On 30 November 2014 the editor of a Russian news website walked into her office with a revolutionary idea. For the next day, The City Reporter would publish only positive news stories. “Do you feel like you’re surrounded by negative information? Do you think good news is a myth?” the website asked its wary readers. “We’ll try to prove the opposite tomorrow!”
As promised, the next day the negativity had all but disappeared. No more stories on burst water pipes. No more stories on fatal car crashes. And the end result? The City Reporter immediately lost two-thirds of its usual readership. “It looks like almost nobody needed positivity stories, that’s the trouble,” Viktoriya Nekrasova was left to conclude, in a Facebook post accompanied by a picture of a rather mournful looking cat. The stories of woe and misery returned the very next morning.
There’s a reason that readers in Rostov-on-Don deserted the site in their droves. “If it bleeds, it leads,” runs the famous old newsroom adage. Human beings are hardwired to hunt out negative events and stories, which are intrinsically more memorable and emotionally impactful than good ones. Or in other words: we’re all gluttons for punishment. It’s in our nature.
Perhaps that explains why so many Arsenal supporters appear to have hammered the panic button this week, as the news broke that Stan Kroenke is on the verge of a full takeover of the club. “This is a dreadful day for Arsenal FC,” the Supporters Trust said in a hastily-assembled statement. “This is a takeover which is sadly an all too familiar story in today’s Premier League,” chimed in Jeremy Corbyn. “Imagine if this wasn’t only about the money but about the club, the community and the fans – all this new enthusiasm we are witnessing under Unai Emery wouldn’t feel like such a waste,” added Ian Wright, with a heartbreak emoji thrown in for good measure.
No matter how you look at it and whatever your allegiance, it’s hard not to feel a sharp stab of regret that Arsenal’s laudable shareholder ownership is now a thing of the sepia-tinged past. The tradition and – more importantly – accountability of shareholders putting questions to increasingly befuddled directors at annuals AGMs is highly unlikely to survive the regime change. And so Arsenal will complete their transition to another faceless modern super club like all the rest.
There are reasons to be positive, however. Reasons which should not be swept aside in the unrelenting wave of misery that has this week engulfed north London. After all, Kroenke further extending his clammy grip on the club is hardly likely to seriously disrupt Emery’s encouraging start to life at the club, or Sven Mislintat’s brief as head of recruitment, or performances out on the pitch. Not for a while yet, anyway.
It’s the timing of Alisher Usmanov’s announcement that he has decided to sell his 30% stake in the club which is particularly galling. Because, after years of carefully stage-managed stasis under Arsène Wenger, the club have finally thrown themselves headfirst into a long-awaited new dawn. They have voted for change and to hell with the consequences. And the early signs look good, particularly when it comes to their dealings in the transfer market.
Not that it always looked as though that was going to be the case. After all, as recently as the start of June, when Sokratis Papastathopoulos completed a £14.8m move to become the club’s third significant signing of the summer, there were still pessimistic mumblings that a hamstrung Mislintat was simply presiding over a ‘Dortmundification’ of his new club, following last season’s arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
But since then, Arsenal have moved to fix a long-running problem position with the £26.4m signature of impressive Uruguayan defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira, while snapping up French teenager Mattéo Guendouzi on the cheap. He has been outstanding in pre-season. Factor in the earlier arrivals of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Bernd Leno, as well as a sensible pruning of the first-team squad, and this begins to look like an excellent window for Mislintat and co.
The ultimate test of Arsenal’s dealings this window will of course be proved on the pitch. Torreira will be expected to deliver immediately. Even Guendouzi will hardly be afforded much time to learn his craft. But an early indicator that things are headed in the right direction is how quiet things are likely to be down at London Colney today. When Emery arrived from Paris Saint-Germain, he requested a goalkeeper, centre-back and midfield anchor-man, and got all three. There will be no late incomings. There will be no late panic. It is an enviable position to be in.
That doesn’t mean Arsenal’s name will suddenly slip off of the neon-yellow transfer ticker of doom, mind you. Expect to see reams of rumours surrounding a late move for Croatian defender Domagoj Vida (too expensive), or Cristian Pavón (not this window). Meanwhile there is still some deadwood to be shifted, with Lucas Pérez, Danny Welbeck and Joel Campbell all on standby to leave the club.
And then there is the Kroenke panic, which will rumble on unaffected like an earthquake at the lower end of the Richter scale. As the readers of the humble City Reporter proved, it is simply in our nature to hone in on the worry and doubt. But these are encouraging times for Arsenal. A new manager is finally in place, the club’s star players are settled and the squad has been strengthened sufficiently. There is light on the horizon, regardless of the takeover storm.
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