a short chat with Arsenal coaches,he was accepted.Later it is came out that he must to pass a trial,nobody during 2 weeks informed him and us about that.After an incident with one of my son’s mates,Russian hooligan teenage,, with whom he was sharing a room as well,cos they are boarders(weekends travelling home),my son speaks 4 languages,Russian ,as well,Head of boarding sent him to live with this bandit,cos nobody didn’t want,I make a scandal,cos nobody informed me about this guy attacking my son and breaking his nose only for clapping hands,when this player shoot his own gate…In England nobody is making case from this,later in a changing room the whole team is just giving “feedback”:)))Well,finally,I would like to inform all fans of Arsenal FC,that Mr Usmanov and Mrs Viner-Usmanova are good people ,hard workers,helping to everybody,who is needed to receive help and they are mature enough to respect the traditions of Britain,and to improve quality of games and I am going to speak with Irina today just to offer investment project to Arsenal Soccer Schools,helping with kits,employing more coaches,etc.Every thing must to have their one place,living in London about 7 years I had enough examples of bullying Russian-speaking people…I am ready to help people always,but I hate when they are lying,if you are proud to loose your legend and happy to say no to “Russians”who have no any ambitions,cos they are independent,very well educated and just ….a billionaires…Russian kids are writing poems,playing soccer,speaking several foreign languages and winning all rewards, which are possible to get:)))If you are so patriotic- just pay!:))

  18. I think the main reason Arsenal has declined is not directly because of limited finances–it’s because their comparative advantages have disappeared over the last 5 years. What were the notable advantages Wenger had during his early years? Great scouting of talent (especially in France), cultivating a youth system, training technically skilled players, and tactical competence.

    Well, the scouting advantage has disappeared because these days all major clubs have improved their scouting to match or exceed Arsenal’s. Not only that, many teams including worse teams just piggyback off Arsenal’s scouts and attend the same matches the scouts do.

    In terms of youth system Chelsea have invested more into theirs and all the major clubs scout good talent to their systems rather than necessarily develop them.

  19. If Usmanov give noney to arsenal Judas Kroenke will have benefit for that. EVERYBODY EVERYONE WHO CAN SHARE PROTEST AGAINST KROENKE BY ARTICLES OR ANYTHING MOST STEP UP. Viva arsenal.