Permanent Revolution or Eternal Continuity?
By Tony Attwood
Some fans, it appears, like change. Lots of change. Lots and lots and lots of change.
As long as it is the right sort of change, bringing forth trophies and the like. Some like continuity, perhaps seeing the longer term picture. So it goes.
Some change of course is welcomed by few. Change in the model of Liverpool circa 2007, for example, where the promise of a new stadium and a championship winning team turned out not only to be false, but a way of using up vast amounts of money without actually reaching any end, is generally not wanted. But at the time of the promises it appeared good.
So it was interesting to consider the bid for Arsenal which would wipe out the stadium debt and put vast amounts of money into Mr Wenger’s hands. Generally speaking it was seen as
a) true – there was lots of money out there and the middle eastern states are throwing it around in the longest run-up the World Cup has ever seen.
b) not of the Liverpool variety but of the Manchester City variety.
There is actually nothing to say that the bid for Arsenal was real and true, apart from the word of the Daily Telegraph, the newspaper that (in a manner that it did not explain) got the exclusive.
I began to wonder about the truth of the story of the massive investor from the Far East when I read the bit in the story that said, to paraphrase, this is the only chance Arsenal have. No deal now, and you will never see this amount of money available again.
The implication was that Arsenal were on the slide, and this was the last chance saloon. This deal won’t pass this way again.
It seemed to me a little odd to speak in that way, in that in the modest number of negotiations I have been involved in that’s not quite how it is done – at least not publicly. Of course this may have been a different type of offer, but even so it struck me as odd. If, as the Telegraph suggested, a deal of this magnitude would not be there in the future, for in the future Arsenal under its present leadership would spiral downwards and thus be worth a lot less money, then why not wait a bit and pick up the club on the cheap.
In other words, why not let the club slip into mid-table obscurity (where it has after all spent much of its existence, apart from during the Wenger era) and then pick it up for a lower amount, and have more to spend on new players. After all surely a lot of managers would be willing to take on the club with such a heritage, and rescue it (with a war chest of billions) from its spiral into decay.
So in one sense the deal didn’t quite add up.
And then there was the speed at which the story vanished from the Telegraph’s web site and indeed from everywhere else. For such a major story it did indeed go away incredibly quickly, and now there is little left of the story. They came, they saw, they made their bid public, and then they buggered off at high speed.
In fact the life span of the story was rather like that of most transfer stories that we come across, and as we know, most of them are fantasy.
As for Arsenal, the revolution has come, and gone. Which leaves the question, was it ever real? And if it wasn’t real, what was the point?
Presumably the point was to destabilise the club a little, turn more fans against the current ownership, and all just before a fairly important game. In that regard it probably did quite a good job, for I have read precious little saying, “what happened to that story?”
But having done a good job, there is every chance that there will be other takeover stories of the same type around. After all we never quite knew who was proposing the bid, there was no back-up evidence… in fact everything was set in such a way that it made the Arsenal owner and directors appear in a poor light for not even entering into negotiations. If Arsenal quickly return to the sort of power it had in the first half of the Wenger reign, the story will be forgotten. If not the directors and manager will be blamed for letting the golden apple of the sun slip away.
But there is more, for the attempted coup also had the effect of contrasting the stability of Arsenal, with its long term manager and provision for the future in terms of the stadium, and Chelsea with its approach which has many of the hallmarks of constant revolution.
Now there is something to be said for the thesis that by and large the philosophy of Trotsky rules in some football clubs.
While the approach of endless, endless change has found no base at the Emirates, at Stamford Bridge it is blooming. For here the constant reform through the replacement of one manager and much of his back room team by another manager and cohorts has become a way of existence. Interestingly this is supported by many Chelsea fans who are calling for the current regime to end sooner rather than later. Hence the story of a takeover at Chelsea would have had little impact, because change at Chelsea is endless.
So at Chelsea Jose Mourinho could be hailed as the new and old hero. But Trotskyism had two aims and at Chelsea they end up as two paradoxes: to create an established organisation that thrives on constant revolution, and to represent the needs of the supporters (workers). But if you measure Chelsea’s managers under the present dictatorship by success in terms of games won, endless revolution has given the fans three of the least successful managers of the current era out of the last four.
But the problem with constant revolution is that it can be bring chaos, often when stability is needed, especially if the owner moves from one extreme (the hopelessly unpopular manager) to the other (an incredibly popular manager) – a hero of the masses. In that case, Zola for Chelsea fits the bill. Or maybe Gus Poyet (although connections with Tottenham would be difficult for the Bridge).
But there is another side to the coin. Yes, a manager makes a fortune if he turns up for a short term stint at Chelsea, especially if unlike the current incumbent the contract is not for such a short term. But I am starting to wonder if we might not soon enter the stage where the Chelsea contract is not wanted but some of the top names. Why go there, only to be kicked out in the next bout of revolutionary fervour?
At least at Arsenal, whoever eventually replaces Mr Wenger will know that they will be in a club that is utterly and totally stable. Where even what may have been a PR devise invented by a bunch of fans of the Permanent Revolution model, has been shrugged off without any effect. “Same old Arsenal” can be a sign of dislike, or a mark of respect.
On this basis Michael Laudrup would probably prefer Arsenal to Chelsea, as would David Moyes. As would Morinho who would love the absolute power and stability that Arsenal gives. That would leave Chelsea with Fabio Capello or Manuel Pellegrini at Málaga or John Terry. And don’t laugh too much at that last idea – Permanent Revolution means in part giving power to the workers, and in the Chelsea model this is exactly what has happened.
So it is indeed possible that the wheeze of the notional bid for Arsenal from unnamed people, which reached the Telegraph through unnamed sources, and which may well have been, well, just a wheeze, might actually do Arsenal a bit of good. It was shrugged off, there is no revolution. At Chelsea however, the revolution (and with it the turmoil) continues, Trotsky rules, the workers (on the pitch) close ranks and promote one of their own.
- Arsenal Day, and the vultures are circling.
- Respect; rather forgotten but still needed
- Where did we concede our goals? – part 2
- How did we concede the goals this season?
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches
- Royal Arsenal: from the Common to the Manor. Coming next.
The sites from the same team…
- Referee Decisions - just what are the refs up to this season?
- The Arsenal History Blog from the AISA Arsenal History Society
- Untold Dylan - the music, the lyrics, the meaning
- Looking for a terraced house in Northamptonshire?
- School sports minibuses: providing your child’s school with a bus
- The Massage Centre, serving Northants and Rutland
- Teacher News – UK schools from the teachers’ perspective
- UK Education News - rolling news service