Strangely one of my best annual experiences as an Arsenal fan was following the AGM and I consider being able to as one of the greatest benefits of social media. That I could live many miles away and not only be connected to the club via the football games I watch for entertainment but an AGM with fans like me asking questions (usually not answered) on behalf of other fans around the world. Sadly, that was taken away after Silent Stan took over full ownership of the club. The club is under no obligation to hold such events anymore and as such deprived people like us, a chance to see the club’s leadership at least for once a year pretend they are answerable to fans.
So, I was glad when I read the current folks in charge (Vinai, Raul and Edu) were going to meet fans and take questions. I felt it was the proper thing to do especially in light of the #WecareDoYou movement that forced a response from Josh Kroenke (slightly doubting his paternity as he really used a lot of words for someone with a father who hardly makes sentences). Forgive me, I digress. But, the point I was making was Josh had spoken but he really was more a KSE voice, Raul and Vinai are more day-to-day. They are around us at London, Colney and it thier words, in my opinion, would carry more weight, reaching to the heart of issues that really affect the fanbase.
So, I followed the conversation primarily via the Twitter handles of @1Whalid1 and @DarrenArsenal1. My general take-home from the session was that the hierarchy seems to have clarity around what they intend to achieve at Arsenal as a complete football entity. They never cease to use any opportunity they have to speak about how much the integrated approach of club hierarchy, football coaching, The Academy etc are all intertwined to sell Arsenal as a complete footballing entity. So while most of us keep focusing on the first team, their strategy is a lot more than that and if we are honest it should be, but we all know everything feeds from the first team’s success and it doesn’t seem to me that everything is being done to ensure that happens.
Raul disagrees though and he has all the information so I’ll bow to his superior argument but I struggle to see how a club that failed to meet expectations last season due to defensive frailties have gone so far into the transfer window without addressing it. Raul, expertly evaded stating defensive issues in his response to a fan
We scored more goals, we gained more points, others would kill to have what AFC has – Raul
Yes, we did all he stated but he failed to point out that we equalled our worst defensive performance in almost a decade and this was the primary reason we failed to meet objectives last season. The repercussions which we still suffer given our inability to use champions league money as a bargaining chip whilst making deals.
On Unai, I think Raul did a great job defending him and I applaud him for that given Raul is the man in charge of getting Unai the tools to work. A role Raul will seed to Edu who is tasked with scouting and identification of players going forward. Raul also absolved Edu from any responsibility in this window and by doing so he has placed on himself the overall responsibility for failure or success this season. Unai Emery’s objective is clear, I hope Raul’s is just as clear and he is willing to fall on his sword if it is not met. Raul speaks a lot about consequences for actions, I hope he holds himself to the same standard because the primary failure the Kroenke’s have had since they took over was making people accountable for decisions they make. The hands-off approach does not mean performance management should not be carried out. Actually, it should be the reverse, a hands-off approach implies you trust the judgement of the person you hand the reins to and have left them to do their job which also implies they succeed or fail on their own abilities. Appraise them as such.
Vinai had his say and he seems brutally honest for someone who works in marketing. His job is to sell a product and why I agree Arsenal cannot win the league this season, I do not think I would like to hear it from my CEO.
I don’t believe we will win the Premier League this season” – Vinai
I, however, would rather have Vinai’s truth than Gazidis promising us to be like Bayern Munich in a few years which turned out to be a false as many new year prophecies in Nigerian churches.
Below is a word for word extract from Tweets by @1whalid1 and @DarrenArsenal1 from the Q & A session. Read it and feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below or on twitter @canoncrested.
Raul on new signings,
I wanted to help Edu integrate into the setup. It’s great that the youngsters did well on Arsenal’s US Tour but we need to protect them. We are very pleased with our football operations. We are very pleased with the two announcements today. They are different in expectations.
Saliba: I am very pleased with the announcement today, many clubs were after Saliba, a lot of top clubs. The level of intensity of the premier league is too strong as he is too young to come in now.
Ceballos: When I was at Barca I tried to sign him. He will contribute a lot this season with his talent and quality. Ceballos will contribute a lot with his talent this season. He is a very exciting player. He is on loan but his commitment is unquestionable.
We’ve been working for the last 12-14 months on the football model for the 21st century. The major change is from the manager to head coach. The coach should not be involved with the budgets. The big clubs have huge entities who control this. We have a contract negotiator, director of football operations to look at those aspects. Edu has proven knowledge of football and the club. His career is full of success. He has the knowledge and we took our time but it was important to get his appointment right.
When we spoke to Edu about the possibility of joining us he didn’t think twice despite already having a very prestigious role in football. He needs to work with the first team and plan ahead both in the medium term and long term. Edu will coordinate the scouting both in England and Internationally. When I mentioned to Unai about the possibility of Edu joining he said he would be more than happy to work with him.
Vinai on where the club currently is:
We are not where we want to be, even if we had finished third and won the Europa I would be saying the same. We flew back last night from the tour. The commercial highlight was launching our partnership with Adidas which has so far been our most successful kit.
I feel at home, it’s fantastic. we have been talking since December to take this job. I missed being here. I missed that time, I missed my friends. I am so glad to be back here. I am so proud and look forward to doing the best I can.
Questions from fans
Question for Edu: What do you think of the squad?
Answer (Edu): It is Important to keep the players we have and we work very hard on new players. The most important thing is we believe to try to keep the squad. I am very excited to see Unai work with a similar squad with added signings. It makes sense for players to take time to understand how the manager wants them to play.
We have people around with good information between Raul me and Unai. The most important thing I have to do is build a better squad. I have to make sure we keep Arsenal at the level we want to be. We have to look after what we have today. Signings are the future which is sometime too far.
Question: We have major centre-back problems last season, will we see any new ones?
Answer (Raul): We have been having conversations, we look at the market. We will do our best, I want to make a point, Edu does not have a responsibility in this window, his real job starts in September’
If I was to say a name now I would not be doing my job. We work on a plan and strategy from four months ago. We see what we have and the players we have from the academy. The transfer window changes every day. I’ve been doing this for 16 years. There are hard windows and easy ones. This is a hard window. There is a lot of inflation. I don’t know how it is going to finish. I cannot promise you anything here except a consistent job and consistent work.
Question: What an appalling mess we are in at the moment, why are board members not here, we came to this stadium to be best in the world, we are now competing with wolves, we want a feel-good factor back. Need to give Unai time, he inherited a mess. Where’s the money, Where’s the board”, Where’s the money gone.
Answer (Vinai): These numbers (£40m) ever come from us, I don’t recognize that number. It is true the funds are limited because of 3yrs in Europa league and this is a particularly tough window. There’s a lot of misinformation. Players we’ve been linked for months who we haven’t even spoken to. 85% of the articles there are not true.
Question: What is stopping us from signing one of the best left-backs in Britain for just £25m.
Answer (Raul): I said already I cannot talk about players. I won’t get into that – presumably due to effects on negotiations.
Question for Edu: The way the club has been run has been so short term in last 10yrs, poor management on wage bill. The club is crying out for shrewd thinkers on the board. Edu you are obviously very close to Unai, will you be able as a technical-directors to take tough decisions if needs be?
Raul Answers: Sometimes success and passion you get blurred objectivity, I don’t agree we are a mess, if you are going to keep saying we are terrible then you’ll never believe we will be better. I’m very excited of this club, this stadium is fantastic. If we don’t support the players. Please, please let’s have a little bit of patience. If you kill it now, you always have a new project. We scored more goals, we gained more points, others would kill to have what AFC has.
Vinai follows: I get the frustration, there’s been a huge amount of change to try and get the club where it needs to be, but we also want a positive environment.
Question from Fans: What is the ultimate objective?
Vinai: I don’t believe we will win the Premier League this season”
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