Arsenal Hold The High Ground – Wenger’s Legacy ?

A guest post from  @Georgakos



“It’s business as usual for Cellino at Leeds” wrote David Conn in the Guardian on 8th October. “His ownership of the club continues despite the ‘owners and directors test’, operated by the Premier and Football Leagues, stating that people cannot own or run a football club if they have recently been convicted of a criminal offence “involving a dishonest act”. The definition of “dishonest act” in the leagues’ rules is: “Any act which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest”. Massimo Cellino was found to have had “elusive intent” and to have formed a “bogus corporate screen” to criminally evade €390,000 import duty on a yacht [1]. Poor old Cellino, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time because the FA Owners’ and Directors’ Test Regulations became effective from 1st August 2013 [2].

Not a problem for Roman Abramovich because his ‘dishonest acts’ occurred in the deep and distant past: The Times said that Abramovich “famously emerged triumphant after the ‘aluminium wars’, in which more than 100 people are believed to have been killed in gangland feuds over control of the lucrative smelters”[3].  In 2008 The Times reported that Abramovich admitted that he paid billions of dollars for political favours and protection fees to obtain a big share of Russia’s oil and aluminium assets as was shown by court papers obtained by The Times [3].

There are sadly but a few ‘lone voices in the wilderness’ that may barely be heard above the cacophony of football hackery and punditry. Here’s a recent quote from Matthew Syed in The Times: “It is not what is said that troubles me, however; it is what is not said. You see, I am not sure I have heard a commentator offer a word about where the money that has funded the 11-year binge at Stamford Bridge came from. I have rarely heard pundits, who are happy to talk ad nauseum about Chelsea’s transfer dealings, relate that Abramovich’s billions were gained in an episode described as “the largest single heist in corporate history”. This is not just an elephant in the room; it is a festering pile of manure” [4]. Syed goes on to say, “I have had a large mailbox from Chelsea fans over the years. A significant minority accept that the money bankrolling their club was corruptly gained (how could they deny it?). They say that they love the club, but bitterly regret the identity of the owner. This is a principled and dignified stance.”

And of course it is. I add, that I have the utmost respect for those Chelsea fans because that is the stance I would adopt should Arsenal be taken over by Usmanov or any dishonourable sugar daddy.  Syed continues, “The majority, however, get irate about any mention of Abramovich’s corruption….The most common justification offered by Chelsea fans, however, is also the most egregious. It goes something like this: ‘I watch football to switch off from the real life. It is an escape. I don’t want to get bogged down in thinking about politics.’ This is offensive because it goes to the heart of a wider malaise in football. It is the idea that football is subject to a different set of rules to everything else.”

Of course, a very similar story can be written with regard to Manchester City. In this case a despot, a dictator, guilty of human rights abuses [5] escapes the FA Owners’ and Directors’ Test Regulations.

I, in common with some Chelsea and no doubt Man City fans, feel troubled by this. I even feel ashamed that this can happen in this country. How bad can it be? How about this:  “Ministers come under fire over claims the Government is too close to a Gulf State blamed for funding Islamist terror groups” [6].For heaven’s sake even Conservative MPs are concerned! Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, called for a rethink of Britain’s relationship with Qatar. He said: “Here in the UK, we do big business with our ally Qatar, including in arms, and yet there are countless reports, until recently at least, of that country’s government actively courting key bankrollers of al-Qaeda and Isil” [6]. It gets better. In the same article we learn that “a Treasury spokesman suggested that the burden of proof required for a suspect to be designated a terrorist – and face sanctions and asset freezes as a result – was probably higher in the UK than in the US.” You see, we have much higher standards in the UK, habeas corpus and all that stuff. Hmmm, I wonder, but then I am naive.

So what, dear reader, is the point of bringing this to your attention? Well, I do this because I feel that it is a huge issue that not only afflicts our society and our role, as a nation, in world affairs but that we cannot ignore how this affects The Premier League and football in general. As Matthew Syed wrote above “It is the idea that football is subject to a different set of rules to everything else”. Well it shouldn’t.

The scale of the corruption involved is difficult for most ordinary folk to comprehend (analogous but not quite to the scale of trying to comprehend the enormity of zettabytes (1021) of data!). We must however, try to understand it when assessing the performance of any Premier League manager and Arsene Wenger, in particular.

It is not necessary to repeat the many accolades that this man has received for his achievements. I will remind you of a quite recent one. In January 2011, it was announced that Wenger was voted “World Coach of the Decade” by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) [7].  The organisation aggregated the results from each year of the decade, and Wenger had narrowly beaten Ferguson and Mourinho for the honour. Now that is really something, I think.  So, I contend that we must somehow include elements of the above described ‘dishonest acts’ into any assessment of a manager and not forget that two clubs, perpetual top four rivals in the Premier League, are direct beneficiaries of such acts. I make reference to this so that those who are so inclined might compare the results of the IFFHS study with that of Mark Andrews [8]. The Andrews ‘study’ was referenced by a rather, grumpy, ‘Wenger Out’ man toward the end of the latest “A Bergkamp Wonderland” podcast featuring our own Pedantic George [9].  Our grumpy friend quoted a list of ratios of the number of trophy competitions entered versus those won, expressed as percentages demonstrating that Arsene Wenger is, in fact, one of the least successful managers in the history of Arsenal Football Club! Poor Arsene scored a paltry 11.11%! Compare that to Herbert Chapman at 23.52 and George Graham at 23.07%. At least he beat Bertie Mee at 9.09 and Terry Neil at 3.85%.  I was actually quite amused that our grumpy friend expressed the proportions to four significant figures. Maybe he felt the numbers were more ‘persuasive’ in that format. I wondered whether he knew that it was a valid way to express such numbers when the source figures are absolute (some pedant might want to research that last comment, but then you might be a sad bastard!).  Really, it was more than sufficient to round them up to three significant figures. Mr. Grumpy is so jaundiced that he said that he would remember only the ‘early’ Wenger years as a way of being ‘kind’ to him.

So, dear reader, I hope you agree that we do not live in football bubble. To deny Arsene Wenger’s achievements you must cherry-pick information or remain wilfully ignorant. In my opinion, Arsene Wenger has formidable mental fortitude and courage. How else can he remain steadfast in the face of cheap, cowardly and mercenary journalism which feeds the simplistic and lazy views of those ‘fans’ who try to rewrite the history of Arsenal Football Club?

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/oct/07/leeds­united­massimo­cellino

[2] http://www.thefa.com/football­rules­governance/more/financial­regulation

[3] Kennedy, Dominic. Roman Abramovich admits paying out billions on political favours, The Times, 5 July 2008

[4] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/football/article4206708.ece

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/jul/30/manchester­city­human­rights­accusations


[7] http://www.iffhs.de/en

[8] http://thearsenalhistory.com/?author=2

[9] http://tinyurl.com/oej2grk

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62 comments on “Arsenal Hold The High Ground – Wenger’s Legacy ?

  1. Foreverheady,

    I sit here, gibbering, and cut to the quick, for having my inadequate spelling pointed out as a result of my misspelt youff.


  2. Henry



  3. anicoll,

    I spoke to you last night, and so you will be aware that I realised belatedly that there was a ban on ‘smileys’ on PA, and so I apologised at 9:24 p.m., and have not used them since.

    How many more times do I have to do that to stop you shouting?


  4. First the Smileys

    Then the HTML codes H !

    I know fiddling when I see it


  5. Arsene on good form at the press conference this morning I thought


  6. anicoll,

    I have explained the smileys and my subsequent apology, and I regret that using them innocently has caused you such a fuss. What more can I say?

    I genuinely have no idea what you mean by ‘fiddling’.

    The ‘WP codes’ I used were to show how messages can be exchanged without all the superfluous personalised swearing that is so endemic on many blogsite.
    The ‘with and without’ versions, if you like – and I could not think of any better way of demonstrating that.

    Why I have been subjected to this ‘third degree’ inquisition for something which was well intentioned beats me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The road to hell H ……….


  8. Henry, its a joke. The reason we don’t use smileys is so that there is a doubt. Humour isn’t humour if you have to be told its funny.


  9. Hi PG,

    Over a period of time my humour has gratuitously upset one or two people who did not understand that it was meant to be amusing and nothing more.
    The written word is open to ambiguity, hence my use, almost as a conditional reflex, of the smileys on all the blogs I pop on to so as to avoid misunderstanding, until I get to know the other bloggers better and they me.

    I understand your wishes about the non-use of the emoticons, and, of course, I am quite prepared to comply when I visit PA, but having apologised last night I thought no more of it, and being jokingly threatened by one or two of the guys with a wrathful visitation from you seemed a gentle and amusing finger wag.

    The occasion for my visit yesterday was to thank the author Georgaki for a top drawer Post, and I do not regret that.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Henry, Its always good to see.


  11. Sadly lacking in smiley’s, emoticons and xyz’s, today’s post is up …

    Liked by 1 person

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