Arsenal celebrate failure on the pitch ……

November 2, 2010

…but off it, the football world celebrates complete incompetence and negligence.

Following the defeat at Chelsea I decided to give myself a little time to mull things over. A chance to let the hysteria die down. Losing the last game before the international break gives everyone two weeks to dwell on the shortcomings – in our case that we’re still unable to rough it against tough tacklers, that we flatter to deceive against the Mancs and Chelsea, and that Wenger’s refusal to ‘buy big’ means we haven’t won a trophy in five seasons, obviously.

I don’t mind that criticism so much. In fact, I don’t even mind the media ignoring that we took to the field against Chelsea like Christopher Reeve – with our entire spine missing (the loss of Almunia, Vermaelen, Fabregas and van Persie hardly got a mention).

And I can just about handle Mr know-everything-about-management (despite never being a manager) Andy Gray gleaming: “You have to ask how long the Arsenal fans and players will put up with this? How long can Arsene Wenger keep persuading them this is the right way?” – while ignoring what the fans of Liverpool, Everton, Middlesboro, Newcastle, Sunderland (and all those other clubs that have spent more than us over the past five years) are currently putting up with.

I can handle all of that… just.

But what I don’t understand is the media constantly waxing lyrical about Chelsea and all they achieve.

It’s true that Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for five years. And it’s true that, in that time, Chelsea won the Premier League in 2006 and last season; three FA Cups; and a League Cup.

Ignore the League Cup because it doesn’t count. Add in that Chelsea have spent more than £300m over the past five years, failed to win the league for three successive seasons between 2006-09, and still haven’t won the Champions League – and I’d suggest it’s not a great return. But you don’t hear that said in the media.

What you also don’t hear is criticism of, and this is my main point, is how Chelsea have achieved their success – and just how bad it is for football.

Chelsea’s business plan since Abramovic came in has simply been to “achieve world domination” – which doesn’t appear to be happening – and relies solely on the hope that Roman Abramovic won’t walk away.

If he does, Chelsea are dead. Chelsea say the loans given to them by Abramovic have now been turned into shares, and that the club is effectively running as a profit-making business. The truth, however, is very different.

It is true that the loans from the holding company to Chelsea FC plc were fully converted to shares. However, Abramovich’s loan to Chelsea Limited, the holding company which owns Chelsea FC plc, was not. That loan remains owing. In fact, it increased in the previous financial year because Abramovich loaned another £25m for extravagant spending and to cover the dismissal of Luiz Felipe Scolari and his coaching team – all of which produced losses of £47m.

The result is that the accounts of Chelsea Limited (whose name was changed during the year to Fordstam Limited), show the loan to Abramovic still outstanding. The total figure owed? Wait for it… £726m. The good news for Chelsea fans is the loan is interest free. The bad news is that it is repayable if Abramovich gives 18 months’ notice.

So if the Roman gets bored; or fed up that they still can’t win the Champions League; or if they do win the Champions League and then he feels he’s achieved all he can with that toy, what will happen to Chelsea? Do you think the club will attract a buyer willing to pay off a three-quarters-of-a-billion-pound debt to take the helm? Looking at the debacle at Anfield this past couple of weeks, I would say not.

Those activities at Anfield have finally started to persuade fans that winning silver cups in the immediate future is not all football is about. Supporters are taking an interest in the long-term futures of their clubs, and seeing that the Arsenal way – while painful for half a dozen years or so on the pitch – is putting the club in good stead off the pitch for generations to come. Online discussions like this one on BBC this week are now riddled with praise for what has become known as “the Arsenal model”.

I just hope that now the fans are seeing the light, the media might follow. I suspect Andy Gray and co will just continue to focus on the one measure of success they care about – titles and trophies. Don’t get me wrong. I would love Arsenal to have won the silverware Chelsea have since 2005. But not at their price.

I know that in ten years I will still be watching my team from where I watch it now. I wonder if Chelsea fans will be watching some re-formed non-league version of their club because they wanted ten years of success but then Abramovic walked away – and took their history with him?

Written by redandwhiteviews

The author of this article has his own site redandwhiteviews.