Thursday, 1 March 2012
The Arsenal 'brand' must focus on winning
There’s been three stories this week that, when threaded together, offer a clear insight into where Arsenal finds itself at the moment and why we’re not getting any closer to winning silverware.
This article in the Guardian emphasised how the marketing men at Ashburton Grove have been surprised by how the ‘Arsenal way’ of conducting its business and playing attractive football outweighs short-term trophy wins in drawing supporters overseas to support us.
I accept it is right to define our USP compared to our rivals. Running a football club is a competitive global business. We’re not just looking to appeal to potential supporters in North London or England as we once did, we need a profile in every corner of the world – if we don’t, we risk losing potential fans to other teams and consequently damaging our chances on the pitch.
But if winning is third – or maybe even further down – on the list of priorities behind our style and the way we conduct ourselves then we risk undermining the whole point of the club.
Football is a sport and the aim of sport is to win. Yes, you should win with style and by acting honourably but ultimately the aim must be to win. If you don’t hold that as your ‘raison d’etre’ how can you expect people to buy in to what they are seeing every match? While I want to be entertained if I’m paying £1,000 a season ticket, I also want to know what I am watching is pure competition, not a spectacle that puts style before substance.
Is money being spent the right way? Podolski transfer would prove it isn’t
The bottom line is the bottom line, of course, and this week’s interim financial results show we remain a very wealthy club but one that sells before it buys.
There was an interesting debate on Radio 5 Live this week involving four of the main characters in the drama that is football – the businessman (Christian Purslow, former MD of Liverpool); the player (Martin Keown); the supporter (Nigel Phillips of the Arsenal Supporters Trust) and the journalist (Jeremy Wilson from the Telegraph and seemingly Stan Kroenke’s favoured reporter).
It is definitely worth listening to while it’s still available (six days and counting) as it highlights the conflicting ways you can interpret Arsenal’s and Wenger’s situation. Purslow and Keown showed support for the current set-up because the club’s books are generally very healthy and Wenger has kept the team among the elite during the huge stadium-building effort. Meanwhile Phillips questioned the efficiency of our spending.
My reading of the accounts echoes Phillips’ and is reflected in the final of the three stories this week.
A manager lives and dies by the transfers he makes and Wenger’s record is increasingly poor. It doesn’t look like improving considering speculation about Lukas Podolski being our major summer signing is getting more and more intense. I expect this is similar to the Chamakh transfer where it just became an open secret that he was becoming an Arsenal player.
As I’ve said before, I don’t think Podolski would improve our team. He is typical of the sort of signings Wenger has made in recent years – a highly technical player who is a safe bet because you know what to expect from him. He represents a ‘good investment’; he will produce consistently six- or seven-out-of-ten performances, but won’t offer anything to push the team to the next level yet will retain his value on the transfer market.
At the same time, he’ll also be very, very handsomely paid. Perhaps not among the world’s highest earners, but for the talent he has he’ll be more than adequately recompensed.
And so we complete the circle of stories by returning to the Arsenal ‘brand’ – the signing of Podolski will be done in the right way (including paying him very generously), he’ll no doubt help to produce ‘attractive’ football on the pitch and will be a good asset on the balance sheet.
But it won’t help us win things.
And that's what the Arsenal brand should be about – there’s no better way of attracting new supporters and keeping existing ones happy.