20 January 2016

Wenger's vision vindicated! Villains and vilifiers vanquished!

It's been a long, sometimes bitter decade (almost) since Arsenal left Highbury and moved to the Emirates, and it's been a bit longer since Arsenal enjoyed the kind of success that has so spoiled so many Gooners who had come of age (or come to know the club) during those amazing Invincible-era days. The Emirates had become an absolute albatross, it seemed, dragging us downward and forcing us to sell off our best and brightest to finance that infamous stadium debt. Meanwhile, other clubs shot past us, financed by sugar-daddies and oil-barons. No more. that albatross has taken flight, and Arsène Wenger, so often mocked and derided, is on the verge of seeing his long-term plan come to fruition. According to Deloitte, Arsenal's match-day revenue is now the highest in the world!

The building of the 61,000-seat Emirates Stadium saw us earn £101.84 million from home games in 2014-15, more than Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man U, or Chelsea—more than anyone. Even as we factor in our ticket-prices, that's an achievement that signifies progress on the financial front, which will translate (and has already) into greater competitivness on the pitch itself. Witness the signings of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez in recent summers (and ponder what their departures imply about the financial situations of the clubs they departed while you're at it). 

One quick rejoinder to this match-day revenue supremacy is that we lag behind our rivals in other key measures like broadcasting and commercial revenues—two metrics where we don't even crack the top five. Overall, we're seventh in Deloitte's "Money League," which dampen spirits just a bit until we look closer at the numbers. Compared to last season, our revenues our up 76.2%—besting Real Madrid's 76% growth. In other words, we're the fasting-growing club in the world, a factor that will surely drive better commercial revenues (such as the deal with Puma) and better broadcasting revenues. This all comes on the heels of winning two FA Cups and again finishing where we always seem to finish in the Prem. What impact would it have to win a third consecutive FA Cup...or to win the Prem? 

Setting aside Real Madrid and Barcelona, who face no imminent danger of declining revenues, what will happen to the revenue-streams of Chelsea and Man U as their fortunes stagnate? What will happen to all of those plastic bandwagoners and their money as their flavor-of-the-month clubs struggle to replicate the feats of seasons past? Chelsea currently sit just four points from relegation with 16 matches to play, and Man U are another negative result or two from sacking their manager. Again. How long will it take for their broadcasting revenue to falter as viewership for their boring, boring matches and tepid results crumbles? Meanwhile, those grumbling about Arsenal's ticket prices can look forward to a price-freeze for the next season, which may indicate stronger revenues from broadcasting and commercial revenues. I'd wager we'll see reports at the end of the year proving this out.

All of this and more comes down to a vindication of Wenger's vision for the club dating back to his earliest days as manager. It should come as no surprise that his most-glorious period at the helm came in the eight years between his appointment and the beginning of construction of the Emirates, and his most-mediocrce one came during the financing of the Emirates Stadium debt. Now that we've turned a corner on that debt, we're starting to reap the benefits. Yes, we've had to endure season after season of frustration—the proverbial sausages after caviar—but it's starting to look more and more like caviar's back on the menu. Even if we don't win the Prem in 2016, the momentum is building both on the pitch and off it. 

There's a long-term vision playing out, unfolding, rising, as we emerge from and possibly transcend the financial burden that Arsène yoked us to. We may not have appreciated the toil and trouble of the last nine or ten years, but it shall bear fruit sooner rather than later.

Right. As if on cue, we have a oiligarch's club down on its luck paying us a visit. What better way than a win to highlight the contrast in fortunes (both figurative and literal) between us and them?