By Don Don McMahon
WHAT IS THE ARSENAL…AND WHAT DOES ARSENAL REPRESENT?
This essay on our Arsenal is neither intended to be exhaustive nor definitive. It is my best effort at trying (probably in vain) to paint a faint but pragmatic image of what the Arsenal is for us Gooners. It is a vision of what has been, is and will be.
As a Club it represents an open and tolerant society of members and its history, Footballers, managers, caretakers and fans dedicated to positive and constructive involvement and improvement to the Game we all adore.
As a Football Team it represents principles of fairplay, beautiful Football, restrained ambition, benevolent paternalism, as well as a familial, unique team spirit based on a democratic and egalitarian model. The team is finely tuned, sometimes overly delicate and certainly injury-prone but valiant, amazingly resilient and capable of regularly beating the best as well as losing to the worst.
As a business it espouses a model of benevolent private ownership structured and managed by caretakers and familial interests. This is based on share values rather than dividends, an emphasis on profitability, sustainable growth and progress, frugality and discipline, and planned reinvestment in facilities such as the Emirates, London Colney and the Medical Centre.
We also do property development and marketing of our image and goods, albeit barely adequately according to some and certainly able to be increased significantly by all measures.
In its human relations it prefers discretion, unconditional support for its players and staff, an arms-length but responsive relationship with fans and supporters, a firmness about maintaining a positive team attitude and spirit even at the cost of losing some players, a willingness to respect players needs and wishes, despite the consequences that entails.
The Arsenal is NOT racist, xenophobic or sectarian,nor does it endorse or encourage partisanship beyond the accepted limits of civilized behaviour.
We do NOT throw bananas, bagels or baguettes at our players nor do we chant ill-mannered, ghoulish and ignorant ditties, except at our manager or a particularly petrified morsel of deadwood and then only occasionally.
Apparently this is acceptable because we pay the ¨highest¨ticket prices in the EPL according to the ignorant and ill-informed pundits and media so this awards some followers the dubious ¨privilege¨ of denigrating and demeaning our team and its components before the entire world, thus proving what great supporters they are.
It is managed and coached by a group of men who, together, have more expertise, certifications and experience in top-flight professional football in their greying hair than the entire mob of moaning, groaning, whiners who try and tell them how to run the Club based on these people’s marginal Fantasy Football Manager successes.
The manager is the figurehead and icon of the Arsenal and even has a first name that seems taken from the AFC dictionary. His class, elegance, wit, savoir-faire and overall intelligence represents perfectly what the Arsenal is all about. He is tolerant of others, protective of his charges and noble in his treatment of them, to the point of seeming insanity.
When AFC do transfers and negotiations, they are perhaps at their most discrete and secretive. Unlike clubs, whose bottomless resources permit them to announce their targets far and wide, Arsene, Gazidis, the Board and the scouting team rarely if ever offer any solid or specific hints, heads-up or possibilities.
For whatever reason Wenger likes to surprise the supporters and the media and some negotiations have been so protracted, clouded in mystery and confusion and obfuscated that teams wishing to sell to us, even if we don’t want to buy, have taken to making outrageous claims about our supposed intent.
This allows the yellow media and Wenger haters (often one and the same) to latch onto such claims as gospel. We are always in a lose-lose situation with some of our so-called supporters, almost the entire media and certainly other clubs. This, in fact aids and abets Wenger’s approach to all things financial – mystery is good, uncertainty is positive and transparency is for the other guys.
Our future seems more positive than our recent past, with better financial resources, stricter restraints on our competitors financial shenanigans and rapidly improving youth talents, combined with greater access to top class transfers. As well, our world fanbase is growing exponentially and our business management, while still struggling to keep up, seems to be getting the gist of it.
In summary, our club is like an extraordinary collection of miscreants in an extended family. We have the wayward black sheep (whiny supporters), the spoilt siblings, the noble and patient pater familias, the die-hard travellers (away fans), the distant rich uncle (Stan), the creepy ultra-rich uncle (Alisher, who himself recently claimed to have been misquoted in L’Equipe), the faithful clan member (Ivan) , the child prodigies (Walkcott, Ox, Wilshere) and everything in between. That is both the joy and sorrow of the Arsenal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
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- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches
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- The Arsenal History Blog from the AISA Arsenal History Society