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Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

What is wrong with Arsenal?

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To the fans of many lesser clubs this would seem to be the wrong question.   They would happily settle for a superb stadium, an outstanding coach, 4th place in the Premiership and the knockout stage of the Champions League.   Indeed, Arsene Wenger admitted last week that Champions League qualification was more important than winning trophies.


However, the expectations of Arsenal fans are understandably higher and those expectations have been disappointed once too often.   The move to the Emirates was supposed to deliver the income to enable the club to compete at the highest level.


The problem is that the goalposts have shifted with Chelsea  and Manchester City operating as benefactor clubs while Manchester United have substantially increased their earnings from commercial deals.   Some of this is beyond Arsenal's control, although a lot depends on how successful they are in securing new commercial deals in 2014.


Chief executive Ivan Gazidis argues 'What alternative strategy is it  to try to outspend clubs whose wealth seems to be unlimited?'   However, given that they are paying top whack for their tickets, fans would like to see the club spend some of its £153m cash mountain on players.


The club has been able to afford a £2.15m package for Gazidis.   Fans question the basis for his £675,000 bonus when the club's commercial income lags behind that of its rivals.   When Peter Hill-Wood stated at the annual meeting that Gazidis had received the bonus for an 'extremely good year', he only succeeded in making fans angry.


Gazidis seems quite skilled at buck passing, skirting around questions at the annual meeting by arguing that manager Arsene Wenger makes the decisions on how to spend funds on players. Wenger tactfully said later that his job was to deliver a team with the resources he has available which is a line that could just as well come from a cash strapped non-league manager.


Wenger is able to use his charm and delphic utterances, such as where the club would be after he stepped down, to deflect criticism of the board, but even his personal capital is eroding.   Fans are losing their patience, but what happens is largely beyond their control.