Following on from yesterday’s editorial on the Arsenal Supporters Q&A event with Raul Sanllehi, Vinai Venketesham and Edu I thought I’d put my notes to paper, particularly as the sound system appeared to work over our direction during the questioning. I’m not promising a verbatim report but I’ve hopefully gathered a summary of events.
I should add that the evening started as only a London transport experience can. Namely 15 minutes waiting in a tunnel probably in temperatures hitting 104f on the Piccadilly Line. It was painful to say the least.
I also have a theory as to why there was so much anger in the hall as between poor crowd control and a horrifically humid evening, tempers were rising before we’d even asked questions. I mention this because it seems a to sum up the current setup at Arsenal. Somehow you can believe they want to achieve good, but dreadful planning and confusion with over-complication means we can only inch our way forward step by painful step.
So to describe events. I joined one huge wait outside. No one was let in whilst they searched peoples bags. Then panic seemed to set in as security realised the evening was meant to be underway so the non bag holders were finally allowed to enter en masse (two queues might have helped?)
After I entered we were herded into two lines flowing through sets of doors. We then emerged at the bar to claim our promised free pint and pie. But what did I want at the bar? Just food?
Bartender – “Join that queue sir”
Customer, “No I want a beer”. Bartender, “Sorry you’re in the wrong queue”
Customer, “You can’t be f***ing serious - the drinks queue has got a 100 people!”
Bartender, “Sorry guv!”
Customer, “Oi mate I want a pint and a pie”
Bartender, “Join both queues!”
I was shaking my head in disbelief as the shouted protests of pushing into either of the queues rang out.
Luckily scenes didn’t turn too ugly.
The one hihklight from this is that the Camden Brewery Pale Ale is good, thank the Lord!
After some questions from the host, it was the chance for the audience to ask some:
Question 1: We have major defensive problems particularly centre back issues. Who have we got this year ?
Answer: Raul - If I said here, I wouldn’t be doing my job, but we are working on a plan from (the last) 4 months from the academy and the market. The transfer window is a moving target and this is a hard window. Lots of irritational inflation and stagnation in market (I wonder if he meant the Neymar saga, Zaha, Maguire) We are putting in all the analytics. I cannot promise anything here I can only work hard on the targets. We are going to do our best but I will not mention names.
Edu’s real job is in September not now but he is actively helping.
(One presumes the promotion of Medley is included in this answer. He did not address our style of play or defensive frailty as an issue)
Question 2: I am a very angry and frustrated fan, the final showed what an appalling mess we are in and why are no board members here tonight? What planet are we on with just 40m? We can’t compete. We’ve been humiliated, we’ve got no feel good factor. We need the feel good factor back. We are slipping behind. Where’s the money? (Shouts from crowd, some shouting “what’s your question?” and others shouting “where’s the money?)”
Answer: Vinay - I get the frustration - we are not where we should be, we need to improve. Huge amount of change to be where we need to be. The £40m figure did not come from us - we never ever talk about how much money we have to spend if we go to negotiation even though our budget is more limited due to three seasons of Europa League, it’s not £40m. It’s a difficult transfer window. There is so much disinformation about players we’ve never even spoken to or placed bids for. I’d suggest 70% is disinformation. (Vinay seems to suggest more than £40m is available)
Question 3: We appear to be drifting. We have wonderful power point presentations but we appear to have drifted. The sustainability model only appears to have raised Kronke’s share price and the atmosphere since we left Highbury, to this? There’s no incentive to attend, often loads of seats for lower games but no chance at big games. (I personally wasn’t sure what point the questioner was making, though I suspect it was really a complaint about poor atmosphere. He then introduced his son and handed over the mic)
Question 4: Are we going to look at safe standing?
Vinay - The Government are considering this so we can’t control it. So clubs cannot implement it until government agrees it (lots of barracking). We are in favour of safe standing in principle. We are looking at it. We can only do it on lower tier and Emirates has shallow rise so we may have to take out loads of seats. The Emirates was not built for this but we will go to the fans’ forums. (Promise to review this with fan groups )
Question 5:) In this inflated market why aren’t we buying the best left back in Britain I’m talking about Tierney and we are quibbling!
Answer: Raul - I am not going to talk about players. We are not going to engage about players.
Question 6:) It’s Disappointing in the way the organisation is so short term, we’ve had dreadful commercial deals and poor control of wages bills. The Stadium wasn’t future proofed (safe standing not considered) It needs shrewder thinkers. (Addressed to Edu) You are very close to Unai. He has inherited a mess but being so close, could you make the tough decision if needed? (My thoughts were - Will you sack Emery if required?)
Answer: Raul - (though question addressed to Edu, Raul answers) I get the frustration I do believe we have stopped the downward trend and get it completely.
Vinay then confirmed the ultimate aim is to win the Premier League using Champions League participation as a stepping stone.
My overall impression is that Raul is passionate and did get applauded when he said later that if we always talk ourselves down, think we are rubbish then we will be rubbish. He constantly talked about coming to Arsenal as an achievement to be proud of. Vinay I felt was a better version of Ivan at least in terms of the core business. The division of Vinay and Raul appeared really necessary as Raul is obviously the football wheeler / dealer and Vinay appears to be the corporate Senior Manager. Raul mentioned Huss Fahmy a few times so he appears to be very important to Raul. Edu got a massive cheer, Raul did a big cheerleader speech on him. Raul was also very clear that Edu’s work begins from September. My thoughts were Raul kept on saying we will not talk about players when linked players were mentioned. It did suggest that conversations are being had and maybe some deals are progressing.
And that is that!