By Tony Attwood
Anyone with a mind to look at such things would have seen the perfect “before and after” pattern in the game against Bayern.
Before the match BBC Radio 5 held a mid-afternoon interview with a man described as an Arsenal fan who spoke about how upset he was about the club’s current state. As the interview wore on he talked not just about the manager but also the ownership, blaming Ivan Gazidis because (apparently) he said, three years ago, that in three years time Arsenal would be the equivalent of Bayern in the transfer market.
That issue wasn’t taken further with a list of players that we should have bought to bring about this dream, but instead moved on to the question of more money being made available by the owner. Both interviewer and interviewee agreed that this was not going to happen and so the interview just died.
Indeed as the interview petered out (you can always tell when a radio interview peters out because it ends with the interviewer saying “very interesting”) we realised we were getting the vague admission that actually, since the owner wasn’t going to change, nothing was going to change, and so there was no point in campaigning for Mr Wenger to leave. Except the last part of that last sentence wasn’t said. We had to work it out. I was almost expecting the interviewer to start offering odds on who would be next manager and when offering the Cheltenham bonus as having some great odds
There was however admission (and this I thought was a step forward) that getting a new manager might not bring the success all Arsenal supporters would like. There was talk of the way Man U have cocked up the new management thing. They might have mentioned Man C as well, but didn’t. Or the decline of once great clubs like Newcastle. Or Tottenham’s 25 years of changing managers every year or so.
So we had the usual media double hit: they set the agenda by asking the questions, and they select the respondent, who will give them the answers they want. And there is no serious debate of whether the questions asked are actually relevant. It was ever thus.
Then in the media this morning there is the inevitable. The Guardian report, for example, opens with “If one were to be kind on Arsenal, they did at least have 45 minutes when Arsène Wenger could argue that his team had the better of one of Europe’s real superpowers.” “To be kind”??? OK if that is how Daniel Taylor saw it then that is what he must write. All I can say is that for myself, and the people around me, we felt we were the better team and we were not being kind. (We were also the better supporters – the Bayern fans being an utter and total disgrace, but perhaps we should leave that for another day).
The problem is of course that Taylor doesn’t actually explain why it would be “kind”. But then it wouldn’t fit with his argument, because he gives no analysis of the sending off either; the event which totally changed the game. Changed it, not just because it is extraordinarily hard to play against Bayern with a central defender missing while knowing that you have to chase goals, but also because the sending off was the culmination of some very odd decisions by the refereeing team.
What the Guardian report then goes on to say is “it was still startling to see their disintegration once Laurent Koscielny had been shown a red card for giving away the penalty that led to Bayern’s equaliser.”
This is bizarre. Normally when a defensive player is sent off there is an immediate substitution to shore up the defence. Arsenal didn’t do that but continued looking for goals, rather than accept defeat.
It didn’t work, as we have seen, but the alternative of sitting back with a solid defence and no real attack would have been to give up then. We were at the moment the penalty was given and the sending off occurred 5-2 down. Giving up was an option, but not one that was taken. Winning 4-0 was always a very slight chance, but we went for it. What the Guardian writer wanted was for Arsenal to give up – probably because that was the report he’d already written before the game started.
So the media continues its agenda. No mention of the way the Bayern fans held up the match, and how really they should be banned from away stadia in Europe after that display, but instead a focus on “Around 200 fans were involved, marching to the stadium with their banners declaring “au revoir”.”
Of course newspapers can choose the agenda and how they treat it, but it does mean that a proper debate of issues is never going to occur.
It would have been interesting to take the issue of Stan Kronke investing a lot of money into Arsenal so that whoever comes in when Mr Wenger leaves will be able to spend as much as he wants, and to then see this point within the context of Arsenal’s history. Had anyone bothered to do so it would have become clear that Arsenal has only had one owner in its entire life who has seriously invested his personal money in the club – and through careful manipulation by the media and jealous Tottenham fans, and through the inadequacy of Arsenal’s response, his reputation has been besmirched and has remained besmirched.
That one owner who put up his own money for Arsenal – and a vast amount of it too, and who took huge financial risks for Arsenal in partly financing the club thereafter and personally guaranteeing the lease on Highbury when it was converted into a football ground, is Henry Norris. He cleared all the debts of the club in 1910 – including some that were not on the books of the club when he took over. He arranged and supported and guaranteed all the finances for building Highbury, and brought in Chapman, whom he allowed to spend what he wanted to build a successful team. And his reward? A fantasy story that somehow he fixed Arsenal’s promotion in 1919. A man written out of Arsenal’s history.
So we are here again, re-writing reality, as with Arsenal has been done throughout the years. If the argument is now that we need a new manager and a new owner, let’s have that debate. If the argument is that with the same level of money a different manager would have put together a different better team, let’s have that debate. But silly, childish reports which speak of Arsenal’s “disintegration” when in fact with just ten men they still attempted to go forward, really doesn’t help anyone.
Except the people who write the current agenda and their sidekicks who get interviewed on the radio.
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.
Both books are also available as paperbacks. Please see here.