Arsenal

AFC At A Crossroads, A considered piece by Mike Holmes

It’s time to make a decision at Arsenal – the club needs to decide which way it wants to go.

With financial fair play looming on the horizon, the financial playing field that clubs have to play on looks to be levelling out – no longer will smaller, wealthier clubs be able to punch well above their weight. Gooners everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief. For them, it can’t come too soon. However, it is going to take a little while longer before it makes the impact that Arsenal need it to.

In the meantime Arsene Wenger is staring at the possibility of losing the latest crop of his established stars.

Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin, Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott are all now two years off the end of their current contracts and the club will be looking to secure them to new long-term deals in the very near future.

Without the long-term contracts, Arsenal will find it hard to fight off offers for their best players next summer.

Before the introduction of financial regulation, wealthy clubs will use this last opportunity to pay inflated prices to try and prize the key assets away from other teams. The vultures are already circling the Emirates and the rumours have already started as to who and when.

So Arsenal have a choice. They can, just this once, break the bank and secure their best players on lucrative, long-term contracts, or they can sell them and invest this money in youthful replacements and debt management.

What is most painful for Arsenal fans is knowing that their two majority shareholders are both billionaires.

Whilst it looks as though Usmanov (one of the richest men in the world) would happily invest some serious money into the club, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke seems much more interested in seeing a regular profit sliding into the bank.

The danger is that if Arsenal become less competitive on the field, they become significantly less competitive off it. Maybe now is the time that Arsenal takes a step away from the moral high ground, spunk some cash and in doing so, protects its short-term future. The long-term seems to be reasonably assured thanks to the strategy in place at the club, but could sticking to their guns leave Arsenal vulnerable because of financial markets outside of their control?

It’s a tricky dilemma for Arsenal and its supporters. Every fan that I know is incredibly proud of the way that the club is run. It is good to know that the team they support has been built organically. Yes, there are a few dissenters calling for private investment, but by and large they are a small (but vocal) minority.

The main problem for many supporters is frustration; they pay the highest prices in the league to see their team play, but they don’t see the same level of investment made on players that the other teams make. This is largely due to debt attached to the new stadium, which many fans seem to have forgotten is still being paid off. Still, it’s undoubtedly frustrating for everyone.

Courtesy of Mike Holmes for Gunnersphere.com

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