james benge crossbar interview

James Benge talks to CrossBar – (EXCLUSIVE)

CB: The Kroenke’s are basically the Pandemonium Villians for Arsenal fans. Could you shed some light on what they meant when they said they’ll invest in the club?

James Benge: It’s a hard one to come down with a clear opinion on. In the end, the Kroenke’s have a very well defined ownership model that in theory has nothing stopping it from being successful. Because if you look at it, its pretty much the same approach that’s applied by Liverpool.

Liverpool’s owners don’t put hundreds of millions into the club every year. The club spends what it earns. So I think the issue is, earlier on, when Kroenke was the majority shareholder, I think the problem was he allowed things to slide.

Both he and Josh were of the opinion that its best to leave it to the experts. Problem is they kind of entrusted it to the wrong people earlier in their reign. But I think Kroenke’s view on things is perfectly reasonable, even when the vocal minority demand they put their money into the club.

One: They’re not meant to do that.
Two: Do you really want that? Do you want to rely on a pensioner living on the other side of the world and his son completely funding your club?

But the understandable problem that the fans have had, is there’s not been any sense of emotional investment from the Kroenke’s. I talk to people at Arsenal about this, they mention that Stan and Josh don’t really show you that they care. That was the whole issue that summer.

But the understandable problem that the fans have had, is there’s not been any sense of emotional investment from the Kroenke’s. I talk to people at Arsenal about this, they mention that Stan and Josh don’t really show you that they care. That was the whole issue that summer.

Although that’s changed since last summer with Josh being more open with supporters. They were never going to throw millions into the club but at the same time, they’re doing things that allow Arsenal to operate in a more difficult set of circumstances.

Vinai mentioned that KSE has been helping the club financially, but there’s a lot of murkiness where that’s involved. From what I understand, It’s to do with them offering guarantees in terms of the bank loans that pay for the stadium.

The Kroenke’s basically said to the banks “We are Good for that Money” which means Arsenal can now sort of access the cash reserves that are set to one side to pay the banks in case that was needed. I also understand, that was kind of what helped them facilitate spending a but more money last summer.

My assumption would be that this is more about protecting staff jobs and keeping on a stable financial footing during the pandemic than transfers. Although I think Josh Kroenke is someone I do see doing right by the club. He’s engaged and constantly learning about the club as in January of 2018 he stayed in London to know what Arsenal actually is and means to people.

CB: Thomas Partey, are Arsenal interested?

James Benge: There is a club wide acknowledgement that the midfield does need to be strengthened. Although it would have been fascinating what would have happened had Granit Xhaka left the club in January. He probably would have got Arsenal somewhere in the region of what Partey’s release clause is.

Putting that aside, I don’t really see this happening, that’s just my opinion. There’s definite interest, but the finances at Arsenal right now just do not lend themselves to paying release clauses.

The only way I can see it happening is in a swap deal, now obviously Arsenal has Lacazette who Atletico Madrid have liked for a VERY long time. Even then something like this could be really intricate I mean, if you don’t have Aubameyang on a new deal would you swap Lacazette?

Sanllehi did mention that there aren’t many clubs in football who can spend big money right now. Obviously he wasn’t talking about Partey but Arsenal is not the club that has £43m lying around but of course, this could all change.

You also never know the impact the Coronavirus could have on Atletico. What happens if they really struggle or have to sell their assets for cheap. The financial situation there could be difficult but It’ll have to be really tough for a club like Arsenal to exploit that.

Although every Arsenal reported gets absolute grief for this, but every indication coming out of Arsenal was that they didn’t think they could afford Pepe and they could. They just had to structure the deal very imagitvely.

If anyone can work out a way of paying Partey’s release clause without actually paying it; I think it might be Raul Sanllehi but it’s tough.

CB: Arsenal are also reportedly looking at free transfers, namely Willian and Fraser, any comments?

James Benge: Willian is a puzzling one, It would probably depend on the terms that were being offered to him. If he would come for around 2 years as a sort of experienced figure to lead the young players I think the club wouldn’t mind.

Sometimes this season, you thought you’d need someone to come on when you’re 1-0 up and just sit in front of the fullbacks but also they got quality on the other end. I mean you can’t ask that of Nelson, Willock, Martinelli or Saka…okay maybe you can of Saka

I think having someone like that, someone experienced just to help guide the younger players. Fraser is a really odd one, Arsenal were keen last year until more money became available. I don’t know how much of that has changed.

Fraser himself really didn’t react that well, being linked to Arsenal and that transfer not happening. I’m speculating here but I wonder if that will affect Arsenal’s interest IF ANY.

But we can safely say that players that are available for free Arsenal are looking at them.

CB: Any Particular league Arsenal is interested in for their recruitment?

James Benge: Yes there is a real commitment to scouting Brazil heavily. Arsenal are in a position where that is a really good market for them as you can get great value for money

Arsenal’s scouting department has placed real emphasis on Brazil and obviously Edu himself has great ties helps alot.

CB: With the Coronavirus situation, Do you see Football resuming Soon or there’s still a lot to work out?

James Benge: There’s still a lot to work out, specifically in terms of football. I think come Monday or Sunday, there’ll be an announcement that sort of opens the doors for football to comeback behind closed doors. The big issue for UK is that the lockdown happened too late.

I am not the one to talk about if now is the right time to come out of it, yet I understand the will from the Premier League to do this because look, the problems aren’t gonna go away. At some stage you’re gonna have to come out of this and at some stage the Premier League football will happen again.

You cannot wait 18 months for a vaccine to come along. Every club in the world will go out of business if they can’t play football to earn broadcasting money for 18 months. Its gonna have to happen at some stage. You gotta give it a go and see what happens.

CB: How do you see the transfer market being impacted? Will the clubs recover eventually?

James Benge: The clubs can recover eventually but It’ll be multiple years before we, you know, I don’t think we’ll ever get back to the Neymar Mbappe transfer deals very soon.

I think the impact is going to be felt for several years, but you know Arsenal are looking at potentially a loss of £144m which is GIGANTIC. The transfer window we know and love won’t even exist for clubs like Arsenal and if you go lower down the Premier League the money isn’t even going to be there to be spent.

There will be deals done with clubs looking at free transfers and such but nothing major will happen as far as I can see. They’ll still have a list of targets, the scouting work being done is phenomenal. I’m told clubs are even looking at Japanese first and second divisions for any bargains they may come across.

CB: Fans have been worried about the impact Agents have had on Arsenal. Are those worries justified?

James Benge: Its not ideal, specially when you lose someone like Sven Mislintat because he thinks the club is too agent run. Raul Sanllehi knows every agent.

Although one that comes up alot is Kia Joorabchian, who has undoubtedly become more influential at the club. He’s seen fairly regularly in the boxes with senior figures, I mean he’s an Arsenal fan. Obviously some of his players have joined.

I’d like to point out that one of them, David Luiz, ticked a box Arsenal needed post-Koscielny of an experienced center half who can hold the fort for a year, particularly until Saliba arrives. Same with Cedric, It was a deal that could be done

You could also say the same thing about Arturo Canales, who is Pablo Mari’s agent but also helped broker the deal for Unai Emery. You could say the same about Mino Raiola who Arsenal didn’t do business with until Sanllehi took over as DOF and in came Mkhitaryan.

Arsenal in the Wenger years, had a bit of a cultural aversion of dealing with these big agents. What’s Sanllehi has kind of changed is they’ve accepted that sometimes that’s how the world works.

With Sanllehi, we’ll only see his impact in a few years time. Everyone rushes to quick snap judgements. It was ‘Don Raul’ one minute and then three months later he was absolutely useless.

But the truth is he’s probably somewhere in the middle, but either way It’ll be 4 or 5 years of squad building before we know how good Sanllehi is at his job.


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