With rumors swirling of a £1.5 billion takeover bid, Arsenal have a handy blueprint to follow if they want to emulate their predecessors.
(This piece was co-written by Skipjack. Mostly the parts that aren't any good.)
News broke on the eve of the North London Derby that an Arab consortium were prepared to pay the princely (sheikhly?) sum of £1.5 billion to take over Arsenal. The rumor has thrown Arsenal fans into a tizzy, with many supporters worried about losing their Moral High Ground Trophy, the only silverware the club has managed in eight years. Others have a more positive outlook, secure in the knowledge that an influx of funds will mean new signings on high wages, and more importantly, Theo Walcott's return to the bottom of their wage structure.
Still, for a club who has spent the last 20 years pretending to be the last bastion of financial prudence in England, the idea of having billions to spend is quite a daunting prospect. Luckily for Arsenal, we at Cartilage Free Captain have discovered a handy guide containing the secrets to becoming an oilbucks footballing titan, a guide used by the likes of Chelsea and Man City before them.
Step 1: Buy Shaun Wright-Philips
This young phenom is the heir to David Beckham England has been waiting for. He's got pace, speed, and quickness, making him the kind of triple-threat from the wing any club can build a future around. Don't worry about signing him before you get a manager. It doesn't matter who your manager is, whether it's Mark Hughes, Jose Mourinho, or Mark Hughes, he'll want this pocket-sized wing-wizard in the squad.
Step 2: Hire Mark Hughes
Whoever you currently have managing your club, forget it. That guy's probably no good. You may be tempted to leave him in place for a year to show continuity with the old regime and build some goodwill with the fans. But don't be an idiot. The fans hate you and they won't stop hating you until you win things, so the sooner you bring in a world class manager, the quicker everyone will love you.
And who is this world class manager? Mark Hughes. Groomed under the great Alex Ferguson himself, everyone knows one day he'll replace the legendary manager at Manchester United. Unless you get him first. He's a hot commodity and no amount of money is too much to get this guy in your dugout.
Step 3: Pay entirely too much for mediocre South American talent
Preferably a Brazilian, but if you sign an Argentinian nobody will know the difference. Whoever it is, just make sure he seems exotic and glamorous. The best part about Step 3? It doesn't even matter who you sign. The point is, pay a lot of money for a guy who people have heard of. If you can break the English transfer record while you're doing it, so much the better.
The fans will go nuts and buy a ton of jerseys and show up in droves to watch this guy get homesick on the pitch. He'll have a few moments of brilliance but by and large will fail to live up to the hype. That's perfectly fine. You'll spend the next few years loaning him to Italian and Spanish or Russian clubs just to get him out of the way.
Step 4: Surround him with overpaid journeymen
Now that you've got your first marquee signing, you want to deflect attention from the fact that he's not actually very good. Buy up all the aging domestic talent cast off by other oil-rich clubs in your country after they've moved well past Step 4. If you're the first club in your league to be bought out by an oil billionaire, don't worry. Pick up a few hard-working locals and supplement them by overpaying for guys coming out of the Netherlands or other lower tier leagues. Again, it's not as much about quality as it is about making a statement. You're rich as hell and you want everybody to know it.
Step 5: Pay entirely too much for legitimate world class players
Once you've shown the world the kind of ludicrous sums you're willing to toss around, legitimately good players will sit up and take notice. They'll praise your "ambition" and be excited for your "project", but you know you've got them right where you want them. They're hooked on that sweet smell of cash. Again, if you can break a transfer record to get them, so much the better.
Step 6: Fire Mark Hughes
Seriously, who told you to hire that guy? What were you thinking? He has no business coaching at this level. Especially now that you have all these expensive egos in the locker room.
Step 7: Hire a well-regarded manager surrounded by scandal
There's plenty of brilliant managers out there who've lived a clean life and steered away from controversy their entire careers. Avoid them at all cost. Scandal sells. If he left his previous job in complete disgrace, so much the better. You want a guy who's going to be in the headlines all the time for whatever reason. There is no such thing as bad publicity. Besides, the tabloids' rabid ranting will only encourage the Guardian to back the new manager to succeed.
It also helps if he has a unique fashion quirk (trenchcoat, scarf, funny hat, monocle).
Step 8: Institute an obnoxious PR campaign
You've got the players, you've got the manager. Now it's time to convince everyone that this bloated monstrosity of a football club is not the plaything of a rich oil tycoon who couldn't find Woolwich on a map with two hands and a flashlight. Don't over-complicate this. You don't want to make a mistake and let everyone know that you don't know what you're doing. This campaign should involve only two types of pictures: crowds of your fans celebrating or your players celebrating in groups. These campaigns should involve an excessive use of the words "we," "us," and "our."
Plaster these ads not only all throughout regular media outlets, but also tastefully on old buildings, implying that you have a level of respect for this community and its history. You obviously don't because its more than 20 years old and its not covered in white plastic, but the less the fans know about that the better.
Step 9: Massively overpay for another world class player
Seriously, what's wrong with you? You call that a football team? You've got more money than God. Go find a world class player that is generally regarded as not for sale and buy him anyway. Bonus points if they swore they'd spend the rest of their career at whatever club you bought him from. Make sure his contract requires him to talk about what a dream come true playing for your club is at every possible opportunity. Bonus bonus points if you bought him from a rival.
Step 10: Promise to develop young talent
You understand the right way to run a football club. Scouting young talent and developing them. But let's be honest, if this club was capable of growing its own players from a young age and turning them into superstars, they wouldn't need your help. All those kids in the academy already? To hell with them. Dump 'em. They're not good and they were never going to be. They'd get their dreams crushed sooner or later, so you might as well be the one to have fun doing it.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of academies out there who do an excellent job developing young players. And the best part is, child labor laws prevent most of these kids from signing real contracts until they're older. Poach as many of these youngsters as you can and transplant them into your academy. In a few years, you'll be able to show off what an impressive batch of "homegrown" players you have. Financial Fair Play is for suckers.
Step 10b: But seriously, Neymar is available.
I mean, come on. You can't pass that up. Right?