Yesterday’s toothless display at Old Trafford yesterday not only emphasized the gulf in class that has arisen over the last few years between Arsenal and Manchester United but also the point of emphasis. Manchester United are a football team. Arsenal are a business.
You only have to watch the regular features on Arsenal Player about the restaurant facilities or the new multi-million pounds health centre to know that Arsenal don’t really give a shit about the erosion of our credentials as a football team compared to their obsession with the maintenance of our financial liquidity. Indeed such is the malaise of mediocrity which has set in at Arsenal that I would welcome a break-away amateur set up along the lines of FC United. One thing is sure: As long as this current regime is in charge at Arsenal, I will not attend The Emirates again. I’d rather have Usmanov indulging himself for 5 years then fucking off and leaving us penniless than this lot of pricks. At least that would be a form of absolution and we could go back to actually supporting a football team.
I feel sorry for Mr Wenger. His legacy is shot as a manager because of the Emirates project. He is no longer thought of in the same breath as Ferguson or Mourinho or Guardiola or Mancini. Unfortunately he is now manager of a team that doesn’t really compete for top honours any more. Where once we could boast a team of world beaters we now have Andre Santos and Gervinho!! I fully expect Theo to jump ship in January – just as he is beginning to mature. He will then probably be followed by Jack, Gibbs, Sagna and The Ox in the coming years and we will be decimated to the point of us being on par with Aston Villa and Fulham.
Maybe then, when we don’t even make the Europa league and Spurs hold sway in North London will this folly be exposed. That business does not mix with football and faceless shadows like Kroenke and Gazidis are not wanted by us; and that financial success can only be truly sustained by the team’s success on the pitch.
Having just read John Cross’s account of Arsenal’s Carling cup tie against Shrewsbury I can see why the Arsenal faithful have developed a complex about the press. Yes, once again The defensive unit looked vulnerable at times and ,yes, there is a lot of work to do before we ‘turn the corner’, but throughout Cross’s article it was all about the deficiencies and nothing about the positives. Keeping the crisis motif going and heaping pressure onto Wenger as if they’re trying to force some kind of reaction from the club or Wenger himself seems to be the intention of Fleet street at the moment. I’m not happy about the situation at Arsenal, but I don’t need two bit journalists telling me how bad we are I can see it for myself. I just worry that Wenger will become so entrenched by his stubborn-ness not to react to the ‘advice’ emanating from all quarters that he will lose sight of what actually needs to be done.
I saw many positives from Tuesday night’s game which will hold the team in good stead for the future.That seems to be a phrase much repeated over recent years but it never seems to promise anything other than, well, ‘promise’. Hopefully that will change. The performances of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin were both worthy of note as were the contributions of Yossi Benayoun and Kieran Gibbs. I think one move in the right direction has been the introduction of experience into the mix. I expect Mikel Arteta and to a lesser extent Benayoun to be influential in coming months and worthy confederates of Jack Wilshere when he eventually casts off the dreaded ‘boot’. Once Thomas Vermaelen teams up with Mertersacker I’m sure the defence will finally settle into something resembling cohesion and we can build from there. Things are not as bad as it appears. I just pray that by the time everything is sorted and the team has gelled as a unit that we are not too far behind to grab that all important fourth spot.
So now we’re back to real business on Saturday and the visit of Bolton. This really is ‘must-win’ territory with a performance to match. I saw enough signs last week that prove that we can be a threat going forward, I just hope that something is being done about the defence and the need for someone to take charge. Our confidence is non-existent at the moment and we need a collective sense of purpose to get us through this horrible time. I’ve been negative and reactionary over recent weeks but I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt and back them to get it right. Time is running out and Spurs loom on the near horizon. Failure to rise to the challenge of the next few weeks could make it very difficult for Mr Wenger.
During Sunday Supplement yesterday Paddy Barclay raised the unthinkable by suggesting that the Arsenal could be in danger of relegation if they don’t arrest this seemingly endless slide toward oblivion. Of course, a team like Arsenal will never slip out of the top flight because, if it came to it, they would have the necessary resources to buy their way out of trouble just as Liverpool did after their equally abysmal start last season.
The club don’t give a jot about the fans feelings of humiliation or the anger arising from the kick-ya-while-ya-down price increases, but they do get very attentive when the prospect of losing out on revenue rears its ugly head. Slipping out of the top four not only means the possibility of Thursday night football on Channel 5 but also the vastly inferior cash as well. Add that to a possible drop in season ticket renewals and a less than full Emirates and you have, in the eyes of Hill-Wood and Silent Stan, a ‘crisis’. Then watch how quickly they distance themselves from Wenger and lay the blame squarely at the Manager’s door.
We are in danger, if changes to the structure and philosophy of the club are not made quickly, of losing our status as viable title contenders. Indeed of even slipping behind Spurs and Liverpool who seem to employ a much more traditionally ‘football’ oriented’ philosophy rather than the ‘financially prudent’ model emanating from Arsenal. We need a clear out of the old and a new proactive approach employing individuals who are prepared to question the direction of the club and Wenger’s obviously failing approach. In particular the utterly woeful defensive coaching (if it exists) which has reduced us to an absolute laughing stock across the football world. Eden Hazard, who was apparently at Ewood on Saturday, must have been dumbstruck by the contrast between the first and second half displays. Fluency and skill replaced by bumbling ineptitude.
Arsene Wenger is obviously held in high esteem by many of the Arsenal faithful for his past achievements and rightly so, but at the end of the day he is just another employee of the club who will eventually go and be replaced by another employee. I just pray that he doesn’t ruin his legacy by stubbornly refusing to embrace change and at the same time doom my beloved Arsenal to mediocrity. Come on Arsene/Arsenal wake up and smell the bacon.
When I was growing up, the club you supported was a family and community thing. Being a gooner was passed down through the generations – ‘it’ chose you so to speak. In my case, my grandfather started supporting the team when he came down from Cumberland to find work in the early thirties, he then passed on the baton to my late father who in term infected me and my brothers ( after a few brief and defiant flirtations with other clubs) with the bug. My sons are all gooners with varying degrees of intensity and so it goes on.
Now, however, Arsenal is a global brand and you are just as likely to have Arsenal fans who hail from Kuala Lumpur as you are from Camden Town. The way they found their way to Arsenal is different, more subjective perhaps. Be it style of play or level of success they actually made a decision to support the club rather than being born into it. If they were making the same decision now why would they choose Arsenal? I suspect many non-London supporters were attracted to the club by the Invincibles; by Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires; by the regular silverware which graced the Highbury trophy cabinet. What now? How will this team attract new support? What is there that will fire the enthusiasm of school children in Wyoming or factory workers in Beijing?
Yesterday at Blackburn, in the first half, save for the lapse in concentration of Andre Santos who played Yakuba onside for their first goal, I was heartily encouraged by the performance of the team. We looked fluent and composed and dangerous going forward.OK it was Blackburn, but I was certain we would go on and win the game comfortably. Once again, however, it was the defence that has lost us the game and, in particular, the lack of leadership during set pieces. We can’t keep using the absence of key players as an excuse. After all, aren’t we supposed to have a squad that is capable of challenging for honours?
In my opinion it is time to get back to basics. We have to rebuild the team from a defensive perspective and get back to the days when we were hard to beat. Grinding out 1-0 victories with a defence that was impenetrable. Whether Arsene Wenger is the man to do that is questionable. I would like to see Tony Adams back at Arsenal perhaps in a supportive role to Wenger concentrating on the defensive side of things while Wenger weaved his undoubted magic with the attacking options. Eventually it would be great to have Dennis Bergkamp back in a coaching role but that is something for the future. Until then we’ve got to shore up the defence and get back to winning. If that doesn’t happen it’ll back to the days when Arsenal’s support will only come from North London.