Monthly Archives: December 2011

Six years and waiting –The Arsenal’s Fan Dilemma (Kenyan perspective)

A relative period without silverware has got Arsenal fans wondering whether its profits first, trophies later for the club as discussed by a gooner.

By Arnold Njue

Football is a funny old game. People say that all the talking should be done on the pitch. Well think again. I have been an Arsenal fan hitherto the Wenger era up until now. I have scratched my head to come up with observations as to why this team is failing


In 1983, a certain David Dein bought 16.6% holding of Arsenal Football Club and was made the Vice Chairman as a result.  The then Chairman Peter Hill Wood called him crazy for his investment in the club. David Dein first met Arsene Wenger in 1988 in London. Slowly but surely, they cultivated a close friendship that lasts to date. Dein built up his shareholding and owned up to 42% of AFC in 1991. Later in 1996 David Dein used his influence to appoint little known Frenchman and good friend Arsene Wenger as manager of the club, after similar attempts failed in 1995.

During his tenure at Arsenal, Dein was in charge of all major football matters. He took a role in the transfer of players and contract negotiations where he was able to use his extensive networks and contacts to get players and convince them to join Arsenal.

In April 2007, David Dein left the Arsenal board, acrimoniously after falling out with the rest of the board over a possible takeover of Arsenal by an external benefactor seeking to invest in the club. Lady Nina Bracewell, joined with the other board members, her husband’s cousins, as well as the Danny Fiszman and the chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, in resisting a take-over by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, which was believed to have the support of Dein.

Later during that year, David Dein sold what was left of his shares to Red Holdings, an investment company owned by the Russian Usmanov and Fahard Moshiri.

Dein’s exit was met with dismay by ex-players and the dressing room, with Thierry Henry leaving soon after and Arsene only staying after Dein convinced him against leaving the club.  Slowly began a downward spiral that infiltrated the team and a couple of seasons without silverware would now turn to a full scale trophy drought.

David  Dein was the only board member who was a football man; the one administrator at the club who would demand results on the pitch to match the results off it. He truly cared about the club and was the one person who kept Arsene Wenger in check. He would frequently visit the dressing room to encourage the players  before and after games .The players loved him and he was like a father figure to them. The fact that his son Darren was Thierry Henry’s best man at his wedding says it all about his relationship with the players.

Batman and Robin: Dein and Wenger had been instrumental in the success of Arsenal.

I cannot overstate how Dein’s departure left Arsene Wenger with a carte blanche to do as he pleases with the team as long as the revenue stream is healthy. In one unplanned for move, Arsene became the untouchable one. The rest of the board members were not football fans but business minded people whose main interest in the club was to make money for their investment. So long as the club was making money, Arsene Knew he had no one to answer to. Qualification for the UEFA Champions League (which Wenger would guarantee) would ensure sufficient annual returns for the club and became the de facto measure for success. That he would ensure such benchmarks without spending much on player recruitment made him indispensible to the board. With all he has done for the club and achieved at Arsenal, it goes without saying that Wenger became bigger and is still bigger than the club.

After deciding they will not sell shares of the club to any “non member” in April 2009, the Arsenal board would reverse this decision in April 2011 when American Stan Kroenke bought out several major shareholders of the club. Kroenke acquired the shares of Lady Nina Bracewell (15.9%), as well as Danny Fiszmann (16.11%) and other directors of the  board. This after they had denied Alisher Usmanov the chance to buy the shares as he was not “one of them” despite him bidding for the shares for a higher price much earlier than Kroenke.

The current shareholding of our beloved club is thus as follows:

Stan Kroenke- 66.96% – Appointed Non executive Director after some initial resistance.


Red Holdings PLC (Alisher Usmanov & Farhad Moshiri)-29.9%.

The shares they have were sold to them by their close associate David Dein.

The remaining 3.14% is held byformer players and three shares by the Arsenal Supporters trust.

This is how the Board operates to vest their interests after frustrating David Dein.

The Board have a different agenda to the fans and the best players at the club.The players can move on, but we the fans have no choice, so we suffer at the of whims of arrogant directors and manager, all answerable to no one .

Now that we have a background on the board room politics, indulge me further in the  second and final part of this series as we look at what’s wrong with the Le Arsenal; Le professor!

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As a football fan, there are some matches you want forget about as soon as the final whistle goes; a scrappy win or a defeat of any sort the most obvious source of such desired amnesia. At the other extreme end are matches that will forever be etched in your memory due to the incredible turn of events that ensued. One such game was a visit to Tottenham by Man United early in the 2001-2002 season.

The date was 29th September 2001, the venue White Hart Lane, North London. Manchester United came into the match on the back of a poor away record that season, having registered no points on the board on their travels. Journeys to this part of London brought no joy for United having lost in each of their three previous visits to Spurs by the same 3-1 scoreline. As soon as the game got underway, a repeat of that scoreline seemed highly likely as Spurs sprinted off the blocks to establish a healthy lead over United.

Dean Richards opened the scoring after escaping the attentions of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, heading in a corner from the left boot of Christian Ziege at the near post. Soon Spurs were two up, a flowing move saw Les Ferdinand through one on one after a neat through ball by Uruguayan Gus Poyet. Ferdinand composed himself before firing in a crisp low shot past United keeper Fabien Barthez.

United were forced into a tactical change before halftime after Nicky Butt went off injured following a challenge by Mauricio Taricco. In came Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who played upfront with Van Nistelrooy and Andy Cole, with Beckham, Scholes and Veron completing the midfield three.

Just before the interval, Tottenham took advantage of the change in system by United, Christian Ziege scoring past the hapless Barthez to send the home fans into a frenzy. Steffen Freund fed Poyet down the right and his deep cross was met by the unmarked Ziege at the far post with a diving header.

Going into the break, United seemed dead and buried. Surely, there was no way out this hole. What Sir Alex said to his players only they will know but whatever he said transformed United. Less than a minute into the second half the fightback began as Beckham slipped the ball outside to an onrushing Neville and the right-back’s cross was headed in by Cole. Given United’s history of comebacks, the home fans must have feared for the worst when that first goal went in. Their worst fears would soon be confirmed.

Just before the hour mark Laurent Blanc rose to nod in a corner from Beckham and the sense of expectation from the away end was palpable. In the previous away match, United came from 3-1 at Newcastle to draw level at 3-3 before Newcastle scored the fourth and winning goal. There was no stopping the red juggernaut this time though and with 18 minutes to go, Silvestre’s centre found the obliging head of Ruud van Nistelrooy, completing a hatrick of headed goals by United and drawing level with Spurs.

There was going to be only one winner from that point, and four minutes later Paul Scholes and Solskjaer combined to send in man-of-the-match Veron for a low left footed finish and with three left Solskjaer dragged the ball across for Beckham to drive in the fifth.

United players celebrate Juan Veron's goal

The comeback kings had done it again. It would seem ridiculous to back a team for a comeback from three goals down but this was no ordinary team. The failure to accept anything but a win spurred United from the jaws of defeat to complete one of the greatest comebacks in premier league history. Years down the line, Sir Alex nominated this match as one of his all time favourites at the club and rightly so. United went on finish the season in third place in one of the few seasons to forget in the Fergie era. For those who witnessed this spectacle though, the memories won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Tottenham – Sullivan, Taricco, King, Perry, Richards, Ziege, Freund, Anderton (Rebrov 83), Poyet, Ferdinand, Sheringham – GOALS Richards 15, Ferdinand 25, Ziege 45.

Manchester United – Barthez, G. Neville, Blanc, Johnsen, Irwin (Silvestre 45), Beckham, Butt (Solskjaer 40), Scholes, Veron, Cole, van Nistelrooy – GOALS Cole 46, Blanc 58, van Nistelrooy 72, Veron 76, Beckham 87.




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