Arsene Wenger and the Question of Trust and Mistrust

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Arsene Wenger and the Question of Trust and Mistrust
David Rogers/Getty Images
Alone?

If we imagined Arsenal as a walled-in compound, and that every morning dark painted cars with tainted glasses drive in and then drive out in the evening, and that the occupants of these vehicles are Arsene Wenger and the board members...

and if we persisted with this imagination and supposed that we lacked access to this walled compound but are constrained to stand outside the gate or around its high walls with the only knowledge we gain from this vigilance either a fancy of our imagination or what is rationed out by Wenger and his company...

then, only two choices would be available to us—either trust that what goes on in this walled compound is to ours and the public's good (that is, if this pertained to general well-being or such like) or be cynical and say that these seclusive bunch can't be up to any good.

Selecting any of these two choices would be our free prerogative, of course.

It'd be the state we choose as the overarching overlord of our psyche: whether or not to spend our time in cynicism over something that most definitely commands our time and attention, and what's more, our emotions too, and it might not be too much of a stretch to imagine, our overall well-being as well.


Treasuring tradition. Getty Images.

The person who chooses to trust that the activities that occur within this gated compound is to the public good (assuming, of course, that this compound has bearing on that, either tacitly or not) wouldn't be more justified in doing so than the person who chooses to be cynical about it. Justification cannot be determined on the face of the fact as such.

Justification will come by induction, based on the history (i.e track record) of these seclusive fellows. We assume, naturally, and take it as self-evident, that the business to which this compound is dedicated is well-known to us, the observers outside it.

This being so, then, we would be well-positioned to judge the track record of the governors of this gated compound whom we've said are Wenger and the Arsenal board members.

We could then proceed to ask (since we are well-positioned to do so) that, in the business of governing this gated compound (Arsenal FC, as we said), have these seclusive men accomplished what the terms of governing this compound require? That is, have they accomplished the goals for which they were appointed to pursue?

(Let's not be detained by the detail that the term "appoint" admits, the question in regard to who did the appointment and by what authority, nor the attendant detail in regard to the origin of the charter that spells out the responsibilities of Wenger and company.)

By virtue of history and by appealing to it, we, the observers outside this compound, could determine whether its governors have done what they were appointed to do.

If we find that they have done so, then there'd be no reason to be cynical about them, or for that matter, be pessimistic about the future of this compound, which evidently must be important, since we take such close interest in it.

If, on the other hand, we find that Wenger and his company have failed in their responsibility, then we'd have cause to be skeptical about the future of this important compound, so long as they remain in charge of it.

Strength through unity. Getty Images.

When it comes to making this judgement, Nigel Winterburn, former Gunner, and one of Arsenal's famous back four, would rather cast his lot with those who would choose to trust Wenger, insofar as his role in the affairs of Arsenal is concerned. 

In fact, Winterburn would rather disapprove of Wenger's critics, especially those Arsenal supporters, whom he feels have needlessly distrusted the Frenchman.

He stated the following, while speaking to TalkSport:

I think he has been hurt by some of the supporters who haven’t trusted his judgement. They could say they have a right to question him because we haven’t won anything. But people say to me, ‘why do Arsenal not spend £30million on players,’ but even when Arsenal won things under Arsene Wenger they never spent that amount of money. He always spent relevant money and brought young players through.

Naturally, and as Winterburn himself anticipated in this statement, these critics would appeal to their right to criticize Wenger and the board, and normally, this would be expected. Nobody should be immune from criticism.

What has become of worrying about criticism of Wenger is that it often borders on the irrational, and I suppose that it is with this kind of criticism that Winterburn takes umbrage.

Another line of criticism that, on the face of it, appears justified is the idea that "indeed, Wenger was once good, but now, times have passed him by."

This, of course, is based on the idea to which Winterburn makes reference, the idea that Wenger does not spend enough money on transfers, an untenable approach, ostensibly, since other clubs continue to spend like there's no tomorrow.

Here, as we see, Winterburn points out that Wenger has never been a big spender, even in the years of his successes.  

In fact, I doubt that anyone would complain about lack of spending had Wenger maintained the success of his first decade in charge of Arsenal.


Wenger has never been a big spender. Getty Images.

 

Robbie Savage, of the Mirror, himself often a critic of Wenger, summarizes a few of these successes.

Arsene Wenger, he says, is "the man who ­delivered [Arsenal] into a fantastic new stadium after winning seven trophies in as many years, plus a Champions League final."

Savage continues:

As well as a brand of football which was way ahead of its time, he also introduced things to the Premier League which we now take for granted. Diet, nutrition, rest, aerobics... a lot of clubs only paid lip service to them when Wenger arrived in north London 16 years ago, but now they are all part of the furniture.

If football were only about trophies (I, for one, think it isn't and shouldn't), then, we could definitely conclude that Wenger has failed in fulfilling his responsibility in the last trophyless years.

But if football, though ultimately about trophies, has other virtues to be admired within it, such as a concern for the future of the club and what its status will be vis-a-vis other top clubs, then Wenger ought to be lauded rather than condemned.

A recent brouhaha (if one can call it that, since it was mainly two fellows who thought they could shout everyone down by the multiplication of "idiots" and "stupids" as though that's the sum of discourse and argumentation) revolved around whether or not there's money "lying out there somewhere" that should be spent on players, but it isn't.

That there's money, usually designated "profit" is without doubt, money normally used in the purchase of new players and in paying their wages and the accruing bonuses and increased in wages of the latent squad members.

That it is to this that Wenger (normally) restricts his spending is easily determinable. But, that there are other monies in reserve is easily evident by a cursory perusal of the club's financial accounts.

What these monies are for, which all well-tempered persons have determined to be monies not available for immediate spending on players per se, is what those who must have reason to complain and be cynical about something shout and spew expletives about.

And, this brings us back to our metaphor. 

Is there any reason to be cynical about the board members and Wenger, seeing that they've been prudent all these years, having achieved a remarkable thing in moving the club to a state-of-the art stadium without bankrupting the club, something no other contemporary club has been able to match on its own?

I doubt that there is. 

Readers, who read my series on Robin van Persie and money would recall that the board, while not immaculate, deserves to be commended. They'd also know that I do have points on which I criticize the board, including the majority owner, Stan Kroenke. So, I'm hardly a wide-eyed admirer.

 

This stadium is an object of chagrin for some Arsenal fans. Photo courtesy of Arsenal.com

The point of trust in all this lies in this very reason—irrespective of the fact that it is commosensical that you'd hold money in reserve, whether in the business of running a large firm or of something as small (and seemingly inconsequential) as the family; that a great chunk of this reserve is for the purpose of servicing the terms of Arsenals bonds; that reserved money must be on hand to meet pre-season financial obligations before that season's normal revenues are generated—that board members, as far as has been determined, haven't enriched themselves in the business of running the club.

If someone retorts that some of them did sell their shares and made handsome money, that person would be compelled, naturally, to not only name the very persons (as though their names were hidden in the first place) but to demonstrate the circumstances surrounding these sales, whether insidious or compelled.

If, indeed, it isn't that Wenger isn't buying star players because board members, including himself, are enriching themselves, what, then, is the ground of complaint?

If, rather, it is, in fact, that holding money in reserve (bar the "profits" that are used in the normal business of purchasing players) is so that the club remains healthy and solvent, or in fact, that it is the proverbial storage for the rainy day, such as not qualifying for the Champions League or the eventuality of the volatile financial climate, what, then, is the ground of complaint?

If a supporter who chooses to trust and then seeks to allay the fears that arise from the dearth of proper information regarding the club's finances (our metaphorical gated compound), encouraging others, in the process, to exercise faith in the praise-worthy manager, what, then, is the ground for juvenile expletives?

Have Arsenal board members been more interested in their personal benefits rather than in trophies? Photo courtesy of Arsenal.com

Wenger deserves our trust and appreciation.

This man is among the top three or four managers in the world, and yet, he is the ninth-highest paid manager in Europe.

Isn't this evidence enough that he isn't motivated by money? Wouldn't it benefit him more to ask for more (and for more), like Oliver Twist every summer, and even pull a Roberto Mancini to boot?

Wouldn't that better improve his chances at winning silverware? Wouldn't more spending (irrespective of its effect on the club's financial health) benefit him more in terms of on-the-field success?

And if he isn't doing that—asking senselessly for more—but rather restrains himself (sacrificing in essence), so that the future of the club can be secure, shouldn't we appreciate him rather than condemn him?

For those who are inclined to be cynical and distrusting about the board of governors, isn't it better to research the situation about which you make insinuation rather than basing your accusation on hearsay?

Where you are in darkness, isn't it where you should seek light? And where you are convinced, you're right, is that the place to shout abuse? 

It is my experience that those who aren't sure of themselves or their facts are those who, failing to sustain a logical and rational conversation, resort to abusing those who can, and that, I believe, is an indicator of who is supported by facts and who is not.

Wenger and the board, though by no means immaculate, deserve our support and appreciation, and that, I believe, is the point of Nigel Winterburn. 

I believe, it'd profit us all to heed his advise.

 

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Find related articles to this one through the following links. It is a series I'm inclined to call the "Narrative Series."

Part I: Theo Walcott Situation Highlights the Problem at Arsenal, Part I

Part II: Why Walcott's Contract Highlights the Problem at Arsenal

Part III: Bacary Sagna and the Case of a Selling Club

Part IV: Profit or Ambition, Where Does the Truth Lie for Arsenal?

Part V: Questions to Ask About the Arsenal's Finances

 

I started out with this series to examine the following assumptions:

Arsenal are a selling club. 

Wenger is the blight at Arsenal that must be purged. 

The board and the owners are there only to enrich themselves. 

Arsenal are not ambitious enough; they're just a feeder club. 

Arsenal simply delight to store away money instead of using the same to better the club's lot.

I believe I have tackled all of these, either tacitly or directly. I want to thank the readers for their patience, support and readership.

As always I welcome your comments.

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