Positivity speaks: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence
Today I am delighted to welcome Adithya V, better known as Follow Adi! as a guest blogger to North London Is Red. Adi recently wrote a fantastic article on his site The Positive Gunner that I thought was so brilliant I wanted to share it with everyone and have agreed to re-post it on NLIR. In true NLIR style this is an epic post so as usual here is your pre-post warning to get a cup of tea and settle down for some quality reading. Take it away Adi…..
I’m not a perfect fan but I consider myself a supporter in every sense of the word. I live and study in London and go to games, home and away, when I can afford to. I have followed the Arsenal since 1998 and having read about dark times such as finishing 17th in the 70s I do not consider this current period to be a bad time in Arsenal’s long history and I do not consider us a “laughing-stock” as some would ridiculously like to portray us.
I believe that even now, being an Arsenal fan is easy when you don’t take things for granted. Every year we get a top 4 place, knock out stages of the Champions League, beautiful football, amazing stadium, classy players and a genius manager — I can think of a few hundred football clubs that would LOVE to be in our position and that we consider this situation to be a “tough” time is a clear indication of how good we have it as fans.
I see a lot of arguments being made about how the badly the club is run, how profit is our only motive and how we prefer to leave money sitting in the bank instead of buying players. I see people declaring “something is very wrong with our club” and while I don’t think things are perfect, I do honestly think we’re a very responsibly run club in an irresponsible world and that seems to be a bit hard to understand by many for some strange reason. The contribution of the media doesn’t help either as they actively seem to castigate Arsenal for running their club prudently while praising the ones who have spent millions from oil money without consequence. It’s almost like they exist in a parallel world where spending so much without any fallout is possible for them and seeing that makes fans want similar without realizing, the consequences here would be dire. Also, there are a few others among us fans resorting to rather silly and disrespectful name calling about “the Yank” or “Ivan the terrible” that only serves to show how far away from classy they are and how startlingly little the ones doing the name calling actually know about running a club.
I further believe that while a lot of people think our club is riddled with problems everywhere, there is no quick fix for it because in truth it doesn’t need too much fixing when you really think about it. Yet somehow every minor slip up leads to people revelling in the explosion of reactionary “sack X, protest and stroll, board is shit, buy Y, Z is unfit to wear the jersey, play 4-4-2″. This sort of urge for instant fixes and immediate change is characteristic of the day and age we live in and there is nothing we can do about a society where instantaneous gratification reigns supreme but at the same time as someone wrote in the Evening Standard last season, this is sadly becoming a part of “the club’s blame culture”. It is the easiest thing in the world to lay the blame at obvious scapegoats which is what 90% of people end up doing. It is easier to find someone to appropriate the blame to and slate them and choose to get rid of them as though that is the quickest way to fix things. It is in truth harder to actually find out what is wrong and even harder to realize that there isn’t much wrong besides the complete lack of patience on our part. People act like 7 years has been a lifetime when in the larger picture, for a club that is 125 years young and has many more years to come to add to its illustrious history, 7 years is but a minor blip.
I believe a lot of the arguments that end up happening between fans on some of the above issues (or even at AGMs) for one reason or another are down to assumptions that are made that I don’t think are anywhere near accurate. Some of the assumptions that are made that I find rather silly and my rebuttals to these assumptions are as follows.
One of the largest clubs in the world, doesn’t actively look for players that would improve it and instead chooses to leave money in the bank
It would be a massive dereliction of duty by all involved (management, board, staff, coaches), if players were not being scouted through the year to determine who would fit the team best and could improve it while being cognizant of whether they would be available at a price range that we could afford.
The club doesn’t buy players but every other club seems to be buying more
United, City and the rest all made at most 3-4 purchases this summer, which is roughly the same as ours, surely if there were so many good players available out there, other teams that have money to spend would be buying too right? If you look at last summer and this one combined, we have purchased – Cazorla, Arteta, Mertesacker, Giroud, Podolski, Santos, Gervinho, Oxlade Chamberlain, Eisfeld and more, so I would actually say this is a myth that we don’t buy players. What would be true is that we don’t spend huge money on players but the bottom line is that we never have (though in recent years we have been rumoured to make offers that break our transfer record but have missed out due to wages or signing fees like what happened with Hazard)
The club scouts aren’t doing their job finding the right players
I don’t understand how people can make this comment about arguably the best scouting team and identifiers of talent in the world? The issue isn’t that we can’t find talent, we can find talent but buying a player requires a lot more things to fall into place, namely –
- Is the player going to fit into our system with the players we have around?
- Is the player going to command a transfer fee that we can afford?
- Are the player’s wages going to be within a range that we can afford to pay? (this one is huge and is one of the big reasons why we missed Mata and Hazard)
- Is the player available for sale from his club?
- Is the player willing to move even if the club has agreed to sell?
- Is the agent and signing fee demanded going to be at a reasonable level? (again I point to Mata and Hazard where this really tripped us up)
Only if all these things fall into place can a transfer go through.
I can already sense some cogs turning in people’s heads about names that are firmly placed in the “shit” category regarding players like Santos, Chamakh or even for some of you, Giroud. My rebuttal to that is as simple as you are ignoring the player’s ability at the time of signing or you’re judging his total ability on the basis of a bad run of form. It is testament to Chamakh that when he was signed, people rejoiced and for the first few months, everyone knew that we had a real player on our hands until burnout, confidence loss and a lack of playing time left him as a shadow of the player he was when he joined us. It is testament to Santos that he started off shakily but improved quickly in his very first season to be quite a good player prior to his injury. A current dip in form, does not a bad player make, otherwise what would you call Koscielny on current form?
The club prefers to keep money in the bank than to spend or Wenger doesn’t want to or is too stubborn to spend
Or have you considered the possibility that as a club, we consider it better and more prudent to spend on the right player who would definitely improve us and fit in, rather than spending on the wrong player just because we have money. Eg. getting quoted 25m for Tiote this summer was ludicrous and I am glad we didn’t go for that.
The board lied to us when they said the stadium move will make us more competitive, we should have stayed at Highbury
It’s easy to come to this conclusion and scream yourself hoarse but again, you’re not looking at the complete picture. When the idea of the stadium was first mooted and work got underway, we were among the top 2 teams in England with United having a large lead on the commercial side of things compared to us and we were being restricted by the smaller sized stadium. The move should have signalled a massive boost in revenue and despite a few years of fiscal prudence, we would’ve been able to continue to compete for the top 2 consistently. However, we were unfortunate with our timing as our need for fiscal prudence coincided with both the entrance of oil money and a global recession. This wasn’t something that could have been foreseen and the bottom line here is, if we hadn’t moved from Highbury, right now we’d be languishing way further behind oil money than we are now.
Arsenal like to wait until the last year of a players contract before they start talks
From everything I’ve heard in this regard, this is false. We offer our players new contracts anywhere between 24 to 18 months left on their contract. For example, Nasri was supposed to have been offered a contract by us in December 2010 which he chose to turn down. Similarly for Van Persie, talks were initiated in September 2011 but he refused. A club does the right thing when it offers a contract early in the player’s penultimate season on the current contract and in the recent past, both Koscielny and Vermaelen have signed new contracts in such a way. But the likes of Nasri and Van Persie CHOSE to leave their talks until later and then opted to leave for more money than our club could afford to pay (allegedly £170k per week and £250-300k per week respectively). You can only offer a contract but you cannot force them to sign it.
Everyone at the club and everyone who supports its results both aim for and are happy with fourth place for the past 7 years
The fact that we end up around this spot, doesn’t mean it is our primary goal, it is coincidence. At the same time, being supportive and understanding of why we finished 4th (something that is immensely valuable to us financially and more so than the FA Cup or League Cup) doesn’t mean we’re thrilled and only aiming for that either. I honestly do believe we aim for the very top each year and the two most recent times when we’ve fallen off or fallen short (07/08 and 10/11) we were challenging until very late in the season (I think both years in April we were barely 4-6 points off the top). Falling short is when our failures are evaluated ad nauseam while our merits go ignored and the sad tendency to only be hypercritical of the club doesn’t lead to a pretty image.
We choose to sell our best players and don’t want to replace them and instead prefer to keep the money in the bank
Do you honestly think Arsène or anyone at the club WANTED to sell these players before they forced their way out? Look at the last 4 big names to leave us. Nasri – huge wages that we couldn’t match and by his own admission, indirectly tapped up. Cesc – wanted to go home, went on strike to force the move. RVP – huge wages we couldn’t match and tried to dictate how the manager should run the club and reportedly was in touch with clubs from as far back as January. Song – created a ruckus in training and through his agent tried doubling his wages despite having 3 years left on his contract and now he’s moved to a club where he’s actually earning the double wages he wanted (considering taxation). Did we WANT to sell any of these players? I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t the case until it got to a point where there was no way we could keep them but I still struggle to understand why fans are so unreasonable when the club has little choice in these matters when a player is forcing the move.
As for replacing these players, I have already talked about this above.
We charge the highest ticket prices in the world but don’t spend the money.
I will not argue against the fact that ticket prices are high, they undeniably are, but at the same time, claiming they are the highest priced is just an extension of media fueled hyperbole that fails to look any deeper than the price tag. If you look purely at the price tag, yes, we are the most expensive. But what this ignores is that unlike other clubs, we offer 7 cup games as part of the ticket so while most teams get 19 games on their tickets, we get 26. Furthermore, when you look at the cost of ticket per game, be it our highest priced season ticket or the lowest price one, we are roughly on par with other big London teams and the per game cost of our tickets is actually cheaper than Spurs. They are the ones who technically should be constantly lambasted for having the highest season ticket prices per game, not just in an old stadium but for a team that seems to offer the Europa league at best and whose tickets don’t even include tickets to cup games.
That is one part of the argument, the other part being we don’t spend the money. Now, I’m not exactly sure how this happened but it seems there are a bunch of fans who feel they have bankrolled the wages of every player and staff member when in truth, all of our ticket income combined covers only about 70% of our wages. Over and above that, you have other expenses which make it abundantly clear that any claims that your money you spend on tickets isn’t spent is again, little more than an unsubstantiated myth. Just like the theory that because we’re the 5th richest in the Deloitte money league or the top 4 in club value, we should have a lot more money to spend than we should but we don’t. In fact, the mention of the Forbes club value list where our club is the 4th or 5th most valuable in the world simply does not mean that we have that much cash to spend but it is ridiculous the number of times one has to repeat this clarification.
Arsenal’s season ticket range – £985 to £1955
Cost per game – £37.88 to £75.19
Spurs season ticket range – £730 to £1845
Cost per game – £38.42 to £97.11
Are we really the most expensive?
We overpay average or sub par squad players who deserve nothing and this is why we can’t pay the highest wages
Some of the arguments I see about squad wages are hilarious and sometimes it honestly feels like people believe every starter should be paid 200k for weeks they play and nothing in weeks that they don’t. Firstly, compared to teams all around us, our wage structure for squad players and youth players is roughly on par with other top clubs and far less than the clubs ahead of us. Secondly, the wages we can afford to pay for our top players (our wage cap) is an issue but one needs to consider the imbalance in squad harmony this would cause when one member earns so much more than the rest of the team. The best example of this can be found at Manchester United, where Rooney’s massive wages (200-300k per week depending on what your source is) have led to squad players demanding their own large share of the pie which in their case means that Welbeck and Hernandez both earn from 75-80k per week which is what our highest earners currently manage. People make a big issue of squad players here earning between 40 and 60k as though these are too high but in the same breath demand that our highest earners earn as much as players at other big clubs. That there is the fine line that a club has to tread between offering a reasonable wage to quality squad players (if you don’t pay them even the wages we pay now, we won’t have much of a squad) and offering a huge wage to top players (we are rumoured to have offered 150k to RVP but he’s earning much more after leaving).
Furthermore, there are many who make the judgement on hindsight and like to make a hue and cry about something that looks bad in hindsight. Take for example, Diaby’s contract. People accuse him of being overpaid due to being injured so often but they fail to look at the important details which would tell them that when the contract was signed, he was at peak fitness and walked into France’s 2010 World Cup squad after a 40 appearance season for Arsenal. You cannot predict things like a recurrence of injury, a drastic drop in form or another player being in hot form and not being rotated thus rendering playing time minimal. You can only offer a contract based on the current situation. Considering all these factors should be a minimum when it comes to understanding contracts.
The above arguments are just a few and there are many more that come up ranging from the assumption that FFP will fail, to the assumption that the board is lining its pockets (when our club figures clearly indicate otherwise) to the rather odd assumption that all of the money in our cash reserve is ready to spend on transfers and lastly the assumption that our debt has been paid off. Most of these assumptions arise from the fact that the understanding of each “issue” is simplistic and doesn’t look into the deeper reasons and causes for an issue. It would take me a while to list each one and debunk the assumptions so I will stop here for now as I have some very basic questions to ask:
Does lack of transfer activity imply that we are not looking for players?
Does a lack of secondary commercial deals or public updates regarding primary commercial deal renewals mean that we are not working on either of these?
Does making a mistake on the pitch mean that a certain aspect of the game is not being practiced in training?
Does a player getting injured on the pitch mean that the team responsible for treating these injuries is at fault?
Does a bad game mean that the team is useless, doesn’t care and isn’t motivated?
Does a bad run of form mean that a player is shit, just wants to earn money, and not good enough to wear the shirt?
Does a player forcing a move to a team that can afford to pay way better than us, mean that the club is at fault and wants to sell its best players?
The answer to all these questions is a resounding NO and that is the reason for the title of this blog. The absence of evidence of activity or any of the above questions I’ve asked does NOT imply that it is evidence of an absence.
To think otherwise is an assumption made under simplistic preconceived notions that everyone at the club is incompetent or doesn’t care as much about winning as you, or both. That perception rises from complete and utter arrogance in thinking that you are the only one who cares and that the ones who are meant to do this don’t care at all and don’t know how to do their jobs as well as you do. If you’re truly arrogant and foolish enough to think that somehow you know better because you believe that as a club, the staff spends its year twiddling its thumbs and earning money instead of doing their job that they’re paid to do, then that probably explains why you’re in an uproar thinking the club is being mismanaged and you want everyone out. I also believe this arrogance is combined with a certain level of hypocrisy where it is ok to chant songs about rape and heckle at an AGM but someone who dishes it back in kind at the AGM (PHW) and someone who swapped a shirt, deserve to be crucified. Furthermore, this arrogance that “we are Arsenal” and somehow we have this divine right to win trophies and because we don’t, everyone involved is doing something wrong is something, reeks of being spoiled and being unable to see the very real challenges the club is up against or worse, an assumption that no matter the difficulty, somehow these odds should be overcome and because you pay for tickets, you have every right to demand for it.
If the endless arguments that take place on twitter, blog comments or even in the stadium are entirely down to a bunch of assumptions about things that for the most part are completely beyond our control and furthermore in an area that we can never truly know the complete picture for, then why waste so much of our lives arguing and fretting and mudslinging about these things? Why can’t we do what we are supposed to do as fans and that is get behind the team on the pitch and support it and the players in it no matter what happens? Why do we have to resort to disgraceful “we want our arsenal back” chants when the team is down instead of actually supporting? Why do we have to abuse and berate every misplaced pass, every on pitch mistake, every tactical change (or lack of it)? Why do all this and build up so much negativity and infighting about something you have no control over especially when what the team needs the most on the pitch is support at full throttle to inspire them to get out of a funk and do better? Why can’t we go out there, scream our hearts out every single minute, live up to the club motto of Victoria Concordia Crescit and just enjoy watching the team we love, and probably always will?
Rousing stuff Adi. I agree with almost all of it and think many fans could take a leaf out of your book and become “supporters” once again. I hope to have you back as a guest in the future.
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