The ever-charming Alisher Usmanov has been speaking again.
In between appearing at Comicon as the world’s best Jabba the Hutt impersonator, Usmanov is also a major shareholder at Arsenal – albeit one who has been squeezed out of day-to-day involvement in the club.
His pronouncements are infrequent but usually serve to advance his agenda: namely to suggest that he would be a better majority owner of the club than Mr Kroenke.
This week he is reported as saying: “Arsene Wenger had a very, very difficult position when the club shareholders did not want to put their money to construct the new stadium. Because of this he lost five years – maybe the best of his career – without a trophy. In reality ten years.”
My first reaction was anger: from a certain perspective, those years of austerity can be viewed not as lost years, but as Arsene’s BEST years.
Sure, there were no trophies, but during those years he arguably performed his greatest miracles: he kept us in the Champions League positions year after year while spending less than net zero and while watching his best players waltz out of the door at the end of every season.
When people compare Wenger and Mourinho I always look at it this way: could Arsene have won Premiership titles with the squad that was bought for Jose – at eye-watering expense – at Chelsea from 2004 onwards? The answer is self-evidently “yes.”
Now flip it on its head: could Jose Mourinho have kept a team in the top four of the Premier League for eight years with the resources that Arsene had to work with in the period after we moved to The Emirates? The answer is again self-evident and this time it is “no.” In fact, “no, no and thrice no. Not a cat in hell’s chance.”
Hence my reaction to Jabba’s words. They are an insult to a great manager – and to our club and to all the people who kept supporting Arsenal during those leaner years in the hope of eventually seeing a brighter tomorrow.
But, on reflection, I realised that Jabba is also implying that, had he been the boss man, he would have dipped into his own pocket to build the stadium and would have kept the cash flowing for buying new superstars and retaining our existing ones.
Would that have been such a bad thing?
We could have avoided all those years of watching other teams lord it over us, of fans turning against fans, of vitriol poured over our greatest ever manager.
It does make you think…
On balance I’ll stick with my original instincts: I’m glad we didn’t become another sugar daddy club; I’m glad we are an institution that “pays its way” honestly and doesn’t engage in financial doping.
Somehow it feels right – it feels like the Arsenal way.
And how much more satisfying are the trophies when we have all been through a barren and frustrating period?
But that’s just me. What do you think?