The tipping point?

By Ian Henry

Self-sustaining model will soon become a self-deluding one

After the farce of the substitution of The Ox on Sunday and the eighth (yes EIGHTH) league defeat in 22 games so far this season, I can’t facing writing another piece critical of the team and the manager right now; not even sure I will do so again, at least not for a while. I will, however, start to write about the future after Wenger; that’s why this blog is called Beyond The Horizon! The horizon post-Wenger will be interesting and will require a new strategy from the board. To my mind, it’s now a matter of time before we are there.

Imagine the crowd reaction if a weakened team is fielded next Sunday against Villa and we lose; or the following Saturday at home to Blackburn if there is anything less than a win, unconvincing or otherwise; and then we have the visit of the increasingly mighty Spurs on Feb 26. This could be the moment when defending the indefensible becomes impossible. I hope, against hope, that it does not come to that, but Adebayor scoring the winner would take the proverbial biscuit. I wouldn’t bet against it – there is the immutable law of the ex to contend with.

A change is coming, it’s just a matter of when; and next season, unless a Dutch posse arrives to take charge, there will be no RvP. There will be no more Arshavin, for which not too many tears will be shed and I hope there will be no Walcott whose performance on Sunday was shocking. How he thinks he is worth £85k a week, even in the insane world which Premier League footballers live, is beyond me. The other one with a contract with only a year and a half to go is Song. I would try and keep him, if only for his ability to play centre back as well, but if he went, I wouldn’t worry a jot based on his lackadaisical performances of late in the league.

There is, according to some blind believers in the manager (who also think Chelsea are as bad as or worse than us), still a chance of us getting 4th, but I think that chance has gone and even the AKBs will see that it has gone by around 3.30 on February 26, if not before. So next season, I predict a new manager, a very different looking team (yet again) and Europa Cup football, with all the joys of Thursday/Sunday matches. From a personal point of view, Thursday evening matches would be fine for me as my work schedule makes Tuesday/Wednesday games a problem more often than not; Thursdays would be much much easier for me; and indeed Sundays, when I am in London, are also a darn sight more convenient nowadays than Saturdays for going to games.

I think we can be sure, moreover, that getting a ticket for matches next season will be much easier than it is already – I believe that every game had gone on general sale up until the end of November when they decided to add something called Friends and Family which allowed season ticket holders and red/silver members the chance to buy more tickets rather than letting them go on general sale anymore! Far be it from me to suggest this was a PR exercise to avoid having to advertise the general sale of tickets, but one thing it has done is to increase the number of tickets being sold around the ground. These extra tickets are paper tickets and I have seen a lot more of these at the last few matches than I have for a very long time.

I was in a meeting in the City last week – over coffee I got talking to an extremely successful hedge fund manager; he told me his firm had a box and “a few” Club level tickets at Arsenal; they also have a box at Chelsea, one at Wembley and “several” debentures at Twickenham and Wimbledon; and a box at the Albert Hall, and one at Opera House. What really shocked me was not the extraordinary amount of money which his company could spend on corporate hospitality, nor was it the fact that he casually admitted that “most of the big firms and funds” have similar arrangements (we all knew this really); no, what really shocked me was his admission that most of these seats are unused most of the time. They only use the seats at Arsenal and Chelsea for the big league games and European nights, but for the run-of-the-mill matches (Blackburn for example) they are unused. It is, he said, too much work and a waste of time passing the tickets around the junior members of staff as it is a hassle collecting them all back in (too many get lost!) and so they don’t get used. But, he added, if Arsenal were not in the CL next season, they wouldn’t renew them as their clients wouldn’t be interested in the Europa Cup and they would take them elsewhere for their entertainment, such as Tottenham.

The self-sustaining model will soon become a self-deluding one in the absence of CL football and without a team capable of mounting any serious challenge for the title. The ground will get emptier and emptier. Some of us can remember when there were barely 25,000 at Highbury. Mr Gazidis and Mr Kroenke will be in for a nasty shock one cold Thursday evening in November.

24th January 2012 09:00:00


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Oxy-Moron  10:29am 24th Jan 2012

The sentiment of that corporate is exactly what I was forecasting in a comment on an article her last week. What price that the renewal dates get brought forward, with "administrative pressures caused by the Olympics" as the excuse? As for a new manager next year - don't hold your breath! - Post No. 19430

Will  11:26am 24th Jan 2012

Not sure what the point is of speculating about a post Wenger Arsenal because he won't be sacked regardless of this years failures. He provides the board with loads of money so if you were Stan why would you sack him.The core of the side is still good szec, jack, rambo,ox, sagna, tvm, kos. In my opinion they will give him another season to turn things around while trying to sort out a successor.If Wenger could get us back into CL he could then leave on a relative high. What is clear beyond doubt is that he won't be around for too much longer. All managers have sell buy dates, Shankly Clough. Only Ferguson has defied the odds and even he will not be able to reinvent Unt again ( no money).The bigger question is what will happen to the club in 5-10 years time as their ability to pay the wages required for top players declines. In the current football world it is clear that having monstrously wealthy owners is the only way forward.It stinks but it is the reality. Arsenals laudable business model looks out of date. - Post No. 19433

Half Full  11:37am 24th Jan 2012

Yep, gonna be hard to sell sausages at caviar prices. I suspect that when you have a 60,000 seater stadium and an army of overpaid executives and bureaucrats the self sustaining model only works if you have success on the pitch. It is self sustaining at a high level of income and expenditure. For a club like ours the consequences of dropping out of the top four for more than one year look pretty dire to me- at best we could end up with a self sustaining model based on reduced income/reduced costs/occasional forays into the Europa League - think Everton or Villa. At worst we could cease to be viable because our cost base cannot be reduced quickly enough to match the lower levels of income coming into the club. I wonder what would be cut first - the budget for players' wages and transfer purchases or the budget for senior management salaries. - Post No. 19434

Pat O'Cake  11:53am 24th Jan 2012

Surely the club will not sack Wenger anytime soon - the pay-off of around £15m will deter them from doing that. I cannot see Wenger falling on his own sword either. No, we are lumbered with him, like it or not. Nothing will change on or off the pitch meaning we are locked into a path of gradual, terminal decline. Only fan power can save us now... - Post No. 19436

don froth  11:58am 24th Jan 2012

state the obvoius merchant!!!!, stick to your city job....also your wrong about Song, he has been one of our shining lights for the previous three seasons and i for one would be very dissappointed if he went! - Post No. 19437

Nick  12:52pm 24th Jan 2012

I can rember standing in the lower west teir, for a game against W.B.A., when the attendance was only just above 8,000, a game we won on a quagmire of a pitch 4-3, those were dark days with no expectations, were not at that low point yet, but we are regressing slowly but surely, we play Aston Villa on sunday in the cup, a team who we would seem to share the same aspirations these days, so much for competing with the worlds best once wed moved to the emirates, what a bloody lie that was. - Post No. 19444

Gee  13:00pm 24th Jan 2012

the key is to limp to 2014 when we can cash in on the kit sponsor and shirt sponsor renewals. At present all this cash was used to fund the emirates and is leaving a £25m-£35m hole in out commercial income year on year. If AW can get us in to the CL next year or one after (both would be incredible for the board) we can instantly increase our revenues so the commercial arm is in line with the majority. Arsenal are a very very cautious club. They will not spend the £50m to get 4th, they'd rather hope they get there on what they have and if they don't the £50m can cover the lost income. the self sustaining model is quickly becoming an excuse for on field failure. We desperately need Sagna, wilshere, Gibbs and Arteta back in the side and to stay there until May along with VP That is the only way we can get 4th or higher - Post No. 19447

Arsene is a Fraudster  13:15pm 24th Jan 2012

I agree with the sentiments of most posters here. Whilst he should do one, you know he wont go until he wants. Too much money for the yank and the peanut headed Ivan to get rid, and there will be plenty of plums & tourists etc willing to plough money into new kits and terrible grub at half time for a year or 2 yet before they start panacking. - Post No. 19449

Mike  14:58pm 24th Jan 2012

Gee, I think you summed it up pretty correctly from a business sense - players wages are becoming exorbitant. Rumour has it that Walcott wants K85 000 a week and lets face it that will be the average wage packet that an international player will want thank to the likes of Man City and Chelsea. K60 000 will probably be well below average. The sponsership renewals will be vital unless we manage to get someone with cash to burn - Post No. 19460

Inspector Clueless  15:02pm 24th Jan 2012

no matter what anyone says wenger is NOT the magic manager he has been painted as. Rednapp is better as is Fergy and for sure Jose. rednapp gets more out of less. Wengers choice of players reflects his own personality. rosicky, walcott, arsha. nice boys no fight no bottle no passion for the club. arsenal today is a boring corporate with a soul less stadium - Post No. 19462

What was the point in leaving Highbury?  15:13pm 24th Jan 2012

That's what I don't get about the club the most. If you charge Aston Martin prices you can't give clients fords. Surely that's basics. I can see their logic in charging record ticket prices. We are London biggest and most successful club. I guess that comes at a premium now days. However that is only sustainable if you are attracting the big names, are ambitious and are successful. You trying shirts in Asia when you finish eigth and have no stars. It's a lot harder that barca are currently finding. The board would make more money if we are successful. That way everyone isa winner. Surely they can see that. You can't keep ripping people off and thinking they will swallow it. We are not totally stupid. - Post No. 19463

GoonerGoal!  18:20pm 24th Jan 2012

Surely you expect too much? I am resigned to European Tuesday, Wednesday, AND Thursday nights being Arsenal-free next season. No doubt we will then get Carling Cup matches free to justify not reducing next seasons ticket prices... - Post No. 19477

Shropshire Lad  20:56pm 24th Jan 2012

Nick, I was there for the WBA game. Never seen it so empty for a Div 1 game. Bloody cold night too if I remember! Long time ago but it does demonstrate how things can change very quickly if Clubs ignore their fans. - Post No. 19486

Mariano  23:30pm 24th Jan 2012

first of all ,Wenger has done more for this club than any of us can fathom .second theo just came back from a injury and needs time ,at the start of the season he was on fire and I think is worth 80 plus k ,we got alot of injuries and the boss is doing what he can with what he has ,not many coaches can do what he does with the buget he gets ,not Mou not pep ,and trust me if Arsenal had the money they would spend it ,but the ppor commercial deals means they are far behind teams like man u but we are getting there ,the boss just needs time ! in Wenger we trust - Post No. 19494

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