Early Doors

Dear Arsene, please change everything

As votes of confidence go, the support lent to Arsene Wenger last night by the Arsenal Supporters' Trust sounded as lukewarm as leftover Brussels sprouts, as jaded as Boxing Day hangover and as hollow as, erm, a bauble?

Spokesperson Tim Payton - as reasonable a character as exists in modern football - said last night that the Trust still supported Wenger as manager, but that changes needed to be made:

"The Arsenal Supporters' Trust cannot fathom why £70million was left untouched this summer. Arsene needs to get over his distaste for spending and use the resources that, after all, are provided by the hard-pressed fans who watch the team.

"The AST believe a shake-up is needed. We would like to see new, younger blood added to the board, and they also need to exercise more control and direction over Arsene's football strategy.

"One man cannot direct all transfer targets, wages, coaching methods and manage the team at games. It's too much for one man."

Payton added that changes were need on the coaching staff - specifically that no coaches had been employed from outside the club since 1996.

So then:
1- Spend some money
2- Change the coaching staff
3- Reduce the scope of Wenger's influence
4- Change the make-up of the board

But, you know, apart from that, it's full-throated support for the current management.

Despite chief executive Ivan Gazidis's apparent assurance that there is money to spend, AST won't get the dramatic changes it demands.

"There is money to spend" does not mean the same thing as "money will be spent".

One of the chief criticisms of Arsene Wenger is that he is too stubborn and inflexible.

And if you tell a stubborn man to stop being stubborn, you know what sort of a response to expect.

But given Wenger's ability to increase players' value, keeping £70m in the bank is not only a bad football decision, but also a bad financial one.

At the risk of coming over all Peter Ridsdale, players are valuable assets - if Arsenal spend £10m on Wilfried Zaha in January, there's a good chance he'll be worth twice that when he joins Manchester City in 2015.

Even taking wages into account, they will have made money and had the use of a good player. Yet the money goes untouched.

You can understand the supporters' frustration. Or, at least, most people can.

One person texted in to Five Live last night expressing his fury that AST should use their "privileged access" to harangue the directors.

It's true that Arsenal's board has more dialogue with the fans than most big clubs, but there is a good reason for that - AST are shareholders. Not major ones, of course, but they still cling on to a tiny sliver of the club.

In any case, it is preposterous to suggest that fans should not be involved in clubs' decision-making, whether they own shares or not.

All the money Arsenal receive - from the world's most expensive season tickets, to TV and prize money, to merchandise - all of it stems from the fact that people like Arsenal, want to see them play football and wear their replica shirts.

Fans are the main stakeholders in any club - take them away and you have nothing.

There remains an overwhelming feeling that the Arsenal board is asleep at the wheel.

The club has lacked drive since the days of David Dein, Danny Fiszman and Keith Edelman - a point rammed home by a fractious recent AGM.

After batting away enquiries from an increasingly exasperated floor, chairman Peter Hill-Wood called upon his most high-handed tone of voice to declare:

"I think we've had enough questions, if you don't mind. Otherwise we'll be here all day. Thank you for interest in our affairs."

Hill-Wood is currently recovering from a heart attack, and ED wishes him good health. Still, it hardly enhances the image of a youthful and dynamic board, does it?

Perhaps the worst thing about Tuesday's defeat to Bradford is that anyone cares about it.

The League Cup is a handy barometer for a club's standing.

Manchester United, for example, suffer an embarrassing exit most years - Crystal Palace, Coventry, Southend and York City spring to ED's mind, but there are others. And nobody even remotely cares, since United have bigger, more lucrative fish to fry.

Hell, this was a competition in which Wenger played his kids in the final against a full Mourinho-era Chelsea side, just because he could.

The fact that he was reduced to actually trying to win the thing, by playing a full-strength team at Bradford, was embarrassing enough. But to lose? That really is a crisis.

Just don't expect Wenger or Arsenal to do anything about it.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Adel Taarabt charms Morocco fans as he considers whether or not to go to the Africa Cup of Nations: "I spoke with (Harry Redknapp) and we had a talk about whether I'm going to go or not. Of course, it's my country so it's a difficult decision for me because the situation with my club is difficult and the manager asked if I could stay. I would love to but it's my country so if I say no everybody at home will think I don't want to play. I go there every summer and if the team doesn't do well then the fans will have a go at me and I don't want that."

Incidentally, even ED knows Taarabt doesn't have a choice - if he gets called up, he has to go.

FOREIGN VIEW: Sao Paulo were crowned Copa Sudamericana champions in less than glorious circumstances as the final against Tigre was abandoned at half-time amid scuffles on the pitch and claims of further violence off it.

After a goalless first leg in Argentina, Sao Paulo took a 2-0 lead on home turf with goals from Lucas Moura and Osvaldo, but things took a sour turn at half-time as fighting broke out between the players as they made their way off the pitch.

Tigre then refused to return for the second half, claiming their players had been attacked by security officials in the dressing rooms. Chilean referee Enrique Osses abandoned the match after a 30 minute delay, awarding the victory to Sao Paulo, who were then presented with the trophy in a formal ceremony.

Tigre coach Nestor Gorosito claimed armed security officers had beaten his players and pointed guns at them during half-time.

"During the break, a big guy came in with a gun," he said on Fox Sports. "Some policeman started to hit some of my players. We tried to defend ourselves."

COMING UP: What could be better than some office-hours football? Chelsea begin their Club World Cup campaign against Mexican side Monterrey at 10:30. As ever, we're covering that one live.