By Tony Attwood
One of the key points about Untold Arsenal is that we try and look at football by considering the evidence.
Unfortunately we are rather on our own in doing that, and as a result when a dozen or so supporters make one of their banners and hold it up at the end of a victorious night, announcing that it is time for Mr Wenger to leave, you know it will get maximum publicity while our evidence based approach gets no coverage.
It’s not the first time this group has done this – and it is possible now to put together a picture of who these people are.
The last time I saw it was against West Brom away in the league cup. 24 September 2013. The fact that the bannerians have chosen these two matches tells us something. It is more than likely that they are either non-members or they don’t have any away credits on their membership.
Of course I can’t prove that (I just say “more than likely”), but it is noticeable that these were the two games which have gone for zero credits. (In case you are not familiar with the system, when tickets for away games go on sale they first are allocated to away seat season ticket holders. Then they are allocated according to the number of other away matches the member has been to. It is rare for a ticket to be available with no away credits – it happens for early round Euro games in Turkey and other countries where there are safety issues, but not too many others).
So they come, they put up their banner, and the media cover it.
The problem is a banner is not an argument, let alone a presentation of evidence. Nor, let us remember, is it much of a way of getting what you want. Remember Egypt in 2011, great hope for democracy, lots of banners, the Brotherhood take over and by 2013 you had a military dictatorship. Fortunately we just cover football – its a bit safer.
Not all banners are bad however. I have the picture of elderly people protesting under a banner that says, “What do we want?” with the answer “We’ve forgotten” below it. The older I get the more I like that.
Back with football, Mr Wenger’s response to it all has been excellent of course.
“I have no problem to cope with everything but I find that a bit boring in the end. I always have to convince you that I am good enough.”
Not that he has to convince other managers in the league as it turns out. It has become clearer and clearer of late how much they admire him, but the dozen or so zero-credit away fans and their allies in the media had their day. Even Phil Brown, who launched a raft of attacks on Arsenal and Mr Wenger when he was at Hull, was in conciliatory mood on BT Sprout last night.
So what can those of us do to counter the negative publicity that the aaa, the zero credit banner wavers and the media give to the club?
In the end apart from go to matches (and of course I fully appreciate that many dedicated supporters can’t, and I do know how lucky I am to be able to go), all we can do is expose the lack of logic and lack of evidence in the anti-Wengerian arguments.
The recent press conferences are a case in point. Read the media and you see Mr Wenger losing his cool, raging against the modest, moderate journalists who are just doing their job. What he actually said was “What I find just boring is always sitting here after 19 years to face: ‘Do you think you are good enough?’” I am not on Twitter. I don’t invite anybody to go out to dinner and be nice with them. I work and work and work and work. If it’s not good enough, someone will tell me one day. That’s all I can do. I do not worry what you say about me or what fans say about me. I try to do my job in a proper way and with full commitment. After that everybody has the right to have an opinion.
“I cannot influence the behaviour of the fans. How can I do that? I don’t know. I am humble enough every day to question myself, to accept my mistakes and, believe me, I do that. After that there is no coincidence that the people who own the club tell me to be here for 19 years. Do you think they are more stupid than you or me? I feel privileged to have the confidence of the club for such a long time. I work seven days a week with full commitment. That’s all I can do.”
The problem is, the media is packed with soothsayers and mind-readers. Amy Lawrence in the Guardian for example says, “Deep down, though, he is not immune to the weight of expectation.” OK Amy, you are a superb journalist, so please tell me. How do you know? It can’t be a twitch of the shoulders or a crooked smile, because it is “Deep down.”
I have to say, most of the time I have no idea what even I myself feel deep down, because I’m an emotional guy and my mood can change. Deep down… that’s tough. Deep down I love my three daughters and my seven grandchildren and would move heaven and earth to protect them and help them. And a few other things along those lines. But really, how can anyone say about a person they don’t have a very close personal connection with day after day after day and who is not a very very close family member or personal friend, “deep down…” this or that?
Steve Bruce on the other hand was good yesterday. He said, “From inside the game you’re not going to hear people criticising him because, when you’re in management as long as he’s been with what he’s achieved, who is anyone to criticise him? I find it appalling that they can. For me he would only get one thing and that is respect. It’s a blame culture now. Managers get the sack after 12 weeks. I don’t know why we’re questioning him. He’s been one of the great managers that this country has seen.”
That’s the real world. As real as my love for my family. As real as my lifelong stupid hobby of being devoted to Arsenal FC. (Still, it’s better than stamp collecting).
And what does the press say. Here is the Telegraph (and you really should not read the following when operating heavy machinery.)
The last 10 years are a failure
A simplistic analysis. Yes, there have certainly been many disappointments and plenty of mistakes in this past decade but also major achievements that will be more kindly judged as time passes and perspective grows.
He includes reaching the last eight of the European Cup four times in the last decade (only previously done once in the club’s history). Plus the Cup wins. And he is honest enough to say, “Those who complained previously about a lack of silverware now focus on the 12 year wait for a Premier League title. It is understandable but still largely overlooks how, aside from three clubs who have outspent the rest of English football by a huge amount in recent years (Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City), Arsenal are still the last team to win the league title and have been consistently closest of the others.
“Defending Wenger in the context of 19 straight top four finishes has also become unfashionable – and trophies are of course what really matter – but it is still something no other club has done…. Then there is the Emirates Stadium which, at a cost of £390million, significantly restricted commercial income in the short-term but will help Arsenal compete at the highest level for a generation beyond Wenger. No other British club of comparable size have solved the stadium challenge.”
So on that he says, “no guilty”.
Wenger should spend more money
And this is where he goes off the rails. “What might have happened if he had pushed beyond the bizarre £40million, plus £1, bid for Luis Suarez in 2013?”
The problem is the Telegraph is one of the papers that refused to publish the transcript of the Liverpool! owner who boasted at a conference in the US that there was indeed a £40m buy out clause, but that he lied, lied and lied again about it in order to keep the player at the club because “in soccer contracts aren’t worth anything.” It was made clear to Arsenal that they were not going to sell their asset at that price, and they were not going to sell at any price to a British team and they would use any underhand tactic possible to keep him.
Ignoring that is just bending the facts to meet the political perspective of the paper.
And the subsequent question “Why back away from signing Morgan Schneiderlin last summer?” is just as daft. He has Gabriel, coming through as a Brazil international and a player who is going to be with Arsenal for a long time, and Koscielny, now voted into the top 100 players in the world, and described by Wenger as his best buy in the last 10 years. So buying Schneiderlin means not playing one of those two.
Its a dumb point – you can’t have Gabriel Kos and Schneiderlin and keep them all happy. OK, so the argument was don’t buy Gabriel – we will only be able to judge that over the next few years which was the best move.
What this piece misses, as most journalists do, is the fact that only 25% of big money transfers actually make an impact in year one, and 25% only make an impact the size of their fee. A player who does well in one team does not always do well in another. Retrospective decisions about who we should have bought are simplistic. At the time it is always a gamble and Mr Wenger is peculiarly good at gambling well, be it Ozil and Alexis, be it Bellerin and Coquelin, be it Henry and Pires.
Arsenal are full of big games chokers and losers
At least the writer admits that
The FA Cup final, consecutive victories over Manchester City and United, as well as a 2-0 win against Bayern Munich and the Champions League comeback in Olympiakos, show that they can deliver when it most matters.
The same mistakes are repeated
All clubs suffer injuries but Arsenal’s squad has endured a relatively high number to key players.
If you are a regular Untold reader you’ll be drying your eyes now in order to try and read on. We’ve covered this so often it makes you wonder why some journalists are so resolute at not reading the blogs. Arsenal’s injury record over the years is above the average, but not at the very top. We tend to be about sixth in the league however you measure (days out, players out, year on year, 10 year average…).
Come on Mr Telegraph Man, even the BBC has admitted the “Arsenal injury crisis” story was always a myth just like the Dirty Arsenal story from the early days of Mr Wenger’s tenure. That was invented too. We get lots of injuries so do most teams. When a team has a sudden non-injury run, they become like Leicester today, or Nottingham Forest at the end of the 1970s.
Another persistent issue is losing players to soft bookings or sendings off at critical moments. Francis Coquelin was the latest example on Saturday against Tottenham but Gabriel, Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker were also all sent off this season against Chelsea, as was Wojciech Szczesny in the Champions league first leg against Bayern Munich two years ago.
OK but have you ever heard that there is another side to the story? Think about it for a moment. Think Chelsea… some other evidence there perhaps? Wrong player being sent off. Player being sent off for a handball when the ball was clearly not heading for the goal, but obviously going wide… any of that (all at Chelsea) ring a bell?
It is easy to think the whole article was a journalist just having a dig because he didn’t know what else to write about, but with the Telegraph also running
Why Piers Morgan IS ‘The Arsenal’
you start to wonder. And then when straight under that is
• Wenger fears that Arsenal fans’ unrest could harm his players
the theme starts to grow.
All we can do is keep exposing their lack of research, their insistence that they can mind read, their ignorance of many of the facts, and meanwhile keep on supporting the team.
It’s a shame the media and their occasional fan friends with banners do this, but if you support Arsenal, that’s what you have to expect. I think most of us have got used to it.
Some stories from this day in history the anti-Arsenal Arsenal want you to forget
- 9 March 2008: The earliest St Totteringham Day (the date when Tottenham can no longer overtake Arsenal in the league) ever, occurred with nine games to spare. Tottenham ended the season in 11th position.
- 9 March 2010: Arsenal 5 Porto 0. Bendtner scored a hat trick in the Champions League round of 16.
- 9 March 2015: Manchester United 1 Arsenal 2 in the sixth round of the cup. It was the second time Arsenal had won in Manchester in the season, and revenge for the defeat by Man U in the league at the Emirates Stadium. Man U received a shocking seven yellow cards, with Di Maria getting two and so departing early. Monreal and Welbeck scored in a game that became famous for Arsenal’s change of tactics, utterly unpredicted by the press who said Arsenal always played the same way.
The insult of the day
- I to make thee mad, do mock thee thus. (Henry VI Part 3).