Date: 25th August 2014 at 8:00am
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There’re plenty of opinions in around and about football. Most, by its nature, under informed or ill informed. It’s all good stuff really. If someone has a perspective to share or opinion to exchange then you’d hope they’d have taken the time to reflect before coming to a preliminary conclusion on a topic. Much opinion though is lazy and surprisingly little effort need be made before conclusions are launched for public consumption.

Like many things in the digital age opinions are formed quickly. As Wenger told an audience of sports journalism students a couple of years back ‘When you finish a game it is analysed in a minute and the opinions go through the whole of society in 10 minutes.’ Time isn’t always allowed to inform those opinions before they are presented though reflection might be expected to modify them as contemplation invariably adds information that emotion has obscured. ‘When you have an opinion you’re tempted to think you are right, because you do not have to prove you’re right. It’s just an opinion.’ Wenger told the same audience of young sports journalists.

But some opinion should carry more weight than others. Some opinion you might reasonably expect to be more informed than others. Alex Fynn is a somewhat respected former advertising and marketing executive with a background in football. As, reportedly, part of a North London community which embraced both the Dein and Buchler (former Spurs chairman) families he worked with both Arsenal and Spurs and other football clubs in the 90`s, and is also co-author of couple of Arsenal books, hence his participation in an Arseblog podcast seemed to warrant a listen. That he did so as part of a campaign to promote a new book was understandable enough.

It’s to be expected that his opinions are coloured by his connections but that needn’t be of great concern as coloured or not he’s closer to Arsenal, if not that close to the current administration, than some. But there’s opinion that can be verified or supported and that which can’t. His view which suggested that Wenger wouldn’t have gone through with the Ozil deal if Gazidis hadn’t forced him to do so seems coloured by previous connections to me. It’s certainly at odds with a popular view, though probably equally misguided, that Wenger doesn’t take guidance on football matters from anyone and also with the known fact that Wenger had tried to sign Ozil 3 years before when Mesut chose to join Real. But it’s unverifiable in any real sense as very few will have been privy to discussions between Gazidis and Wenger and Fynn’s likely sources wouldn’t be that close to the current regime. It’s not hard to imagine that Wenger’s valuation and Gazidis’s view on affordability of a 25 year old player who, by the time his contract reached an unprotected period would still hold potentially significant residual value, might have given any fly on the wall an interesting discussion to listen in on, but it’s much the same discussion that would go on between senior executives in any organisation contemplating the spending of £40m plus. Nonetheless it’s a view that can only really be based on hearsay and supposition.

More readily verifiable is Fynn`s claim, in the same podcast, that Wenger had money to spend 4 years ago but chose not to. A view seemingly intended to support the notion that there’s some sort of conflict between the club’s needs and a hesitant, parsimonious manager. It’s part of a popular misconception that Arsenal only started spending last season when they laid out £42.5 m for Ozil. In fact last summer’s spending was lower than either of the two previous seasons. Wenger did start spending 4 seasons ago and that was also the time when debt levels had fallen to a point when spending could increase. To understand that and better inform his own opinion all Fynn needed to do was to take a look at the debt figures, notably short term debt (those amounts payable within one year), to see that they only came down to figures that might allow freer spending in accounts published for the year ended 2010, therefore only available to spend in 2011 which is precisely when Arsenal and Wenger did start spending comparatively big. More in 2011, 4 summer transfer windows ago, than ever before – until this season that it is. Fynn could have informed his own opinion though it would be inconvenient for a conclusion that Wenger doesn’t spend because he doesn’t want to and is forced to do so by his board.

As Wenger suggests opinion comes cheap in modern society. ‘We have moved from a society of full support, to a media society and an opinion society. When I arrived here a defeat was not as dramatic as it is today. Why? Because we have moved from a rational society to a much more emotional society.’ Arsene told his youthful audience.

It’s great to share and exchange opinions but now more than ever it’s unwise to take opinion from anyone at face value, no matter what medals they pin on their own chests. That which can be asserted without support can be as easily dismissed without support. The internet age allows the opportunity and provides many of the resources to check much of what we’re fed by those on any side of an issue. It’s worth us taking advantage of that when forming and informing our own opinions.

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