Yesterday Arsenal Holdings Plc held its Annual General Meeting at Emirates Stadium and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend. I had been to one before, in 2008, and there were noticeable differences between the two. Firstly I would like to point out that Arsenal and its advisers are doing an outstanding job in their ‘Arsenalisation’ programme. I am sure most readers will understand what this means but for those who do not, the club has used the term ‘Arsenalisation’ to describe the work it is doing to make the stadium feel more Arsenal-like. Those of us who attended games back in 2006 when the stadium opened will remember it as being a big slab of grey concrete. The only thing ‘Arsenal’ about it was the red seats. Since then they have added some stunning artwork to the stadium’s exterior showing classic players in the club’s history. They have brought the famous clock back and have added a bigger replica which sits high and proud above the newly-named ‘Clock End’.
Inside the stadium the grey walls have been decorated with all different sorts or artwork, facts and so on. Where I enter the stadium for home matches in entrance ‘J’ one wall has all the hat-tricks ever scored by Arsenal players chiseled into it. In fact, each week I go to the stadium I notice something new. The Arsenalisation of the stadium was one of the points raised by Ivan Gazidis (Arsenal CEO) in his opening speech to the floor. Credit where it’s due, they are doing a fantastic job. I uploaded some pictures yesterday to my twitter account which Dev has linked to in yesterday’s ‘AGM Update’ which gives glimpses of the kind of things they have done.
I am sure we are all aware of the unique financial position of the club compared to our Premier League rivals and this was reiterated once again. A point to note is that the Chairman acknowledged that our impressive profits in recent years were substantially a result of sales at Highbury Square, which would diminish over the next two to three years. Nonetheless I believe that we are set for continued profits after this period and we really should be grateful to be in the financial position we are in. Can Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool fans talk about their clubs’ future financial prospects with the same pride and confidence?
The Chairman was asked about Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s shares and her continued search for a buyer, as well as the intentions of Stan Kroenke who was in attendance. He completely avoided answering both queries claiming he did not know the answer to either, and added that even if he did he would be prevented from disclosing such matters by Stock Exchange Regulations. The situation regarding Lady Nina’s shares has gone quiet for some months now. I wonder whether she is waiting for the lock-down agreement to expire (in April 2011?) so that she can sell to a non-existing shareholder.
Moving on to the stuff that matters most, the football, Arsene Wenger gave one of his typical speeches, pushing the hunger, desire, spirit of the team to succeed this season. Something atypical about this speech compared to others was that he acknowledged the flaws that have existed in recent years. Normally he defends his position and that of his players fervently. I was therefore surprised when he openly admitted that our defence was ‘not good’ last season. He cited this as the reason for wholesale changes in the centre-back positions in the close-season. He even went as far as acknowledging that we are overly offensive at times and that his coaching staff are working extra hard on the defence this season to try and find a fruitful balance.
He went on to say something that many Gooners, and indeed the floor, were delighted to hear – that we will be fighting for the FA Cup and League cup this season in addition to the big two. One of the biggest problems the manager has faced in recent