A Fan Relations Exercise That Can Work Wonders For Arsenal

The Arsenalsphere is a divided space these days. Has been for a while now and it is getting worse. While different opinions have always existed, we now see more than a degree of animosity amongst fans who are divided into two broad groups – those supporting the manager and those desperate to see him out. Of course, if we zoom into either of these groups, we will again see a fair amount of disagreement over various details like the quality of certain players, use of tactics, etc.

But there seems to be a link that connects all fans. Everyone wants to know more about what’s going on. The acuteness of this need can be estimated from the speed at which rumours spread and even illogical and pointless stories lead to extensive debates.

I believe this presents an opportunity for the club to launch another pioneering initiative which can bring the supporters closer to the club in an unprecedented manner and can assuage their fears to a great extent. In simple terms, it’s the same thing that many have been demanding – more information, but I want to look at the mechanism that can benefit all parties involved without compromising the club’s interests.

We’d all love to know the exact details of all the players that Arsenal are tracking and the kind of bids that have been made. Is it realistic? I doubt anyone will say yes to that. It can complicate all the transfers and destabilize some players at other clubs. That surely isn’t the Arsenal way.

Similarly, some of the more discerning fans would love to know the reasoning behind the interest in players. But do we really want Wenger to share his trade secrets and give others a chance to catch up with him on that front?

Let’s be clear, the club cannot share everything that is going on. It will create all sorts of complications and within no time the whole set-up will be unmanageable. At some level everyone understands this and that is why no club provides all their details to the public or even to the shareholders (at least the minority ones).

The next logical question is – how much information can the club share? I will add to this a related question which seems equally important to me – how does the club share the relevant information with the fans?

I want to start with the latter question because that is the key. The club needs to identify certain discreet individuals with proven loyalty to the club. This could be players like Lee Dixon or Martin Keown and/or a small number of life-long fans that the club can trust. These could be senior members of the AST and one or two top bloggers who can reach out to a wide cross-section of the support.

We can call these people opinion leaders. Fans trust them and understand that theirs is an honest opinion with genuine concern and appreciation for the club. For the sake of the discussion let’s say the club invites Lee Dixon, Tim Payton (of AST), and Goonerholic (an excellent blogger with a sterling reputation amongst all the fans). I have chosen these names based purely on what I have read online so I am not claiming they are the perfect choice or the only possible ones but hopefully it illustrates the point that I am trying to make. The club have a lot more resources and know a lot of the fans and ex-players well so they can make the choice based on their analysis.

The key variables in selecting these individuals should be

  1. They are trusted and respected by a vast majority of the fans
  2. They are capable of understanding complex issues
  3. They are discreet and the club can rely on them to value the sensitivity of the information being shared

The club should invite this group for a tête-à-tête with Arsene and other key members of the staff, including the board and the management. Some details should be shared with these people and they should be allowed to probe for details that address the sincere concerns of the fans.

For instance, wouldn’t you love to know how Bendtner and Benzema stack up when a great many details are analyzed? Most of us have limited statistics and the moments that stay in our memories to go with. Often, once we form an opinion about a player, we only notice the negatives (or positives) and things just get worse (or rosy).

Do you really think Wenger could be where he is if he had been just like us? Surely, his approach is a lot more objective and complex than we even begin to imagine. So wouldn’t it be great if some people can get insights into that?

For fans it is easy to say that defence is a problem and Wenger should spend. There is no accountability involved. If he does spend and the player doesn’t play as well, we can always blame the player, and the manager for betting on the wrong horse. Criticism is easy and doesn’t need any skills.

Squillaci had all the attributes that the fans were asking for, bar one. He was experienced. He’d won titles in other leagues. He was also a fighter, at least he was supposed to be. Only his price tag wasn’t as big as some would want to see. Even then, when he was signed many rated him better than Koscielny just because of the aforementioned attributes. Many of the same fans can’t stand him anymore. Such contradictions and the unerring fluctuation in fan opinions is directly related to the limitations of the information available to them, although that is not the only factor.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating if someone could understand the actual process that went into signing a player? Looking at all the scouting reports and detailed statistical analysis that might have been done to reach a conclusion can be a real eye opener.

The reason I am talking about these things is that I am completely convinced Wenger has a method to his apparent madness. People say he has the ability to find quality players but isn’t willing to spend. I don’t think it is about ability but more about a process. He has a process that works better than anyone else’s and finding the right player and identifying the price for that player are both integral parts of that process.

Now, one can easily claim the process is not working but that is more an expression borne out of frustration at the current state rather than something based on a clear understanding of what actually goes on behind the scenes.

The chosen people who get access to some of these details can then provide the fans with their honest analysis. They don’t have to tow the party line and say everything is perfect, that would defeat the purpose, but we would all be better off if someone we trusted gave us an opinion based on authentic information.

The sincerity of these individuals is the key to bridging the gap between the club and the supporters. That is why they have to be intelligent, trustworthy individuals who can be the opinion leaders and add to the thinking of the majority.

There will still be those who want to insist their opinion is valid and will call these people cronies of the establishment if their thoughts don’t match but we can’t really do much about these people.

Then there is the issue of how much information can be shared. Obviously, if all the information given to these individuals could be made public then the club could just as easily publish it on the official website. It would expose the secrets of Arsenal’s success and that is why discretion is of paramount significance.

So one might expect those involved to write about their experience as follows,

We met with Arsene and it was an amazing experience. The club are looking at 6 central defenders and have analyzed them on 20-30 variables. There are four or five scouting reports for each guy. We also saw comparison with the players we currently have and the difference is not that big. Indeed, a couple of our guys are much better than the names we read in the papers…

Or it could just as easily go like this,

The club are looking at 6 defenders and we saw the analysis and comparison with our players. Two of the defenders we are looking at are excellent and I would like to see the club spend over the odds to get them…

Indeed, it is quite possible that two different individuals might have these opposing views after the same meeting.

The above statements are just examples and speculative. I don’t expect the exact descriptions as I have mentioned. At the very least the language will be much better than what I am able to write and one would expect the content and analysis to have more depth.

The point is that fans will get reliable, first-hand information and the club will not have to disclose the relevant details that are essential for maintaining a competitive edge. Don’t you think it will be infinitely better than all the supposition we have to deal with or the malicious rumours that are doing the rounds?

There is a feeling among many fans that Arsenal are not doing anything or not doing enough. At the very least, such an exercise should put things in the right perspective and help settle the nerves of millions of fans around the world.

There is a fair argument that it is not as easy as I am making is sound. Who is to say that the person chosen won’t talk to a few near and dear ones and reveal the secrets in private? This might not be done out of malice but how many of us can truly resist from sharing such a once in a lifetime experience? And once the details are shared with one or two, it is bound to spread. We all know how it works.

Clearly, it is not an easy task but I think Arsenal are at a stage where they have to push the boundaries of convention and find the way to reach out to the supporters who have genuine concerns because a couple of bad moments can unleash an avalanche in the current environment.

There are enough intelligent and trustworthy individuals at the club and amongst the Gooners to make this work. But it can only begin with the right intent. Either it has to come from the club or from the Supporter’s groups. And working out the details will take some time. But once the intent is demonstrated the vibes around the club can change.

Would you rather work to see something like this come to fruition or you think booing and marching actually solves more problems that it creates?

There are other details related to this, like the criteria for selecting the individuals can be more detailed, but the article is already too long so I will leave those out. Hopefully, I have been able to explain what I have in mind. I don’t know if it will help or will be forgotten in a day or two. The idea is to put a thought out there. I also understand that someone might have thought of this already and it didn’t work out. If so I’d really love to hear more about that experience/attempt.

I consider this an exercise in Fan Relations or Supporter Relations and not Public Relations, which is a broader term and doesn’t involve the kind of passion that is necessary for something like this to work.  Moreover, it involves real desire and a genuine attempt from both sides.

Give it a thought. If you think it won’t work, try and identify the reasons and if possible, the solutions. If you think it makes sense please share it with others. Over to you.


25 Responses to A Fan Relations Exercise That Can Work Wonders For Arsenal

  1. Phil23 says:

    Good idea as usual Desi, the trusted personnel would have to be bound by law not to blab. I’m glad to see your getting back into writing more articles Desi! Your blog is a mainstay for many, I’m sure that you would succeed valiantly in such a role!

  2. Scott says:

    The clubs performance is judged on results,not the process. If you want to know about the process,become an employee. If you are a gas,then be a fan and do not presume to have a right to know what happens behind closed doors. That is the height of arrogance in my opinion, and something rife amongst Arsenal fans. Wenger conducts his transfers in an ethical fashion,so to complain about Barcelonas handling of the Fab situation on one hand,then want Wenger to open his books,so to speak,us hypocritical. I am an Arsenal fan,whether they are winning trophies if not. Because I am a fan, I watch them and want to be entertained. I do not need to know how they buy a player,I just want to know who they sign. Probably 80% of “Arsenal targets” are players the club gas never spoken to,yet when the rumour fails to eventuate,Wenger has failed again.

    • Phil23 says:

      I personally share your feelings in that I am prepared to wait until the end of the window. This obviously stems from my trust in the manager based on his previous dealings and the sounds coming out of the club. The main reason I think it is a good idea is because what happened this summer has not boded well with many of the fans. Something needs to be done differently and I am prepared to consider any reasonable suggestions as positive.

      Personally I think Arsene will surprise everyone in the transfer market. He will make the right signings for sure. The only reason I think more fans than usual are moaning is because in the last few windows we haven’t been as active in the market compared to other top clubs. This time is obviously different as we have freed up a lot of wages. We also have more funds and Arsene has said all the right things for those willing to listen.

      I like the line “I am an Arsenal fan,whether they are winning trophies if not” That is the only difference between a real fan and a mere spectator. How many of the current moaners would support us through relegation? Those who would be left cheering their ass off are the kind of fans I like to get to know and respect.

  3. willybilly says:

    Yeah you’re right, if people saw the work that went into signing players it could be very useful. Arsenal are getting a press battering so maybe they need to start making some positive PR for themselves. Really explaining the finances of the club and the reasons for our stance/tactics on transfers would probBLY stop a lot of the speculation surrounding our club. or add to it!!! 😉

  4. ignatzuk says:

    There are some Arsenal fans and bloggers out there who are convinced that Wenger deliberately crafts each and every statement and press release to piss them off personally. They think every positive statement from the club is an insulting lie, but that everything negative they read in the papers is true.

    There is no point negotiating with an attitude like that. If you gave them more information, they would only use it to come up with more detailed complaints.

  5. willybilly says:

    Scott

    I agree with your sentiment, but don’t you think that Arsenal’s hard line secrecy with the press only adds to the negative speculation. If people really understood how we were run then they wouldn’t have to rely on the media for their opinions!

  6. 037 says:

    In an ideal world I’ll take Scott’s stand on this issue. As I also have faith in the neo-Arsenal model of business and football!
    But clearly, we are facing extraordinary circumstances. Something has to be done to give assurance to large parts of the fanbase, to ensure that the booing in Newcastle doesn’t happen again.
    The “majority” (with this I mean the amount of people large enough to make the booing clearly visible) needs to have reason to stay supportive. Nowadays, the usual Wenger press interview doesn’t seem to do the trick.

    I’m sure as thick as some fans can be, an explanation just going into some of the complexities of Wenger’s policies by Wenger himself, would go a long way in convincing that there is good reason behind all that Wenger’s done up until now.

    I’m sure even folks at Le Grove would soften up and spread a good word, when they hear it from the Prof himself

  7. chengiskhan says:

    I for one would love to get more inside information about the inner workings of the club in terms of scouting and transfers, even at just a general level, although it is hard for me to imagine that we will live to see the day. It seems that the kind of information we crave is exactly the kind of information the club would want to keep secret in order to keep the upper hand in negotiations. Even something benign as the number of CB targets we are looking at is probably too much information on some level.

    “The reason I am talking about these things is that I am completely convinced Wenger has a method to his apparent madness.”

    There is no question that Wenger has a method. If you haven’t read “Moneyball” and “Why England Lose aka Soccernomics”, you absolutely must. Those two books really give insight into the discipline of investing in players. It has really become a science over the last decade and Wenger has always been near the forefront. These days, with the crazy injection of money, it has become exceedingly difficult to underwrite the values of players, but I still trust Wenger et al to do it better than anyone. BTW, Moneyball is about Billy Beane, who is a self-professed admirer of Wenger who he labels a “kindred spirit”.

  8. RmanGoon says:

    This is better than just biting our nails and scouring the web looking for rumours. It could be a success. I would say the club should implement this idea.

  9. Tom h says:

    every gooner would like to know more about the transfer situations and workings, but this is unrealistic. In some ways im proud our club doesn’t “tap up” players from other teams. The fabregas saga has infuriated everyone of us and is very unethical.
    The way our fans are split into pro wenger and anti wenger , doesn’t mean any person doesn’t love our club more or less than the next man. Isn’t it well known that when you support a club its for life. Highs and lows are what make’s football that passion that stops you from making plans to go shopping with the girlfriend on a saturday until the day you die. We all love Arsenal FC and know what needs changing but we just need to support our players though it.

  10. Steve says:

    This doesn’t have to be limited to transfer issues. Wenger can also explain why he has not reverted to a 4-4-2, the reasons for late substitutions etc. Opening the channels of communication to such an extent can take the fans’ understanding of the game to the next level. I am all for it. Another substantive post Desi, keep it up.

  11. Zgunner says:

    I think Arsenal would be fine if ALL its fans shut their opinions for a second and be there for the team.. for the players.

    Get behind them and they won’t let you down. Wenger will not let you down but have you as a fan let him down?

    Have you let down a player or two?

    Is there always a convenient scapegoat? Some dummy to punch.
    Now control your emotions.. or go bowling or something.

    But you get BEHIND the team ALWAYS and no matter what.

    The current Arsenal players need the trust of their fans more than anything at the moment.

    The Liverpool game is gonna be a wild one.
    All I know is that before, during, and after the match I love this team no matter who goofs and who flukes.

    Go Gunners.

  12. SoCal_Gun says:

    Who wouldn’t want some inside information on the inner workings of their favorite team? That goes for Arsenal fans, as well as ManU, Barca, and the New York Yankees’ fans.

    We all know that 90% of “rumors” are baseless, and that the team and Wenger constantly try to steal a bargain of a player. If Wenger feels a player is being overvalued, he simply won’t be forced into a purchase; Mata is a perfect example

    The problem though is that purchases are NEEDED, and Wenger can no longer afford to bargain hunt. The board has stated that cash is available, and there are GLARING holes in the team (the 2 injuries in the defense vs. Udinese and the injury to Jack are prime examples)

    I was pretty hopeful coming into this Summer; then it seemed like purchases wouldn’t be made, but key players wouldn’t be sold; then the Captain and it seems like Narsi will be sold; AND now the window is nearly over

    NONE of the holes from last season were addressed, and new holes have been created with 2 huge players leaving

    The window is still open for some time, and I feel that Wenger will get somebody/anybody to appease the fans and board. But a second-classs defender like jagielka (Arsenal tore him apart last season) is not the correct response.

    the season is in it’s infancy, so there is still hope……but I truly must admit that my faith is fading fast

  13. Scott says:

    I agree we do not live in an ideal world,but that is because there are not enough Wengers out there. Willybilly,you may be right that opening up would give them nothing to right about,but I doubt that even that action would stop the crap journos take up to sell papers. I will continue to support the club regardless of who they sign,and whether or not they win trophies because they are my club. I wish as much as anyone that we had signed Hazard and Benzema,but it hasn’t happened so we go on. I will say this……we are stronger than last season as it stands today. Cesc was not there, Nasri gave us half a season,Vermaelen was missing……..what have we really lost? On paper,definitely weaker,but in reality? Our back 4 are a better unit,and GK is just brilliant. Creativity is missing in midfield,but again,we didn’t get that much out of Cesc and Nasri anyway. Two top quality signings and we ate definitely a much better squad.

  14. Aussie Jack says:

    The Official Secrets Act is broken down into three major categories. `Top Secret`, `Confidential` and `Sensitive`. If a PR team ,as suggested, was implemented then only the last category would be up for discussion and at the discrection of those involved. It would at least give the fans something concrete on which to base their opinions and comments. At the moment many expressions are based simply on emotional frustration. In order for it suceed the Arsenal management must be as honest as possible with the PR team and certainly never use them for political reasons.

  15. G4L says:

    The cruel irony of the whole thing is that few fans will be interested in such articles (judging by the response I see around the blogosphere) that are actually meaningful when compared to unfettered rumor mongering which has no practical value but attracts hits by droves of sheep.

    It’s a shame but the fact is that the suggested cannot approach for that very reason. People need constant supply of talking points and someone to listen to their opinions. Right or Wrong, Good or Bad, Helpful or Detrimental to the club doesn’t really come into the picture.

    • Aussie Jack says:

      Have to agree. Judging by the quality (or lack of it) of comments made by many fans giving them any form of reasonable and rational information wouldn`t make the slightest bit of difference. However, for the more articulate (those that can spell) it would help them get their point across and open up debate. To be honest I can`t see it happening, it`s just not worth the effort.

  16. Rich says:

    Surely all you need2 do is to read arsenal-insider blog lol
    I like were your going, but from my experience I would say if you don’t want certain ppl 2 know things, don’t tell any1, every1 loves2 talk, u don’t want2 destabilize your current players, leave it2 the experts Arsene knows!

  17. Sreenath N says:

    I’m living in Southern India and Working in Western parts. Arsenal FC is miles and and miles away from my place but every morning I search for the analysis and news in News Now for getting closer to Arsenal. I am following this cub since 2001-02, I felt the ecstacy and the sadness of winning and losing. But I have always believed that, this team really good and have its uniqueness. I dont want to cross my limits, as a fan and dont want to know itty bitty details.
    The media is a delicate thing. People have a tendency to believe what is written in blogs and papers, so it is easy to manipulate fans, especially teens who’re addicted to the net. Claims of being “a fan for last forty years and has become utterly desperate about how the club works” really piss me off. If i get a chance to be a season ticket holder, I would buy it wont complain about it for my lifetime. I just want to see good football. The financial doping is the bad thing and thats what making football such a crazy world. They are trying to win AT ANY COST, but our manager refuse to bend. Scenes of Jose “the special one” poking someone makes me laugh. He acted like the omnipotent when he joined Real Madrid, and now who’s the Clown?
    Wenger has been let down by his players and some Fans.This man is ethical and moral (by the footballing standards).He cares about the future of the club.With the precarious financial system he kept every thing in contention.He is not egoistic about winning (Like Fergie), and want to win on merit not money.Brian Glanville famously said that, Chelsea didnt win the league, they bought it.People like to pull down men with good characters.And for his players letting him down, even Cesc Fabregas was one (Never repaid our trust, not even with money). Every one talking about Cesc giving his eight years to Arsenal, but no one cares about the first Four- Five years when he was given all the chances that made him the player he is. I strongly doubt whether he will be a success in Barcelona with lesser playing time. Time will tell.

    We cannot change the way a club works which is 125 year old, and is a success. All we can DO is sing in our loudest possible voice for Arsenal. Stop the negativity and like Roger Waters (an Arsenal fan…. more reasons to be a gooner) say “Dont be a brick in the wall”.

    My girlfriend is the most beautiful one in the whole Europe and I dont care the fact that she’s not the Queen of England.

    Arsenal Forever and in my case the old saying becomes true – Once a Gooner, Always a Gooner.
    Arsenal FC More than a Club.
    AND STOP NEGATIVITY.

  18. Manama says:

    Nice idea desi.i quite understand that fans r frustrated bcos they genuinly lov d club n feel d club shd show some reciprocal gesture.had we won 2 or 3 of the three finals we played in d last 6yrs,arsene wudnt ‘be such an idiot’ as many people think he is.i dnt honestly think he is draging arsenal down.i think the true stories will only emerge when he leaves arsenal.as hard as it can be,i think waiting patiently is the key.calling all sorts of fora wil only surely spread twisted versions of the truth.we’l surely overcome,if 4 nothing else we’v always b beta 16 teams in d premiership,n ahost of others in europe.i dare say only arca,madrid,manu,chelsea,n mayb munich r ahead of us n its 4 a little while.lets stay patient n positive,ARSENAL WILL LIVE AND NOT DIE.

  19. Manama says:

    Nice idea desi.i quite understand that fans r frustrated bcos they genuinly lov d club n feel d club shd show some reciprocal gesture.had we won 2 or 3 of the three finals we played in d last 6yrs,arsene wudnt ‘be such an idiot’ as many people think he is.i dnt honestly think he is draging arsenal down.i think the true stories will only emerge when he leaves arsenal.as hard as it can be,i think waiting patiently is the key.calling all sorts of fora wil only surely spread twisted versions of the truth.we’l surely overcome,if 4 nothing else we’v always b beta 16 teams in d premiership,n ahost of others in europe.i dare say only barca,madrid,manu,chelsea,n mayb munich r ahead of us n its 4 a little while.lets stay patient n positive,ARSENAL WILL LIVE AND NOT DIE.

  20. willybilly says:

    Nice sreenath!! true words

  21. abeeola says:

    Nice article. I understand your perspective clearly. But seriously, why would I want to know the processes the club takes in their business? That’s for the club. As a fan who pays over the odd to watch the team play “beautiful football”, why should I be concerned about the metrics involved in doing the business of the club? The club has failed in their bid to reach the fans at large thereby leaving the fans at the mercy of the media. That the manager “knows” the problem and refuse to fix it does not require a Jesus Christ to point out. The CEO and the Manager were not sincere with the fans as they keep contradicting themselves as each day passes by. All the fans have asked for are reassurance from the club that the deficiencies in the team was going to be looked into, rather they have been lied to everytime by the manager as well as the CEO while PHW continue to insult the fans. Of course, the fans will then become easy pick by witch-haunting media.

    While I see the logic in your suggestions above, the Arsenal I know will simply not do three quarter of what you suggest. Arsene will not give a word to no one. We can sell our player who has a year left on his contract for €25m but we turn around and say the market is inflated! Incredible stuff.

    Personally, I don’t care how the club goes about their business or who’s the manager as long as the huge fee paid by fans are justified in the quality of performance and TROPHIES won on the pitch. Let no one lie to you, without the early trophies, Arsene would be long gone! Therefore, what drives the fan base, attracts the big players, retain your star players and of course soar club popularity globally remains the number of TROPHIES won.

    Arsenal FC will rise again…when? The answer depends on the activities of the next fortnight.

  22. Gervinho's forehead says:

    All you Wenger out brigade…. When you lot gonna stop swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool? I know its hard but If you lot bothered using your grey matter you may recognize the direct relationship between the board of directors paying themselves dividends every year and the lack of funds made available to Wenger… The short & curlies is that the board have been all too happy to pocket profits at the expense of the team & let Wenger take the backlash.
    You anti-wenger lot need to wake up and recognize the elephant in the room…. Our greedy board of directors…

  23. Londongooner says:

    Nice article Desi. There are a number of reasons why we have got to the stage where so many fans are annoyed and angry.

    Having achieved the success that we have, I feel sad that were unable to build and sustain a winning team, and the reason is that the number of quality players we had (Henry/Vieira/Pires/Bergkamp/and the Fab 5 Defence) were never properly replaced. Part of this reason is the financial limitations due to the new stadium, and part has been the influx of billionaire owners distorting the market.

    These factors are out of our control and we should indeed trust in AW to do what he has done thus far, and keep us entertained with good quality football.

    My only frustration is that AW keeps making statements that contradictory and/or unbelievable such as:

    1) The statement about Arsenal not being a big club if they sell their best players (Cesc already gone and Nasri about to)

    2) Statements made last January, when he could have strengthened the defence, stating that the Defence is not a problem. He stated that again recently.

    3) Statement recently that the squad was too big!!!! We have either sold or loaned out 13 players so far and brought in 3. Bearing in mind the injuries we have and the selection dilemma he must be facing for the Liverpool game….do you think our squad is too big?

    Anyway, looking forward to the next week where we have 3 big matches. C’mon you Gunners!

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