Arsene Wenger's "socialist model" is causing Arsenal's decline

Limiting excellence by pegging it to mediocrity can start a rot that causes even the greatest of institutions to decline

by Dane Vallejo on 7 January 2013 12:18

Given its emotionally-consuming nature, it is easy for football to permeate a fan's perception of every aspect of life. From politics to war, through to our own intimate relationships, analogies are drawn and advice dished out on the basis of one's understanding of the beautiful game and vice versa.

"Life is like a box of chocolates" becomes "life is like a game of football" – and that goes for many of us, not just the knuckle-dragging lager drinkers with Three Lions tattooed on their calves.

Except of course life is not like a game of football, making our insistence to the contrary all the more annoying for those with no interest in the game. (I have met a number of people who fit this description over my lifetime and have gradually learned to trust them. They’re not bad people once you get to know them.)

Author and Arsenal fan Nick Hornby made his awareness of this annoying habit of viewing life through football-tinted glasses explicit in his seminal observation of obsession, Fever Pitch:

"I tend to over-estimate the metaphorical value of football, and therefore introduce it into conversations where it simply does not belong. I now accept that football has no relevance to the Falklands conflict, the Rushdie affair, the Gulf War, childbirth, the ozone layer, the poll tax etc., etc., and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who has had to listen to my pathetically strained analogies."

But sometimes the comparisons really are worthwhile. And sometimes they are unavoidable.

Take Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's recent public defence of the pay structure employed at the North London club.

"We pay well. We pay very well,” said Wenger ahead of Sunday’s thrilling FA Cup third-round tie away to Swansea City. “I’ve spent all my life making sure people who work for us are paid well and I believe if you can do it, you do it.”

Wenger said that his philosophy was “to pay something that makes sense and is defendable in front of every single player”, adding: “We make exceptions sometimes but they are not maybe so high. If you want to keep making profit you have to respect that.”

So far, so sensible. Indeed, it is something of a perversion and a disturbing sign of our times that Wenger is derided so readily for his frugality while the likes of Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour write out cheques that would make your nose bleed in order to keep their financially-doped toys in West London and Manchester on life support. Is it really Wenger that is ‘out of touch’ for spending within the means of his club? The anti-austerity movement could do worse than recruiting from Britain’s terraces it seems.

But while Wenger may indeed balance the books at Arsenal, that is not to say that he spends what he has wisely.

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