Fans finally voting with their feet.. Silent Stan nowhere to be seen.. Just what is going on at Arsenal?

Arsenal fans are voting with their feet for the first time during Arsene Wenger's 15-year reign.

Tickets for a Premier League match are on general sale for the Bolton game on Saturday week. That never normally happens.

But with just 11 days to go before the game, you could buy tickets from the Arsenal website on Wednesday afternoon. No excuses about it being on TV, a Carling Cup game or anything like that.

League games on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm simply don't go on general sale at Arsenal. Or, at least, they didn't used to.

People who monitor these things closer than me reckon it is almost certainly the first time it has happened so close to a home league game during Wenger's reign.

Sorry to say it, but that tells its own story. Arsenal have had two decent back-to-back results against Swansea and then in the Champions League at Borussia Dortmund. However, the fans are not convinced.

Three months ago, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis admitted at a fans' meeting: "Arsene is ultimately accountable to the fans - they ultimately make judgment."

Gazidis quickly qualified that statement by insisting the fans were still very much onside with Wenger. The board also back him 100 per cent.

Ultimately, the Bolton game will probably sell out. But for tickets to be sold outside of the various member groups so close to the game really is a striking development.

Wenger insisted this week that the global financial crisis would affect football and his prediction is clearly proving correct. Many fans can't afford it. The other issue is the fans are not impressed.

It was always going to be impossible to replace Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Personally, I think Mikel Arteta is a terrific and exciting signing.

Per Mertesacker also looks just the job. Gervinho looks highly promising and Yossi Benayoun and Ju Young Park will be good additions to the squad.

But when you put prices up by 6.5 per cent, fans expect value for money and if you sell £60million worth of talent then shouldn't you be bringing in a few more stellar names, too?

Arsenal could have totally changed the mood by signing Juan Mata. They went for others, too. Yann M'Vila, Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill.

Imagine breaking the bank for Eden Hazard or Mario Gotze, who starred for Borussia Dortmund. They had the money. It's believed that Gotze's contract is around £15,000-a-week.

But a mixture of indecision on players, not matching the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City in terms of wages and fees saw them miss out time and again.

But Arsenal are more than likely to have the fourth highest wage bill in the Premier League.

Their top earner - now Robin van Persie on £70,000-a-week plus - is not as high as some but they pay extremely well throughout the squad. Abou Diaby is on £60,000-a-week. He gets more than Luka Modric at Tottenham.

So, if Arsenal do indeed have the fourth highest wage bill then shouldn't be finishing fourth be about par for Arsene Wenger? Will that keep Arsenal fans happy?

I think it will but it's going to be one hell of a struggle. Rather than buy proven talent, Arsenal went for a different business model of buying young players who they can develop.

People are already raving about Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin, two kids snapped up from Barcelona. If they prove to be as successful as Cesc Fabregas then no-one will be complaining. But they are just kids.

Arsenal blew Manchester United out of the water to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, again by all accounts, he's a star in the making.

But it's a long time to wait for the finished articles and an even bigger gamble on finishing fourth. They should have backed up the youngsters with more established players.

For all of the transfer scramble in the summer, Arsenal also missed the chance to do the most important deals of all.

Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Alex Song all have two years left on their contracts and, come next summer, will be in the same position as Nasri was this year.

That will mean they will not be in a hurry to sign now as they hold all of the aces and that is an increasing worry, especially if next summer's transfer saga revolves around van Persie.

These are difficult times for Arsenal, never illustrated more clearly than their next Premier League home match against Bolton not being a sell-out.

Which brings us to another question. Has anyone seen Silent Stan? More to the point, has Silent Stan been to a game since he officially signed off the paperwork and effectively took control?

Billionaire Stan Kroenke is one of the richest men in America but seems to be taking a very distant control of Arsenal.

When Roman Abramovich missed a few games, people began to question whether he was losing interest in Chelsea.

Kroenke rarely attends games and, beyond buying the club, he's not going to be an Abramovich-style sugar daddy.

Who is now in charge of Arsenal? Who decides how much can be spent on wages and on which players? Who will ultimately determine club direction at board meetings?

Who was there to tell Wenger to use all of the transfer funds and use the cash from the big money sales?

It was noticeable that Gazidis, chairman Peter Hill-Wood and director Ken Friar all travelled to Dortmund and appeared on the TV screens in close quarters to Wenger who had been banished to the stands.

So where was Kroenke? It's all very well fans don't want Alisher Usmanov, but why is he a worse option than an absent American?

Arsenal is in a strange place at the moment both on an off the pitch. Fans will be hoping the season is finally underway after the new arrivals, two better results and that fourth place can be achievable.

But off the pitch, there seems to be three factions. Wenger on one side, not wanting to buy stellar signings even though he has got the money for transfers. He wants to run the club his own way even though other teams are pulling further away.

Then there's the board who hope games sell out and the club gets into fourth place. A trophy would do nicely, too. There's no doubt they have huge respect for Wenger but more big signings would have been welcome to appease the fans.

Then finally, Kroenke. The distant American who has never said a word to the supporters who pay hundreds of pounds each year (many will immediately say thousands) to keep HIS club going.

There's been no address at an AGM, no message in the programme and no appearance at a fans' meeting. Instead, it's left to the board and the manager to shoulder the blame and any unrest.

It's all too late for Silent Stan now. If he suddenly spoke it would be seen as a vote of confidence or something similarly dangerous to Wenger's long term prospects.

But if only Silent Stan had said as soon as he had taken control that he had so much faith in Wenger that he could sit back and let him and Gazidis take charge then everyone would be happy.

Instead, there is still too much uncertainty about the future, about the club's direction, whether they can achieve fourth place.

Look at Liverpool as an example. John W Henry, another American businessman, went to Liverpool's first game after taking charge, is fantastic at PR both for the club and for fans and has ensured there were big funds to spend this summer.

Meanwhile, at Arsenal, they find themselves in uncertain times, scrapping for fourth with Tottenham and a resurgent Liverpool rather than going for the title.

**

Read John Cross's exclusive Arsenal column every Thursday and follow @ johncrossmirror on Twitter

Fancy winning £3,000 for FREE this month? Play Mirror Football Streak for your chance to win cash prizes! Start predicting now!

williamhill.com

Your comments

Latest columnists