The eagerness of Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis to tie down manager Arsene Wenger to a new contract, despite the Frenchman still having two years on his current deal, demonstrates the extent to which he is still revered within the club.
Arsenal should be wary about calling time on the reign of manager Arsene Wenger any time soon.
"It's not a sense of sentimentalism, not a reward for services, it's a belief that we have an incredible manager who loves this club and is the best man to lead us forward," Gazidis told the Daily Telegraph.
Wenger was appointed at Arsenal in 1996 and led the club to an astonishing period of success, winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. Yet, with no trophy won since 2005, Wenger's popularity with the Gunners hierarchy is not shared with a seemingly growing section of the Arsenal support. The chief critique of his recent seasons at the helm has been an apparent reluctance to compete financially on a level playing field with their rivals, which has led to several of the side's biggest names departing the Emirates.
There are plenty of reasons to suggest, though, that those disgruntled Arsenal fans -- who surely still represent a minority of the club's support -- enticed by the prospect of a new face in the Emirates home dugout should be careful what they wish for.
The constant haranguing of Wenger by sections of the British media over Arsenal's failure to win a trophy in now seven years is hugely misleading. In that time both Portsmouth and Birmingham City have won trophies, and no Arsenal fan in their right mind would trade their last seven years for that of either of those clubs, who now reside in the third and second tier of English soccer, respectively.
For Arsenal, winning trophies means the Premier League and Champions League. Since 2005 only Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City have won those prizes from England.
United have prospered from a legacy built up over decades that now sees them as the most valuable sports franchise in the world. As for Chelsea and City, they have profited by living far beyond their means courtesy of enormous investment by tycoon owners.
That Arsenal have remained a constant in the prestigious Premier League top four and qualifying for the Champions League is a credit to Wenger -- both his coaching and the ability to spot talent.
At the same time the frustration of many Arsenal fans is certainly understandable.
Each time the Gunners look like building a side capable of challenging for major honors, one or two of the club's top players is sold to a rival. There was no better example than this summer, when after the squad was boosted with the signings of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, Robin van Persie and Alex Song departed to Manchester United and Barcelona, respectively.
While once there was a feeling that Wenger allowed players such as Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars and even Thierry Henry to leave only after he had procured the best from them, players developed at Arsenal are now often spending the best years of their career elsewhere.
That is a worrying trend for sure, but it is due not so much to Wenger's prudence, but the financial madness that has ascended elsewhere. The likes of Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and therefore likely Van Persie would not have left were there not clubs willing to spend absurd money on wages elsewhere.
Arsenal's pragmatism both in the transfer market and on wages has long been put straight at the door of the manager. But, while Wenger seems willing to accept the club's approach -- his economics degree doubtless plays a part in this -- there can be little doubt that the financial direction at Arsenal is orchestrated by those higher up.
Just last week Arsenal's chairman Peter Hill-Wood hinted at their inability to compete with Chelsea and Manchester City in a purely financial sense.
"Arsene has money to spend, but there's a limit," he said, according to the Guardian. "We can't spend £50m on one player. At a certain level, we can't compete. I don't think [majority shareholder] Stan Kroenke is going to put the sort of dollars in that [Roman] Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour are putting into Chelsea or Manchester City. That's not the way he thinks clubs should be run."
Clubs are often derided for their recklessness when they encounter financial trouble, so it is odd that Arsenal face equal criticism for living within their means and achieving far more on the pitch than their expenditure off it suggests they should.
With UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations slowly coming into effect, that could be soon to change. There has been doubt about whether the scheme to limit clubs to spending within their means would ever have any real impact, but UEFA have recently being hammering home the message that this is a serious ruling. As an illustration, several European clubs have been punished in the past week for having outstanding debts.
If clubs are cajoled into spending based on their turnover, then Arsenal fans could soon be beaming. On top of their already healthy earnings from the Emirates stadium, Gazidis suggested that Arsenal's income could get a significant boost when the club renegotiates commercial contracts in two years' time.
"In terms of the financial impact, it will be as significant a step forward as the stadium was in 2005," Gazidis said, according to the Telegraph. "It does kick us into the top five clubs in the world with separation from the rest. The overall journey that the club embarked on was to make it one of the leading clubs in the world and to do it in a way that would be sustainable."
While the future looks bright, there is also reason to be optimistic for the season ahead. Arsenal have not conceded a goal in their first three games on the back of a defense that looks as resolute as it has done in years. Supporting that is Abou Diaby in the midfield, who, if kept fit, should make Arsenal fans question why they ever lamented the departure of Song. In Cazorla they have a skillful creator capable of supplying plenty of goals if Giroud can begin to find the target on a regular basis.
With a manager who cares about the club to the extent that he won't sign a new deal until he feels he is still up the job, Arsenal fans should be assured that their club remains in good hands.
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