By Walter Broeckx
This week we had a bit of fun with a lot of Manchester City fans coming over to Untold after Tony published an article about the FFP rules and how things were standing at the moment. As usual some of them blame it all on Arsenal that there are any FFP rules at all. And that alone is showing that some of them are not really …how can we put it gently… aware of how things work in the real world.
Maybe a side effect of living in a world where money is no issue and you (your club in fact) can do and spend what they like without any repercussions. One could say that maybe they dream of being able to do the same at home (wouldn’t we all love to be able to do so) and then don’t want to see their dream shattered by those pesky FFP rules.
In the last article I dealt with the ridiculous thought that it is somehow Wenger and Arsenal who are the inventors of the FFP rules. Now I could forgive some because it sure looks that way. I do admit that Arsenal invented their own FFP rules before the name was ever given. It must have been in the first Wenger years when the new stadium plans came above water. In those days I can imagine that the board and Wenger set up this gigantic and ambitious master plan of catapulting Arsenal in to the future and on to another level.
So Arsenal decided to build the stadium and to completely live within their means. No financial adventures, no risks, living within your own means. It has been a hard time…for some. And certainly because of some bad luck, some strange refereeing and some terrible injuries we missed out on some trophies. That led to the barren spell of X years without a trophy that got under the skin of the weaker Arsenal supporters.
A mantra so repeated by the media that even supporters from other clubs say it and repeat it without giving it a thought. Yes it was sometimes painful at times. Yes I would have loved it if we would have won a few trophies and my god we came close a few times. But for me these aren’t the barren years they paint them.
For me they are the building years. Not just the building of the Emirates. No, we have been the lucky guys to have seen the building of a new Arsenal. And it wasn’t the building like Chelsea or Manchester City have been doing with throwing money around as if it was nothing. Buying all that moves on a football field and spend money that came from outside.
We build our new Arsenal in a slow way. And while doing that we were hit by a housing crisis that hit us hard on a moment when we were just about trying to sell the new flats at the old Highbury stadium. And we had to deal with a big financial crisis that still makes victims today in Europe…
So the rebuilding not just of the new stadium but the rebuilding of the club for the future faced difficulties that nobody had predicted when the plans were made.
But despite all that we kept our club in the top 4 of English football. A place that some other clubs would have taken and celebrated it like mad. We got criticised for celebrating 4th place on a few occasions by the media and pundits. But when the tiny totts beat Man City for 4th place a few years ago they went berserk and nobody said a word. Yes, it does matter to finish in the top 4.
What most fans of other clubs don’t understand and unfortunately also some of our own fans don’t understand is that the period we have seen is equal to the Norris years and the Chapman years. In a way it is a combination of the two in one.
Norris saved us from bankruptcy and built a stadium. Chapman built a new team for the future in that stadium some 15 years later and founded a dynasty of league and cup winners: Chapman, Shaw, Allison, Whittaker.
Now we have seen the building of the stadium AND the building of a new team for the future in the same period. And as with all building projects things could have gone better and smoother. Yes, mistakes were made. Yes some players left because they didn’t believe in the project (or didn’t believe in themselves anymore might also be close to the truth) or because there was this lure of much more money than Arsenal could spend (enter the big money teams at the same time).
But as the board and Wenger predicted a while ago : things will change for the good after a while. And so they did. For those saying that money doesn’t matter I just would say that they have to look at what happened after we finally could spend a bit of money again. We bought Özil and won the FA cup and were only a few points away from a double. We bought Alexis won the CS and the FA cup again. Only lots of injuries at the start of the season prevented us from really challenging for the league.
No matter what other fans say or think, they don’t really see the greatness of those ‘barren years’. When in some hundred years an new Tony will be blogging and digging in the history of our club when celebrating Arsenal being 200 years in the top of English football they will point at this period and say that this was the most important period in our clubs history of the last 100 years.
I have, apart from one split second on the birthday that I share with Arsenal a few years ago, never lost the faith. I always kept my eyes on the whole and bigger picture and not just the last result. And it never felt like barren years no matter how many times other repeat this.
It felt like being a privileged spectator of the rebirth of The Arsenal. A club that has stayed loyal to their fair way of working. I do admit that it takes a bit of thinking and also to remove the ‘I want it now’ mentality that is so much of this world today. But if you could and can just like me it feels amazing to see this unfold in front of your eyes.
Winning the FA cup twice in a row and the CS (we can win it also twice in a row…) was great and felt as a reward. But I somehow have the feeling that this is only the start of the good things that come our way.
And when we achieve those things in the coming seasons we will know that the trophies we win are not bought. No, our manager, our board, our players will have worked for it in a fair way. And that trophy (which already is won) is worth more than 10 bought league titles or 5 CL titles. We will win those also, but nobody will say that we have bought them as others have.
Anniversary of the day:
11 July 2003: Peterborough 1 Arsenal 0 – it was followed by Barnet 0 Arsenal 0. In fact the club only won four out of nine pre-season games, but still did rather well in the season to come.