Gazidis: We’re leaving the ‘era of patience’ behind.. Really?

Ivan Gazidis has been speaking openly on BBC 5Live about the ‘era of patience’ at Arsenal nearly being over. I think for our sanity we can assume he means the era of ‘impatience’. Ivan’s comments could be taken to be an extremely clever ploy to gain a little more patience from slightly disgruntled fans, but they also got me thinking about my Arsenal supporting life and when this ‘era of patience’ might have begun. How many ‘eras’ have there been over the past 24 years? When was the next ‘era’ going to begin? and would things change for the better or for worse during the next ‘era’?

I can only imagine the ‘era of patience’ begun as soon as Viera’s penalty against Utd in the 2005 FA Cup final went in, the last time we won a major trophy. Arsenal fans were fairly buoyant for the next few years however. The team contained some of the greatest players the Club has ever seen, even if we weren’t winning trophies. From a personal perspective I’ve only really lived through two eras. My first clear Arsenal memory was watching Adams smash it in at Highbury against Everton to win the League and then the double in 1998. I think it’s fair to say I had a privileged upbringing in footballing terms. From that moment on I didn’t see us drop points once for about 4 years, going to about 10 games a year. I admit I didn’t fully appreciate the joyous wonderment that was going on in front of me. I thought it would last for ever. The only genuinely upsetting memory from that time was a ridiculous goal from Batistuta for Fiorentina in ’99 at Wembley that sent us out of the Champions League (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf-od48IfkI).

Trips to Cardiff in May became commonplace, and three times out of three we returned as FA Cup winners (I missed the Liverpool game). The final against Chelsea holds particularly special memories of the Ljungberg song and my very own red mohican. In my head Cardiff was like a heavenly paradise, only to return a few years ago and nearly get killed outside Ninian Park by the Soul Crew. I suppose the return to Cardiff, followed by a horrible Carling Cup final defeat to Chelsea at the hands of Drogba, would have been well into the second ‘era’ of Arsenal fandom, the ‘era of impatience’.

The ‘era of impatience’ has brought many great memories and many famous victories, but we still have this ‘no trophies’ tagline hanging over us, weighing us down. What will be the catalyst for the transformation to the next era? Is it simply that we need to win a trophy and we’ll be content for the next few years? Surely we need to be staying in the title race until May and not February/March.

Gazidis seems to base much of his hopefulness on the financial state of Arsenal in comparison with competitors. We all know of the financial strains of moving stadium and keeping up in a heavily unbalanced marketplace dominated by a few rich owners. The recent financial figures show a healthy pre-tax profit of around £50million so we are in a good position, but are we ever really going to be able to compete against the likes of City and Chelsea? Yes Gazidis refers to a future in which Financial Fair Play will create more opportunities for well run Clubs, but is he being realistic? Football has been dominated by those with the most money for years, is FFP really going to rescue a sport which is fast becoming run by a few individuals, most of whom have no idea what they’re doing? We’ve seen Clubs in the lower leagues going into administration all over the place recently, and this is as much to do with the irresponsible spending of millions at the top of the game as the poor management of Clubs themselves.

Gazidis reckons there is a ‘developing concensus’ in the Premier League that there is a need for FFP. UEFA have already introduced guidelines so we are making a move in the right direction. Clearly such a move will benefit Clubs that are run within their means like Arsenal, but will a noticeable difference take years or decades?

‘This is a great time for us, when things are going well, to address the issues of unsustainability while we can because as we’ve learned, addressing them from a position of weakness is never a satisfactory way to do it’.

‘The Premier League owners are coming together: I think there is a developing concensus around the fact we need some sort of tighter financial regulations to make sure as we look forward that the interest of the Premier League, it’s Clubs and it’s fans are well protected’.

‘I think the time when we need to ask them (the fans) for patience is coming to an end and I think we will be able to deliver the kind of success they want on a continued basis going forward as one of the leading Clubs in Europe’.

Well Ivan certainly says the right things. You might well question why, if things are changing and we have loads of money at our disposal, we were forced to sell our captain and best player in the summer to a rival. I know I sound sceptical but I also know I speak for a lot of fans when I say that football isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. There’s no way that UEFA can stop finances dictating who wins and who loses. There is every possibility that we could be seeing QPR winning the league in 5 years if things continue as they are, but possibly only if they get rid of Mark Hughes… Has football, as it was, been tarnished for ever?

Gazidis himself is an interesting character. He’s been slated recently as knowledge of his own salary became public. A 24% pay rise this year means he earns a cool £2million per year. To be honest I don’t really have too many complaints about what the man earns, he seems to do his job reasonably well. If anything he seems to be a bit of a ‘yes man’ for Arsene but aren’t they all. Apart from Ivan the average of the board is currently well into the 70s. Interestingly Gazidis grew up in Manchester and was a City fan!

The distribution of money in football has become less even than ever before, not helped of course by the current economic climate, but was this destined to be a lull in arsenal’s success story followed by a rosy future as Gazidis suggests? Or is this actually just the beginning of the end for any football club attempting to balance the books and win trophies at the same time? Let’s hope UEFA are man enough to stand up to the oligarchs.

Nick

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