The One-Man Crusade Against Arsenal

Yup, you guessed it… Michel Platini, better known as the Antichrist, is once again in the media criticizing Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. It is truly amazing how Platini has turned into a one-man crusade against Arsenal and his fellow countryman. We here at Arsenal Station have not long forgotten his psychologically-disturbed rant last season during which he exhibited the full extent of his obsession and disgust with Arsene Wenger. We hope you have not forgot as well.

Frustrated that UEFA’s new rules regarding club solvency won’t adversely affect Arsenal, but, quite the opposite, will actually help the club, Platini has taken advantage of last month’s furor over “child trafficking” in football by now seeking to keep Arsenal, and other clubs, from buying youth players from outside their own country.

You have talent in England – it’s up to you not to buy always the best 13-14 young players in Europe. I am not in favour of the Arsenal system. The more English youth players you have in your team, the better it is for your football and popularity of your game.

Perhaps, in the future with Fifa rules on the transfer of minors, you have to work with English youth. Why can’t the English play for Arsenal? They have to come to France to play. It’s about identity.

Arsene WengerMake no mistake about it. With Platini, it is about his personal vendetta against Arsenal and Arsene, not identity. And it is certainly not about his so-called “passion for English clubs.” So much so, that he has the urge to redirect any conversation into a criticism of Arsenal.

The above interview with the Telegraph had to do with the new financial rules, but once Platini realized that his criticisms did not apply to Arsenal, he then turned the subject to youth player recruitment so as to be able to “indict” Arsenal for something.

The most disturbing part of this whole farcical situation is Platini’s almost laughable ignorance of almost everything he talks about. This is a man who, when asked whether or not he should talk to Richard Scudamore, said, “No. Why should I?” Hello? Perhaps because he’s the chairman of the Premier League. He believes the entire game depends on his “better philosophy,” but I have news for Mr. Platini… You are no philosopher, sir.

Behold the ignorance of the man:

The more English youth players you have in your team, the better it is for your football and popularity of your game.

That statement is ass-backwards. The Premier League’s quality and popularity has increased astronomically since increasing the number of foreigners in the last 10 years. It may have gone too far but the English players, and their agents, are responsible for pricing themselves out of the reach of most clubs. Platini wants English clubs to sign overpriced English players and also wants them to stay out of debt, but, with the ridiculously inflated valuations of mediocre average players (yes, you, Joleon), you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

More ignorance:

Perhaps, in the future with Fifa rules on the transfer of minors, you have to work with English youth. Why can’t the English play for Arsenal? They have to come to France to play. It’s about identity. Manchester United have to develop players of that region.

Platini obviously has no idea what is going on at Arsenal otherwise he’d know that Arsenal are producing the best crop of English youth players in the country. His ignorance is staggering considering the position he holds in European football.

Even more ignorance:

It’s getting worse for England. We have to protect national teams so that at least England play with 11 English players because there could soon be places for those with residential qualifications.

Apparently, he has no problem with Brazilians playing for half of the world’s national teams. Even more hypocritical, he has not problem with Barcelona raiding South American clubs for players even younger than any Arsenal have ever signed from abroad. Lionel Messi was plucked from Newell’s Old Boys and transplanted halfway across the world when he was 13, for fuck’s sake!

In relation to the Spanish clubs, whom Platini is REALLY trying to protect, Arsenal are already at a disadvantage because of domestic rules. The club is not allowed to sign youth players that live more than 90 minutes from the club. We are also not allowed to sign youth players directly from South America or non-EU European countries.

Both of these domestic rules are crippling and will prove even more so should Platini have his way. He is so quick to criticize Arsenal for having bought Fabregas from Barcelona, yet he has nothing to say about Barcelona hovering like wolves over Benik Afobe and Chukwuemeka Aneke.

The small area from which Arsenal are allowed to sign youth players around London is ridiculously small. How many possible world-class players are living within 50 miles of north London? Yet, Platini is determined to have Arsenal, and other English clubs’, recruiting possibilities hemmed in, while Barcelona and the rest of the Spanish and Italian clubs have the rule of the roost from South America, Africa, and Europe.

That is patently unfair… just the way Platini likes it.

Will the Champions League Become the New Carling Cup?

Platini

As Arsenal prepare for Matchday 2 of the Champions League Group Stage this evening, it is hard to look at the changes made to this part of the tournament by Michel Platini, European football’s equivalent to the anti-christ, as being, in any way, beneficial to the competition.

Platini’s motives are somewhat sound, even if his execution is not. Platini wanted to see smaller teams get into the Champions League Group Stage and he has done that. But has it helped the tournament, or will it help the smaller domestic leagues represented by such minnows as Unirea Urziceni or Debrecen or Rubin? I believe not. In fact, Platini’s reforms to the group stage will actually prove detrimental to both of those causes.

First, it has watered down the group stage to the point where, for some sides, it can almost be treated as an afterthought; Arsenal being the prime example. Our toughest fixture, the away tie at Olympiakos, is the final match of the group stage, by which time, Arsenal’s place in the knockout stage will likely be assured.

It is highly likely that we see Arsene Wenger using the last one or two group stage matches to give some of the youngsters Champions League experience, just like he does with the Carling Cup.Wanting to spread the Champions League places around to smaller countries at the expense of the big football nations is a noble gesture but misguided in the extreme.

UEFA’s goal should be to make the Champions League the best possible competition it can be. This is not done by adding extra qualifying rounds which see teams like Celtic or Sporting Lisbon miss out so a club like Rubin can get in. Long-term effects will be felt when television ratings continue to decline for Group Stage matches.

Interest has been waning on the part of the footballing public in the Group Stage for a few years now and this will only perpetuate that trend. If a club like Chelsea, in a 40,000 seater cannot sell out a Champions League match, then something is wrong. And who can blame Chelsea supporters, or anyone else, for staying at home and watching their club on television rather than paying ridiculous prices to watch their side take on a club that would in all likelihood go out of the Carling Cup with a full-strength side in the third or fourth rounds.

Secondly, these changes will hinder more than help these smaller domestic leagues. The benefits of the Champions League Group Stage money to only one side in these domestic leagues will tip the scales of competition. These payouts will give a club like Unirea Urziceni a huge advantage in their domestic league and we will likely see that, because of the Champions League revenue they earn, the same clubs will consistently win their domestic leagues.

This will unsettle the balance in the domestic leagues which send their champions to the Group Stage. So while it may seem that the tournament is “opening up,” in the long run, that will prove to be wrong. At the same time, competition in the domestic leagues will turn into something resembling the Scottish Premier League, only without one of the Old Firm clubs.

Exactly how this will benefit smaller countries’ domestic football and the Champions League itself, is hard to imagine.

Nicklas Fender-Bendtner

Bendtner crash Yes, that is Nicklas Bendtner’s £160,000 Aston Martin. Looking at that picture it is hard to see how he was able to escape that wreck with only some cuts and bruises. Bendtner was heading north on the A1 when the accident occurred and there were no other cars involved. How does someone do THAT to their car in an accident where no other cars are involved.

Further details about the crash have not been forthcoming, but one has to wonder just exactly what was Nicklas doing. I’m no accident expert, but it would seem to me that a fairly significant amount of speed would need to be involved for the car to sustain damage like that. I

‘m sure all of us Gooners are relieved that he did not sustain any major injuries in the crash but I’m sure we also wish he’d be a bit more careful. While he is now unavailable for tonight’s match, he should return for Sunday, Wenger said. (See video below.)

The Development

HighburySo much speculation and false information flies around the internet, and the regular media, regarding Arsenal’s financial health. Uninformed conspiracy theories abound about the Board not spending money so they can keep it for themselves, despite the fact that Arsenal does not pay dividends to shareholders. This is even more ridiculous considering that Arsenal’s financial reports are available to the public, published every year in the late Fall. But those who push these kinds of theories are not predisposed to read or likely to understand a financial report.

Even in the regular media, who are paid to research and understand these things, I keep hearing things like, “Arsenal can’t spend because of all the debt from building the stadium.” The fact is that the Emirates generates over £3m per matchday. That is over £90m per year. The amount it costs the club to service that debt is only a fraction of that revenue at around £30m. Do the math.

In reality, the stadium, due to favorable financing and its subsequent success,  generates considerable revenue for the club. Unlike United and Liverpool’s debt which was incurred by their new owners taking loans to buy the club and then placing them on the clubs’ books. In effect, the supporters are paying for the Glazers to have bought United. That is why comparisons between the debt of Arsenal and United or Liverpool does not make any sense.

Would you borrow £250 that had to be paid back at £30 per year, if that money meant that you make an additional £90 each year. Of course. It doesn’t take a business or finance major to know that.

Arsenal have now sold 600 of the 655 apartments at Highbury Square. In the current economic climate, that is not too bad. The rest will be sold in time when the economy picks back up. In the meantime, Arsenal have negotiated a new loan plan for the real estate arm of the company, which is completely autonomous from the footballing side. This means that losses incurred from the Highbury development are not the responsibility of the football club itself.

Yet rumours continue to fly about how Arsenal are keeping the money from this summer’s transfers to pay off the failing Highbury development. The fact that Arsenal, despite the economic situation, were able to renegotiate their loan plan shows confidence in the project and the company as a whole on the part of the banks involved.

Arsenal Station will be analyzing the numbers when they are released in a months’ time to give our readers a clear picture of the club’s financial state.

The UEFA and FIFA Witch-Hunt of England’s ‘Big Four’

Blatter-and-Platini

Prior to this week, the Blatter/Platini axis’s campaign against England’s big four had been mostly talk. But this week, it has taken an almost surreal twist as UEFA hand down a two-match ban to Eduardo and declare that they will not be looking to ban anyone else. This was followed by the extraordinary announcement from FIFA that Chelsea have been banned from registering any new players in either of the next two transfer windows keeping them from signing any new players until 1 January 2011.

Yesterday, UEFA announced:

The UEFA control and disciplinary body today examined the case of the Arsenal player Eduardo “for deceiving the referee” during the UEFA Champions League Playoff second leg on August 26 against Celtic, and have suspended the player for two UEFA club competition matches.

EduardoThis judgment came down after taking less than an hour to consider all the video and a 19-page file which Arsenal had sent on Eduardo’s behalf. They obviously didn’t even read Arsenal’s defense thoroughly, if at all. Less than an hour!?!? This was not a judgment, it was a straight-up sentencing as Eduardo was already convicted in the minds of the panel before they ever even considered the evidence.

A fax was sent by UEFA to the club which went missing, another ended up at Arsenal Ladies, and, finally, a third reached the club 53 minutes after the panel was scheduled to convene. In a mere 53 minutes, they were able to look through the video evidence, read Arsenal’s 19-page defense, possibly look at the video again, and then send two misdirected faxes and finally the one that reached the club.

Arsenal now have three days to file an appeal, which we obviously will. Arsenal released this statement:

We strongly believe that the decision taken is deeply flawed and not based on any forensic review of the video evidence available. There are obvious errors and inconsistencies in UEFA’s judgment and we intend to appeal.

Gael Kakuta

Gael Kakuta

The Times is reporting what we all expected, that UEFA have “confirmed that there are no plans to institute a regular programme of video referral for matches under its jurisdiction or issue an anti-diving directive.” This means that Eduardo has been singled out and only he is worthy of a ban for diving. It doesn’t get more arbitrary than that. If Eduardo’s ban was the beginning of some kind of clamp down on the type of diving that won Wayne Rooney a penalty on Saturday, then even Arsenal fans could understand and possibly even support that logic. But there will be no clampdown. This was not done to stop diving, it was done so UEFA could save face but in the end they come off looking even worse than if they had just let it go.

Sepp Blatter and his minions over at FIFA are now using their muscle in the witch-hunt as they have taken the unprecedented step of banning Chelsea from signing any players until 1 January 2011 for allegedly tapping up Gael Kakuta, a then-15-year old from Lens, and persuaded him to break his contract with the club to sign for Chelsea. The boy was free to sign a professional contract at the age of 16 but in the meantime he was still under contract to Lens until his birthday at which point they would decide whether to offer him a professional deal or not. This is the standard progression for clubs’ youth programs.

Chelsea made their interest in Kakuta known to Lens who offered to sell him for 5m euros. However, Lens claimed that Chelsea then not only made contact with the player before his birthday, and therefore still under contract, in an effort to get around having to pay Lens a fee, but that Chelsea actually offered him a contract which he signed.

Chelsea will appeal the decision. It seems unduly harsh, as nice as it would be for us, as other clubs have been found guilty of tapping up but none have been given such a severe penalty. In addition to the registration restriction, Chelsea have been ordered to pay Lens £113,000 while Kakuta has been suspended for four months and ordered to pay a £682,000 fine. This means that Chelsea may not be able to get reinforcements this January to help the squad cope with their ACN-induced absences.

Lens President, Gervais Martel, said:

It’s an important message given that protecting up and coming youth players who are contracted to clubs is an issue being followed closely by Uefa president Michel Platini.

Especially those contracted to French clubs, apparently. Platini has been a vocal critic of all things English, even Arsene Wenger. Arsenal Station covered his ridiculous outburst last year about Wenger to a French newspaper in an article entitled, “Fuck Platini!” When FIFA were asked about the exorbitant punishments being handed down to English clubs, they said that they had “deemed it to be established that the English club induced the player to such a breach.” But that doesn’t explain the unprecedented punishment.

Both of these unfortunate situations are of a piece and are a direct result of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini’s two-man crusade to rid the Champions League semifinals of English clubs and replace them with three Spanish clubs and an Italian side.