By Tony Attwood
On the Arsenal History Society site yesterday I published a little summary of the way in which people who call themselves Arsenal fans have turned on players and the club all the way through the club’s history, ever since the departure of the working class Sir Henry Norris who would metaphorically roll up his sleeves and take on anyone who dared put down his club (the FA, the press, anyone).
The article takes in incidents from the 1920s to the present day showing the negative impact of Arsenal fans on the club. And today on that site I have published a second piece which looks at what individual managers at Arsenal have achieved in their first season at the club.
Here, looking to the future, (which is more Untold Arsenal territory) I want to ask the questions that 99.999% of anti-Wenger correspondents to this site don’t either ask or answer, in relation to the new manager.
In writing this I am not suggesting that Mr Wenger is about to leave – but rather looking to the inevitable, that at some time he will leave. The questions will, I think, be as valid in ten years as they are now.
1: Who would want to come to Arsenal in this toxic atmosphere – generated by the media and people who call themselves Arsenal fans but spend most of their time criticising the club?
It is all very well wanting a manager out, but there is no point in doing this unless you can get in someone better. Arsenal has a long history of the media and the fans turning on the club, as the Arsenal History Society article shows, so anyone suggesting Mr Wenger needs to go really should be considering who might come in his stead.
While most available managers would want to go to Barcelona or Bayern because they win the league so often and have totally committed fans, who would want come to Arsenal, knowing what is going to happen?
2: How will the new manager cope with the opening sleeve story that the media will create?
On his first day in office Mr Wenger was faced with a howling, baying mob on the steps of Highbury who were shouting at him, “What have you got to say about the rumours Mr Wenger?”
Fortunately Mr Wenger was infinitely more intelligent that every person in that mob added together, and the journalists failed to get their sleaze story. But it was taken up by Man U fans and we have heard it ever since.
The media mob will do the same again, because they always turn on Arsenal in a way that they never turn on Liverpool! Tottenham, Man U, Man C or Chelsea, and everyone who is thinking of managing Arsenal knows they will have to face it and face it alone, given the way the board advised Mr Wenger simply to “stay inside and keep your head down.” This is what happens to new managers at Arsenal. Who wants to face that?
Remember the press in other countries is nowhere near so intrusive and hostile.
3: What does the new man have to do in his first year at Arsenal?
Mr Wenger gave us third, with early exits from all cups, in his first year. Since we now know from those who oppose Mr Wenger that cups – even repeated winning of cups – are not trophies, presumably that means doing better in the league – which presumably means second in the first season, winning in the second. Quite an absolute demand. Here’s Mr W’s first season. It’s got to be better than that.
4: Will the new man be subject to the last match being everything analysis?
This has been the focus of much of the criticism. If we can’t beat Watford we are useless – the end of the debate (although actually it isn’t a debate, it is a statement).
This approach does make life very tough for every manager since even in the unbeaten season there were some rather unexciting draws. And that season was exceptional.
5: Whoever comes in will be incredibly lucky having Awobi, Bellerin, Coquelin, Elneny, coming up. But apparently this is a side without leaders. Where will he find them immediately?
One argument is that despite the purchase of Ozil and Alexis Mr Wenger won’t spend any money. I am not sure how that works, but it is the point that is made. So the new man has to be willing to spend money – but just as we have to find a manager who is willing to come to Arsenal, so we have to find players who are willing to come to the club.
Mr Wenger gets players because of his fame in football at looking to play exciting, rather than negative football, and because he has the knack of finding incredible young players who can really make the team work.
But leaders are harder to find – and again they have either to be at the club or be willing to come to it. Tony Adams, often cited in this regard, came up through the ranks, and so was accepted as a leader from early on. But who will do this if we don’t have any (and it is “any” – for that is what the aaa and the press say). The Telegraph has called the team weak – and no real leader wants to lead a weak team. So who will we get to resolve that?
6. There was a call for attacking reinforcements which (again according to the Telegraph) should have been bought in January. But where to do you find them?
We have Welbeck, Giroud, Theo, Alexis, Campbell. So clearly we need someone better than all of them. Who is that going to be? And again remember the player needs to be established, we need to fight off all other clubs to get him, and the player has to want to come into the toxic atmosphere that the aaa and the media have created at Arsenal.
7. We also have a soft centre, according to many reporters and the aaa. So again who could we get who would want to come here?
Laurent Koscielny was described by Mr Wenger as his best value for money player ever, and indeed Mr Wenger has taken him from being on the bench in the French second division to being ranked in the top 100 players in Europe.
But that is seemingly not enough. Mr Wenger clearly believes in Gabriel and is willing to wait for him to develop. Brazil believes in him too. But that is not enough under the new regime. So who are we going to get to fill this role – and come to that how is a new man going to be able to do it at once?
8: At the same time as this we need tactical flexibility. How is that to be introduced at the same time?
Mr Wenger develops players by playing them in the team, but the aaa and their friends in the media want change now – and success now, remembering that a cup is not a trophy, and nor is just qualifying for the champions league.
So we need a new attacking option and a new leader or two. But also according to the Telegraph we need tactical flexibility. So where does this come from at the same time? Come to that how? It seems to me a valid question to ask of anyone who is asking for these changes.
9: But supposing just for one second the problem actually lies elsewhere.
If you are a regular reader you will know that for years now we have had our team of people working with Walter (himself a ref) who know exactly what the laws of football say look at the referee in each Arsenal game.
Now our conclusions are routinely attacked, although not by contrary evidence. We have been called various names for doing the analyses and told quite simply “you can’t blame the referees.” Or “it all evens out in the end”.
People often write in and say to me, “do you seriously believe the refs are bent?” and my answer is always the same. “No. I don’t have the evidence.” But what I know is that PGMO, the organisation that runs refereeing in the PL is odd.
Unique among referee organisations in Europe it has a very, very, close alliance with the League it serves, it is utterly secretive and doesn’t even have a web site, it refuses to incorporate innovation unless it is forced to by a change to the laws, it deliberately restricts the number of refs so that Arsenal get the same refs over and over again (which if one wanted to stop corruption would be the first thing to change so a bent ref gets limited influence), it issues gagging orders to its ex-employees so they won’t talk about what goes on in PGMO… well, you’ve heard all that before.
Now supposing, just supposing, with all that logical evidence that something curious is going on, and that Arsenal (and perhaps a few other clubs) are more often than not, on the receiving end. Then changing the manager won’t do anything. The influence of PGMO will still be there.
10: Why will Arsenal get it right when others with more money can’t?
Man City, Chelsea and Man U all have far, far, far, far more money than Arsenal. They have changed their managers regularly. But they can’t march on and win the league all the time. In the past two seasons Man City won two domestic trophies, Chelsea two, Arsenal two, but clearly that is not enough. Yet even with their billions of pounds Man City, Chelsea and Man U won’t win the league this year.
So what will the aaa and the media say if Arsenal, like all these clubs with so much money, not win the league next year?
I leave you to ponder.
Two from the anniversary files
17 March 2002 Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2. Part of a run of 13 consecutive wins. League match 30 of the 3rd Double season. Edu got the first and Pires (easily the man of the match) got the second before Villa’s late consolation goal.
17 March 2009: Arsenal 2 Hull 1 FA Cup 6th round. Hull made their wild allegations about assault and of Fabregas being wrongly dressed, after the game. All allegations were thrown out and the Hull manager later lost his job.
- Barcelona – Arsenal 3-1 the final score not even with the number of shots
- 2015-16 FA Youth Cup Semi-Final Preview Arsenal v Man City
The Untold Books
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