By Tony Attwood
Naturally we focus on Arsenal, and sometimes the Wenger out mob – the aaa, their allies in the AST (who do those “surveys” each year in which people are asked questions in a funny way which gets answers such as
- 94% want the increased revenue from broadcasting and commercial deals to help with more affordable pricing at the Emirates and 86% were against this season’s ticket price increase
- 80% of Fans who expressed an opinion supported Arsène Wenger continuing as Arsenal’s manager, but most also say he has too much responsibility for the transfer fees the club pays and do not believe the ‘socialist’ wage policy he champions remains effective
So, more affordable seats. Lets say £20 off the price of an Arsenal seat on average. That reduces Arsenal’s income by £25m a year. But the ‘socialist’ wage policy should go as well, so while everyone else is getting more and more, we start to get less.
Now when Mr Wenger made his comment with that phrase in, in January 2013, there was outrage, largely because of a series of miscalculations (including bonuses in Mr Wenger’s salaries but only quoting players’ basic salaries), and because getting to grips with the way Mr Wenger uses irony has never been a strong point of publications like Goal, the Telegraph and the like.
But anyway, the AST membership wanted footballers to earn mega rich amounts, and it seems wanted Arsenal to pay more to get better players (as they saw it). But not at the fans’ expense.
I am not sure other clubs have their own version of the aaa. Man U might to some extent for Louis van Gaal recently said that Manchester United supporters are putting pressure on the players because they don’t “understand the game” when he Van Gaal was booed by Man U fans for replacing Anthony Martial with Marouane Fellaini during Tuesday’s the Champions League game with CSKA Moscow.
“Criticism by the fans is never unfair. It’s the feeling of the fans and you can’t criticise the feeling of the fans. But I think the supporters have to support the players, otherwise they make it very difficult for the players to play at Old Trafford.” And that of course is what the aaa absolutely doesn’t do – they don’t support the players. Remember the treatment of Ramsey, Ozil, Bellerin etc etc.
VG also noted the way Barcelona fans react. “At Barca, we had white handkerchiefs. In my first period, we were champions and we won the cup, so it was not like that. But in my second period in Barcelona, it was always the white handkerchiefs.” He also said that he suffered the same sort of thing at Bayern Munich.
Of course Man U, like Arsenal, have a history in modern times of not kicking out the manager. Chelsea on the other hand are different, as they have sacked seven managers since 2003 with two more leaving at the end of short term contracts. It is as if the Abramovich chappie has taken a look at Tottenham and instead of seeing their approach as a warning how not to do it, he’s taken it as a blueprint.
However what is sometimes forgotten is that when Mourinho left at the end of his first tenure he did so after playing a Champions League game at a half empty Stamford Bridge. That’s not what the oilman really wanted, and that unwillingness of Chelsea fans to come to each match reflected a lot on the early postponement of the Chelsea plans fora bigger stadium. Imagine spending three years playing away from home only to return and find halfway through the season that the stadium is only a quarter full.
Of course currently Chelsea are in a return to their regular pre-oligarch approach to football. In the 95 years between their formation and the start of the 21st century they had won one League Title, the FA Cup twice, the League Cup twice, the Charity Shield, the Full Members Cup, the second division (twice) and the Cup Winners’ Cup (twice). One every nine years (if one includes the Full Members Cup etc).
This season Mourinho has a win ratio this season of one in three, which has until now, been below the sacking level. And yet there doesn’t seem to be the rise of as noisy an anti-Chelsea Chelsea movement or even as large an anti-Mourinho movement as one might expect.
Perhaps that is because people think his departure is inevitable. After all, when Roberto di Matteo was removed to Siberia in 2012 after 19 games he’d won over half the games Chelsea had played. Mind you Grant had a 66% winning ratio which is pretty fantastic, and he was deported to the salt mines.
So what is it that keeps Chelsea fans very loyal when the owner seems so contrary – sacking the successful but retaining the unsuccessful?
I know the owner of Chelsea doesn’t make it to all the games – although he did resign as governor of Chukotka some years back so political duties can’t be the explanation. But I wonder if he just takes reports of matches from the club web site.
For example when Chelsea lost to Man City the match report said, “A Ramires goal incorrectly ruled out for offside with Man City a goal ahead changed the complexion of this early-season Premier League fixture.”
The Telegraph said of the same game “Chelsea… were utterly dominated, over-run, undone by Manchester City…. it is now his team that needs surgery.” Of course I often don’t agree with Telegraph reporting, but it got me wondering. If this is Abramovich’s view of reality, it could explain a lot.
Chelsea 1 Palace 2 had more of the same, saying “We should have had a penalty when Kurt Zouma’s shirt was pulled in the box” Actually the report is interesting because it mentions that twice in different parts of the report, making it sound like two incidents. Now that is clever manipulation of the casual reader. (In advertising it is the “if it is worth saying once then say it again” style – of course the ads my agency produce never do that, but some of the more shifty companies down the lower end of the scale occasionally do).
Everton 3 Chelsea 1 had “A 2-0 deficit at the midway stage of the half did not reflect the overall balance of the play up to that point.” The Independent said, “Chelsea are leaking goals and they lack a cutting edge in attack, and a hungrier-looking Everton side took full advantage.” I don’t think the Indy is delivered to the luxury yacht, but I guess it has broadband.
Chelsea 1 Southampton 3, said, “Falcao was not given a penalty with the score 1-1 when the goalkeeper dived at his feet and made contact. Falcao stretched to control it and then collided with the keeper for what looked a penalty to many watching on. The ref however booked the Chelsea man.” Hmm, I think we’ve seen that sort of thing too.
But before I get too sympathetic for West Ham 2 Chelsea 1 the web site notes that Chelsea had played the second half with 10 men but should have won because “Kurt Zouma’s header looked to have crossed the line, only for the decision to go the home side’s way,” which seems to ignore the fact that we have goal line technology in the league these days.
This really does give us a clue as to how the world is seen. This is a series of reports talking about incidents going against Chelsea rather than for them (as they always used to do). Now why is that? Why would your “luck” suddenly change? Or maybe someone who was given the Type III match fixing money failed to hand it over and is now living anonymously in a luxury pad in Rio.
When the Mail on Sunday wrote, “Where once there was structure and order to Chelsea, now there is simply rank indiscipline,” they were probably thinking only of the players however.
Blaming the ref is very unusual in club publications, but Chelsea have gone in for it wholesale this season, and I wonder if that is having the reverse impact – with the refs being even more determined to put them down. Certainly they have changed their tune on occasion as with Chelsea 1 Liverpool 3 where they tried a different approach saying that “When Philippe Coutinho netted the first of his two goals seconds before the interval, there was again the feeling that little is going our way at the present time. That was added to later on when Liverpool midfielder Lucas escaped a second yellow card.”
Now we know that referees can be appalling, and indeed laughably awful. But what the Chelsea programme writer does is mix the notion of being unlucky in the play with being unlucky in the referee decisions, rather than keeping the review of the ref separate from the review of the players it gets a bit odd. But they have a problem because they can’t mention how referees just don’t see (or at least fail to punish) Diego Costa doing what he does. So best not to do ref only reviews.
Costa kicks Gabriel not mentioned. Costa kicks Skrtel not mentioned. A pattern?
So it goes on. In the Stoke defeat we get “Adam kicked Pedro on the half-hour but avoided a yellow card. Again shades of our game here 11 days ago. The first major incident of the second half was a forearm smash into the jumping Nemanja Matic from guess who? Charlie Adam; with guess what outcome? Words from the ref but no yellow card.”
This might be true, but without a full review of the referee by another referee how can we possibly know? Maybe the world has turned and now referees are being systematically biased against Chelsea, except that they don’t give fouls for kicks by Costa.
So, this is the story Mr Abramovich gets, and you can see he must be concerned and relieved. It is not the manager’s fault at all. It says so in the programme and on line. And so the fans support the manager because he’s in the right, all the time.
It is also clever in one sense because Mourninho got his stadium ban for criticising refs. Managers have to be careful what they say about refs for fear of the PGMO’s bizarre and eccentric behaviour being revealed. But there’s nothing in the rule book to say the club’s website can’t criticise refs.
So if Mr Abramovich gets his view of Chelsea from the web site he thinks they are just having an unlucky run. Just a couple of court cases being brought by the good doctor to be sorted out, and everything will be on track.
From the anniversary files
- 13 November 1920: Arsenal 2 Blackburn 0. A shortage of first team players meant that the club’s partially injured regular goalkeeper played at full back. White and Pagnum scored. The programme for the game spoke of no club ever having such an injury list as Arsenal.
- 13 November 1937: Arsenal 1 WBA 1 – Arsenal’s sixth without a win with just five goals scored in the last five games; somewhat unusual for a League winning season! Leslie Compton scored in front of 24,324.
The Untold Books
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal