By Tony Attwood
“Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet?”
That opening line from one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs (Visions of Johanna) seems in a way to sum up where things are with Arsenal at the moment. Dylan’s song is in many ways about the different ways we can see the world, and how single issues can come to dominate our perspective, and of course that difference is manifest when we look at the attitude of some Arsenal supporters.
Oh if only the club could be like the other big teams, like, for example… oh, Manchester United. They have Ibrahimovic, with 22 goals this season. They have José Mourinho that old pro who wins the league everywhere he goes. They are in the EFL Cup final next weekend. The good old days are almost here.
Except the EFL Cup is even less worthwhile than the FA and besides at the moment I write this (in Australia where time passes slowly) Man U are sixth in the league. And they have scored 38 goals in the league to our 54.
Stranger, the effect of how Man U handled the transition from Sir F Word to David Moyes has not been seen as a warning, but almost as a blueprint. Just do it, just get it over with, don’t worry about the future, it will be all right (or in Arsenal’s case nothing can be worse than it is now, so there is nothing to worry about. But oh I keep thinking about the tricks that the night can play.)
Indeed as a piece in the Guardian recently put it, “Wenger’s more ardent critics have dismissed the careful-what-you-wish-for argument on the basis it can hardly be any worse than a team that finish in the top four of the Premier League, but never the top one, and have flatlined in the first knockout round of the Champions League for seven consecutive seasons.
As even the Guardian admits, “there is only one of the last four seasons, 2014-15, when United have spent any time whatsoever above Arsenal since the turn of the year – and never from March onwards. In total, Arsenal will have spent 77.7% of the post-Ferguson years – 803 days against 230 – looking down on United, rather than the other way around, by the time they next play in the league. Or 424 against 52 in what Ferguson used to call the business part of the season, from New Year’s Day onwards. Those figures could easily be turned on their head if Wenger goes and it turns out Arsenal, like United, were even more dependent on one man than people realised.”
Of course we might find a manager who is better than Mr Wenger in the past ten years. Or we might find one who is more in tune with earlier parts of our history. We could so easily end up pining for a top four finish and a chance to play in the group stages.
Or more a return to the year in which we won the league cup and the FA Cup but also had just about the lowest scoring rate in the league.
It may all be fine. But there is no guarantee, not least because most managerial replacements are worse than the manager they replace.
Arsenal History Books on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.