The Struggle for the Soul of the Club

By on September 3, 2008

Wenger watches what little integrity the game still had slowly disappear.

What has happened to our beloved game?  It seems that we are entering the final stage of the game’s development into pure business; the beginning of the end, you might say.  Now, we could say the real beginning was when Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 but at the time it was an anomaly.  It has now become, if not the norm quite yet, then certainly the future.  Foreign billionaires are slowly but surely taking over the Premier League from Chelsea to both clubs in Manchester, Liverpool, and Aston Villa.  Even our own beloved club’s principal shareholder is a foreign billionaire (do I need to name him?) and our newest board member is an American tycoon.  However, I think a bit too much is made of nationality rather than finances.  For example, Randy Lerner has shown himself to be among the more responsible of the new foreign billionaire owners “despite being American.”

The thing that worries one most especially following the reported activity of City on deadline day is the long-term effect it will have on the transfer market.  The damage done by Chelsea alone in this area over the last 4 years has been incalculable and it has completely refigured (or disfigured) football economics.  To now have another team with owners whose net worth is ten times that of Abramovich and who are willing to use it is no small matter.  How will it affect City seeing that their owners seem to know nothing about English football?  Well, their owners were quoted as saying they would like to bring in Saudi players.   I’m sure Robinho is excited to play with all those world-class Saudis.  They’ve also said that they plan to lodge bids for Rio Ferdinand, Cesc Fabregas, and a few others in January.  Why not just make an offer to Vatican FC for Jesus himself?  Delusional rich men, as a rule, are not the kind of people you want owning your club.

This deadline day has been highly disturbing, and not just for me as an Arsenal supporter but, for me as a lover of football.  It has also been highly prophetic.  Behavior has hit new lows as United hold talks with Berbatov despite his club having accepted an offer from City, the Robinho saga in which a greedy player demands a move to the club that can pay him the most – that is, until another team becomes richer in which case he wanted to go to that club.  City may have gained Robinho but they lost their soul.  A trade that hardly seems worth it.  The whole scene is so distasteful and I am glad we, as a club,  are not a part of it.  This is not a process that will all of a sudden stop or reverse itself.  The die has been cast.

I am proud of the club and Arsene for sticking by his principles in an age when they can be bought and sold more easily than bootleg DVDs in Chinatown.  We have always prided ourselves on our history, our tradition, the “Arsenal Way.”  What Arsene is doing is trying to keep intact the values that have gotten us to where we are over not only the last 12 but the last 122 years.  The man is doing nothing less than saving the club’s soul by keeping his and the club’s integrity and honour.  And the greatest thing that Arsenal and Arsene can do to strike a blow right in the beast’s heart would be to show that you can win trophies without these foreign capitalist mercenaries.  It is no less than a struggle for the soul of our club and what remains of the soul of the game and we can all be proud that Arsenal are in the trenches on the front lines.

*Be sure to check out *GoonerTalk’s piece entitled “Wenger: The Antithesis of Evil…”.