As a married man, I have learnt through experience to admit when am wrong and to give second consideration to my every perception, attitude and decision. Unlike in my erstwhile state of bachelorhood when I thought I knew it all and my knowledge was infallible, I have come to the realization that I have no monopoly of knowledge
I suppose you are wondering why I would begin my post on such a remorseful and pensive note. Well I have just realized that the more I think I understand the dealings of soccer (especially the business aspect of it) the more it becomes a complex maze that I know little about. I have penned some very harsh criticism of Wenger on this blog but as the old adage goes, 'only a fool never changes his mind'. Am not saying that am convinced that Arsenal is going to clinch the Premiership this season, am just saying that am beginning to see the wisdom in Wenger's pragmatic approach to buying players and building a team. This morning, I read Mike Ashley's statement on his intention to sell Newcastle United. He painstakingly pledged his love for the club and his unwavering commitment to see the club succeed both as a business and in terms of trophies haul. I could not help but feel sorry for him as he narrated how he no longer felt safe going to watch matches at St James' park with his kids, for fear of an assault. What a way to treat a man who's only crime is trying to offload some baggage (Owen, Smith and Barton) from St James' Park. For all the money he has poured in the club, he should at least have a say in what approach it should have in buying players. My intention is not to rekindle the hot debate on who (between club managers and owners/directors) should decide which players to sign. No am just saying that there should be a consensus on this and that consensus should be based on which approach yields the desired results.
It’s on the basis of the story of Newcastle & Westham vis-à-vis Arsenal that I pull my hat off for Wenger. Any club that is aspiring for glory yet does not have the financial muscle of Man-U or Chelsea must decide whether they want to go Arsenals way or Man-City’s way. The choice is between selling a club and keeping the overheads low through careful purchases that provide value at a bargain. While the transfer market and the going-ons there in has made huge headlines, Wenger has remained true to his philosophy of keeping off all that drama. Arsenal has meticulously executed their business approach to soccer. They don’t renew contracts for players above 30 for periods longer than 1 year. Arsenal’s youth program has been very vibrant even though Wenger has been accused of not co-opting enough graduates of the youth academy into the senior team. It was delightful to watch 16 year old Jack Wilshere deliver a sublime final pass to Adebayor that resulted in the 4th goal. At Wenger’s service is an astute team of scouts that have been known to track their targets sometimes for as long as 2 years. While other clubs are driving themselves to debt in pursuit of expensive, over-paid big names that many times end up as big flops, Arsenal's approach even incorporates a wage structure that has a ceiling.
I must say that Arsenal’s way has shown promise both for the current campaign as well as for the future. Come to think of it, its pure genius how Wenger buys cheap, builds, utilizes and eventually offloads players at a profit as they get to the sunset of their careers. With the emerging onslaught on the EPL from the East and other rich dynasties, English club owners will have to decide whether they want to run their clubs smartly or let them become another rich sheikh’s/princes’ play thing. As for Arsenal I must say they have it right, not just with the financial bottom line but the quality of play too. Their Saturday display at Ewood Park was to say the least exquisite. I was reminded of Real Madrid of old. Allow me to quote Blackburn manager Paul Ince on his take on the match- "Arsenal's passing was a joy to watch"