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Arsenal and the broken phone: what happens next

by Blacksheep

Sitting here listening to Liverpool !! vs Citeh on the BBC whilst reading Untold reminds me that I’ve been trying to think of an article to write for the site weeks without inspiration. 

Like Tony and Walter, and most if not all of those that write for Untold, I am an Arsenal supporter first and a Wenger fan second. I offered up the idea for the Untold banner that graces the Clock End at the Emirates and I completely agree with Tony that removing the manager is very unlilely to result in a dramatic change in Arsenal’s fortunes.

For a while now I have been fairly certain that there needs to be a change at the club and a shift in our playing style. Personally I don’t buy into the prevailing belief that our squad is rubbish and that we only purchase second-rate talent. If Wenger ‘buys cheap’ then he is not the only manager ‘guilty’ of paying below the odds for great potential or realised stars. 

We have some excellent players and plenty of them (özil, Alexis, Ramsey, Kos, the Ox, Bellerin – to name but a  few) would easily find a home in a rival’s squad. 

But clearly we aren’t getting the best out of them collectively and Untold has suggested some logical explanations for this. 

We don’t get the rub of the green with referring decisions. Exhibit A was McCauley’s poor tackle on Alexis on Saturday – a red card all day long and a potentially serious injury to our star player. Meanwhile Granit Xhaha (while he is often hot headed and needs more discipline) is never given the benefit of the doubt and picks up red cards for less serious offences than many (like united’s Rojo) get away with.

The fallibility or down right corruption (however you wish to view it) of the PMGOL has undoubtably cost us points and players and the knock on effect this has on the mentality of Arsenal and opposition players cannot be discounted.

I also agree that the negative effect of the atmosphere at the Emirates also contributes to individual and to the team’s poor performances. Who can ignore the abuse Gervinho got as an Arsenal player and the uplift to his form as soon as he started plying is trade in Italy, far away from the Emirates boo-boys? The pressure on players at Arsenal is sometimes unbearable. The lack of support I see week-in-week out depresses me – and its not new, its bene going on for the last few years. 

It is often far too quiet at the Emirates and we all (all of us that go that is) have to play our part in supporting the team and moaning less. Tony has told us that this is nothing new, it goes back to the early years of the club but its one ‘tradition’ we could usefully ditch.

Paying to fly a banner over the Black Country to try to get rid of the manager, chanting ‘Wenger out’ outside the club on match days, or holding up home made banners at the end of games is also hardly likely to inspire the team to perform to the best of their ability. 

But taking all these explanations as valid I still believe something else is wrong.

M. Wenger has been in charge for a very long time. In the past 21 years he has won trophies, gone unbeaten, consistently delivered a Champions League place, brought massive changes on and off the pitch, a new stadium and some of the best attacking football that English football has ever seen. 

But he has also presided over a period which has seen seismic change in the running of football at club and league level. The amount of money pouring into the game from TV has inflated wages and removed any sense of loyalty from players. The desperate pursuit of wealth has skewed the way the owners of football clubs see their assets, effectively removing the ‘fan’ from almost all consideration.

Social media and the pursuit of rolling news has transformed the way football is reported, discussed and analysed, with microscopic attention being given to every incident and every word spoken by players, managers and owners. Untold has exposed how the ‘news hole’ is being constantly manipulated by click bait advertisers or by sports journalists, desperate to keep up with competitors and scared stiff of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Add to this the utter scourge that is the betting industry which allows punters to bet on every foul, corner, yellow card or throw in, driving the emergence of underground criminal betting syndicates and corruption amongst players and officials,  and we have a professional game that is in dire straits. Tony’s analysis of Barcelona’s recent ‘miraculous’ comeback against PSG is a case in point. 

So, football is broken, football is fixed and when it comes down to it Arsene Wenger just can’t win.

He is the beating heart of Arsenal and some supporters, most of the media, and maybe even some of the players want him out. If he wins the FA cup this season it will not be enough; if Arsenal qualify for the CL, it will not be enough. It we finish fifth or sixth (as seems likely) if will be seen as a disaster (although this is not how it was seen for Chelsea last season, or United, or Spurs, or Liverpool!!! in recent years). 

So his only ‘win’ is to leave.

But he can’t easily walk away because he loves the club and he seems to be getting no direction from those above. We know Stan isn’t going anywhere and nor is his son. Ivan Gazidis is currently quieter than his eponymous boss. Meanwhile poor M. Wenger is being hung out to dry.

I would like Arsene to stay, but not as the first team coach. I think he deserves our respect and our thanks and should be able to choose a role that suits him at the club. That might not be now; he himself said he will be managing a football team next season, just not necessarily Arsenal. 

But we do need an injection of something new. Not a new set of players – what we have is quality, for the most part – but perhaps a new direction from inside the dressing room. I had hoped Steve Bould would give us that but he hasn’t changed anything really. When someone has been in charge for so long people lose the ability to challenge ideas, and perhaps that is what is wrong. The players and coaching staff have to take responsibility along with le boss. 

So, I don’t blame the manager for what has gone wrong and I hate the attempts to hound him out. But I think we will have to say au revoir sooner rather than later, and then, as Tony says, who knows what will happen. This much is likely: we will never really know how much Arsene Wenger is worth to this club until he is gone. That is why I hope he does sign a new contract, just not as the manager for the 2017/18 season.

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33 comments to Arsenal and the broken phone: what happens next

  • colario

    All very well Blacksheep but whether Arsene stays at the club moves to another club or moves out of football it doesn’t resolve the problem of corruption in football.

    That is the real issue facing football at the moment.

    We long term supporters find it demoralising the way our players are treated by the PMGOL THUGS. They are the ones that must be thrown out off football.

    Changing the manager will not resolve the corruption problem.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Thank you Blacksheep for a balanced view, which is rare on Untold these days.
    Mr Wenger has been a blessing for Arsenal, but we seem to have lost our way, perhaps status quo has set in too deeply. We need to freshen things up!
    For me, we can still get to our prized 4th this year, and I hope AW will be offered the role of “director of football” or even CEO. I think he will be a far better CEO than Ivan… And the pressure on him will be reduced. I want AW involved at the club, but for the sake of Arsenal and AW, I just hope it’s not as the manager.

  • Zuruvi

    What … Blacksheep???

    You are the FIRST UNTOLD AUTHOR to advocate a change of manager.
    I was going to ask what you are smoking but after reading your article (twice) I notice you are like me in your admiration of Le Prof.

    Where however we disagree is in your statement that there is nothing wrong with our player quality. I beg to differ.

    In my view our squad is generally of average quality when comparing with the big clubs. In my view we have just a few very good players such as:
    Bellerin – right back
    Alexis – winger
    The Kos – central defender
    Özil – attacking midfielder.

    Most of the other players are either just average or slightly above average.

    There is absolutely no reason why Arsenal should buy Welbeck or Perez or Sanogo as a central striker. Arsenal needs a top, top striker if we are to move up to the next level. When Chelsea needed a new striker they spent about £35m to buy Diego Costa who was a very top striker in Spain. When Arsenal needed a striker we bought Welbeck (an absolutely average striker but hardworking) and we bought Perez whom Wenger can’t even trust to play at present.

    In my view, Wenger is just as good as any of the top managers in England and in Europe. The only reason why we are regularly embarrassed by huge defeats against the big teams is because Wenger has a team of players who are not very good (and certainly not good enough to compete against the big clubs).
    Against all the Top 6 teams in the Premiership, Arsenal has only won one game the 3-0 victory of Chelsea. We are now at the very bottom of the Top 6 log.

    Blacksheep, when other big teams finish 5th, 6th or lower they certainly take action. They fire their manager. I am certainly not advocating for Wenger to be fired if we finish 5th or 6th but …. I think Wenger himself will walk.

    If you listen to every game we lose, Wenger always says we had more chances to score than our opponent but we lost.
    Why does Wenger always say this? To me it is because we don’t have a clinical striker.
    Man Utd is playing crap. The only reason why they are close to the Top 4 is that they have a clinical striker in Zlatan Ibrahimović.
    Arsenal needs a clinical striker and not a “false – 9”.

  • Bernard Cordell

    I agree with everything you say, Blacksheep, except, for his own sake,I think that Arsene should sever his connection with the club.

  • Pat

    Myself, I think Arsene Wenger, one of the best brains in the business, is the most likely person to come up with the solution to our current slight depression – as he says, the first time in twenty years.

    Some things won’t change – like skilful, creative football. Thank goodness for that.

    He said what was needed was hard work. He and his coaching team will be looking at the way to instil the fighting spirit into the team, just as he did when we did the season unbeaten. I’m sure our players, whose quality I don’t doubt, can rise to the challenge.

  • Pat

    And just about Manchester United, in the analysis on this site they are as much beneficiaries of biased refereeing as we are the losers. Some things don’t change. So it’s not all down to the talents of Ibrahimovic.

  • Let Wenger sign for 4more years as we prepare for his succesor &on his own terms afterall as a bussiness i can not sell off a cow that produces 20 liters a day ( because its old)and bring in a young one that gives me a litre because its young. That is why Gladis will say nothing;what if iy waz you…. Because your dad or mum are old or granie do gou get rid of them!!! Let him sign nw so that the rats go back afterll when in sewers they say nothing

  • Sammy The Snake

    @Zuruvi
    “because Wenger has a team of players who are not very good”
    This team is good enough to avoid 10-2 losses to Bayern, it’s good enough to beat one of the top 6 teams more often. Unfortunately, I think an ageing Wenger has become too mild to stir up the players for each game.
    Just look at the raw emotion displayed by Klopp, Pep & Conte. That kind of enthusiasm is contagious and will be felt by everyone at the club (specially the players and the fans). This is something sorely missing at Arsenal for a while, and it’s unfair to ask an elder statesman for it.

  • Zuruvi

    @Sammy the snake.

    You may be right but Ancelotti does not jump up and down or wave his hands wildly.
    Ancelotti’s team (Bayern) beat Arsenal 10-2.
    Surely it is NOT the wild behaviour by the manager that determines success. It has more to do with the quality of players in the team.
    I think Bayern with Ancelotti will beat Liverpool with Klopp.

  • Zuruvi

    When Wenger led Arsenal to 49 games without defeat he wasn’t behaving wildly like Klopp or Conte do.
    Wenger achieved this invincible season simply because he had created a highly talented team. The quality of the players in the Invincibles was top, top, top.
    Maybe just two or so of the current Arsenal squad is good enough to play in that Invincibles team.

    Hence my assertion that the current players are responsible for the current poor performances by Arsenal. Wenger does not escape responsibility since he is responsible for buying these cheap players with average ability (except for Sanchez, Özil, Bellerin and Koscielny and one or two others).

  • Mad Matt

    Wenger will go sooner or later. The best scenario is that he goes when he chooses, and that the new manager is also someone of his choosing.

  • dan

    Zuruvi

    It’s players like Walcott, Wiltshire, Ramsey, Gibbs, Welbeck, OX. He put too much faith into them and the return has been minimal, with too many of them prone to the long term injuries. Also buying the likes of Gervinho, Santos, Chamakh, free transfers with the Silvestri , Scillachi, and having the likes of Bendtner, Denilson and Almunia just doesn’t cut it. I know we were going through a Stadium rebuild and finances were short but some of these are championship level at best.

  • para

    The one thing AW did wrong in my humble opinion is:

    He relies too much on the players instead of telling them how he wants them to play on the day and the players let him down.
    When things go wrong(very often recently) the players are lost and become feeble and AW sits forlorn on the side.
    It is in this moment that the players need direction(if only a bollocking) and rarely gets it, so they fall apart.

    So after giving AW all the chances i thought fair, i must agree that it is time to go, or else it’s time to do something different that motivates and re-captures the team spirit and determination.

  • Norman14

    Para

    but according to Ox, they DID have instructions against West Brom and failed to carry them out.

    I notice this morning, that Sky are running a series about referees and attitudes towards them. It’s a slavering exercise, pointing out how very very good the Elite Referees are and how they are continuously assessed by former referees and ex players. Sky say that 77% feel that the refs in the EPL are doing a good job. 11% “don’t know” and 12% think they are “bad”.

    They surveyed 1086 people! What is that number supposed to represent – the number of family members of PGMOL referees and administration plus a few random folk asked on the street? It seems an extremely small sample, given the number of people employed by EPL clubs and supporters of those clubs! They even asked Stuart Pearce (Who says the refs are excellent BTW).

    To me, this is absolute proof that the media are falsifying the facts behind referee performances.

    Sky (owner of Sky Bet), is compromised, I’d say.

  • Ando

    Where is this “broken phone”?

  • Zuruvi

    @Dan.

    I agree with you. The players you mention don’t deserve to be at a top level club like Arsenal (or not for so long).
    Why keep Nikolas Bendtner for more than 8 years?
    Theo Walcott is almost 10 years in the first team but he is still regarded as a developing player (with potential).

    Even when we were building a stadium we should have had better players than Almunia, Bendtner, Silvestre and Gervinho. The stadium issue became an excuse for our billionaire owners to not invest in buying better players. Achieving Top 4 became a smokescreen for the inadequacy of our player acquisition strategies. Top 4 was only achieved because of the brilliance of Wenger compared to the managers at other potential Top 4 clubs at that time (such as Spurs, Liverpool, etc.).
    Even some fans (especially on Untold) became so silly in celebrating whenever Wenger didn’t buy the big stars that we were linked with in the media but becoming very, very happy when Wenger bought an average player “that no one knew of” simply because he was cheap.

    The philosophy of buying cheapies has got us into this big mess where Wenger’s job is now under threat. And where Arsenal is now the butt of all football jokes.
    I suspect that the current mess we are now in will make it even more difficult to attract the top, top quality of players in the next transfer window. Would top players choose to come to a club that is in a mess, where the manager is treated like a fool or a joke, where the fans run a TV show called Arsenalfan Tv that habitually mocks and ridicules players and the manager and the Board, where some bloggs are against the acquisition of top players but love it when mediocre “unknown” players are bought?

  • dan

    Zuruvi

    I fear that ruthless streak is gone from wenger, he has become a father figure, when your a big club the need to ruthless should be second nature. Hate to say it Fergie was ruthless and demanded better from his players and utd did have average players as well, not as many but they knew not to cross Fergie. You can’t see Wenger installing this fear if the player doesn’t perform.

  • Dammy

    Thanks Blacksheep for a more balanced view than Tony’s on Untold. The oblivion that seems to be depicted as the post Wenger era is vastly overstated. For every Mourinho or Pep still finding their feet, there is an adaptive Conte or a breath of fresh air Klopp. I am a Wenger fan and it hurts me to see what is and has been going on for a while. My mind goes back to the train incident (at Stoke?) and the Old Trafford hounding in the stands. The man is incredibly resilient and/or thick skinned. But as with Pellegrini at City last season, the uncertainty over his future is doing a lot more than threatening to derail an already “off the tracks” season.

    If Wenger could give 4 or 5 more years, I would gladly back him to stay as I always have. But as it stands, at 67 he could at best offer 2-3 good years (probably less). In a post financial shackles Arsenal era where we can invest in a squad to challenge, the responsibility for building that squad should go to someone with more time. Short-termism as proved at Old Trafford led to a season of glory under Sir Alex followed by 4 years of build and rebuild.

    Whatever course Arsenal take, AW will leave at some point and will need to be replaced. I am one for biting the bullet early so healing starts early. If AW makes an announcement on his future- he will be afforded the classy goodbye that he undoubtedly deserves whether it is this season or next as reported in the Sunday papers.

  • Norsgeneral

    As someone who thinks Arsene is past his sell by date, I do agree with you Blacksheep, that, such is the dearth of football knowledge at the club, with its former directors, disgracefully selling out to ‘that sort’, as Hill-wood once said about Kroenke and his ilk, people with absolutely no football nous, we probably need Wenger to take on Gazidis’s role. Otherwise with him gone, the whole lot could come crashing down, with the ensuing tailspin down the table and possibly the leagues. It has happen at many other clubs. Arsene Wenger would then feel his loyalty(all be it, backed up with 8 million a year, not bad work if you can get it), would at least appear to have been rewarded with high status at the club. What a mess, although I am very critical of Wenger’s stubbornness to change his outlook over team matters, in the last five years, he cannot be held responsible for the dereliction of duty from our former and current board members and owner. One thing is for sure, we all need to, now more than every, support the team at every game.

  • Jammy J

    Dammy – “there is an adaptive Conte or a breath of fresh air Klopp.” Except that Conte inherited an extremely good squad, full of world-class talents and it was only down to Mourinho that they finished so poorly last season. They also don’t have any European football to deal with. As for Klopp; Liverpool didn’t even manage to get into the Europa League and it’s quite clear that when a team doesn’t have to play any European football, they tend to do far, far better in those seasons than when they did.

  • Goonermikey

    The problem as I see it is not whether you want AW to stay or go. It’s not about whether you think Gazidis is brilliant or a donkey. And it’s not about whether you believe we have good or bad players. Neither, is it about whether you think we have good or bad tactics.

    As I see it, it’s actually about people in the media and a certain section of supporters thinking that they know better than professionals.

    If you are one of those who thinks like this, I have a suggestion. Next time you find yourself needing surgery, I advise you don’t bother with a surgeon. Why not get a bloke down the pub, someone who runs a blog, a pundit off the tv who’s never been a doctor, or your mate to do it because he once met a bloke who knew a surgeon or watched a documentary about once.

    I’m an Arsenal supporter, not a manager, not a coach, not an agent and I don’t have access to the changing room. On that basis, I support the club. I don’t pretend I know how to do the job of professionals.

    If Wenger leaves, are all those who think they know better than him going to stop thinking they know how to manage the club? Are they going to stop believing the bullshit spouted on TV and in the media? Are they going to stop believing they know which players to buy and how to do it. NO. The problem won’t go away cos the problem is the people who think they have all the answers. Sadly, they’ll still be around to moan about something else they know nothing about when the next manager doesn’t win every game.

    I had my first season ticket in 1968 and still have one. I am probably going to give it up this year. Not because of AW or Gazidis or the players or the tactics but because I am absolutely sick to death of the people who think they know it all and never stop moaning.

  • Equalizer

    Sorry Mr Blacksheep but Arsene Wenger is NOT the “heartbeat of Arsenal”. Arsenal will not die when Wenger stops. Arsenal lived for a century before he arrived and will live on long after he’s gone. The supporters have always been the heartbeat if Arsenal.

    As the Bayern fans have told the Arsenal board recently

    “Without fans football is nothing”

  • Hunter13

    yes equaliser…fans and/or supporters . not entitled scum who became fanatics because of wenger’s arsenal turning around now and stabbing him in the back.

    did you see the bayern fans? some of them were not even looking at the game but pushing the rest of crowd on to sing/support as one.

    they were also 20-30mins in before everyone else, organised, making noise. win lose or draw theyll do it next game as well. the banners they hold are for their football club …not personal instagramm messages……

  • Equalizer

    Hunter13

    Arsenal were the most successful and more importantly, had the largest support in the capital- BEFORE Wenger arrived.

  • Pat

    Adrian Clarke’s Breakdown analysis on Arsenal.com is very well worth watching. He picks out the positives in our performance – the whole of the first half, plus individual performances from Xhaka and Monreal – and the Ox in the first half.

    I am pleased to say the clips also show the West Brom tactic of blocking the keeper for two goals, although Adrian does not mention it. He makes valid criticisms of our defending for the set pieces.

    But I am delighted to say he also highlights the terrible foul which ruined the game for Alexis, and suggests that it could have got a red card – he probably means should have.

    It is a sane analysis, as his analysis always is. A welcome antidote to the irrational hysteria in so many other places

  • Ysgf24

    The problem is that managing cfreativity requires a connection, and whilst our players like – maybe even love – Arsene Wenger and deeply respect his achievements, it is very difficult for a 68 year old to make a meaningful connection with under 30s. Think of the relationship with parents and gradparents. You love your grandparents, respect what they have achieved and welcome their approbation but for motivation, inspiration, direction and discipline look only one generation up. But the club is sleepwalking now, and the board and management need to wake up before they sleepwalk under a bus. We need to get in a manager who has played recently and/or managed at the highest level to kickstart the regeneration of the club and stuff his support staff with as many Invincibles as will agree to come, with a view to his succession. (And I use ‘his’ as shorthand – why could our successful ladies not play a role?). There will be a couple of years of pain, some players will leave, others will rise to the challenge, others will be bought or prove themselves from the academy. But through it all they will be THE Arsenal and our job as supporters is to support them. But not blindly or unquestioningly.

  • Norman14

    For all the “useless” players mentioned above, they did something that the current star studded squad can’t do – kept us in the top 4.

    At Christmas, just b4 things went pear shaped, we had “the best squad we ever had”. Now, 3 months later they are all (apparently) rubbish.

    It appears to me, that what has happened, is that the “Business model” has over shadowed the “Football Model”. So, whilst the football model works, because it keeps putting money in Stan’s pocket, the football model no longer works.

    In other words, the football club is fucked!

  • Norman14

    sorry…

    “So whilst the Business Model works” I should have said.

  • Ysgf – my grandchildren love the fact that I have published novels, and endlessly ask me about how they can write stories. They also love sitting at the piano and playing music along with me.

    How much connection you have with younger people is totally dependent on one’s personality and drive. I am sorry for you that you have never experienced it either as a child, or if you are old enough, as a grandparent.

  • Dammy

    Jammy J, in the post money ball PL, European endeavours hindered PL teams in Europe but I do not agree that the reason Conte has adapted well is purely down to the quality of players. Relegation battlers change managers every season and I think it works a little over half the time- even at Chelsea and more recently Leicester. Is the solution to do a Spurs- an unimpressive but not shameful exit the CL in a bid to be there next year? or a shambolic exit after giving it your best?
    There are a few things wrong at Liverpool under Klopp, most noticeably defence. But his approach of the counter press (gen gen-pressing) is a breath of fresh air as much as the new 3-5-2/34-3 formations under Conte and Poch. Even Ranieri tried something new- it didn’t work to be fair but kudos to him for giving it a go.
    I’m afraid with Wenger, the tale has been told a thousand times with no plot twists to expect. He will always be revered and it is why he should leave when the ovation is loudest- if that is still possible. 7 FA Cup wins for one manager looks unlikely to ever be achieved. Announce your decision, receive the deserved plaudits, and leave a hero. The ongoing farce is unbecoming of Arsenal, Arsene, and the fans. I dare say Arsenal would get a better rub of the green following his announcement.

  • Polo

    @Goonermikey, calm down and don’t be rash, Arsenal at the moment need real supporters like yourself who actually support the club as a whole not glory hunters who think they know best. Don’t let negative people ruin your love for the club or your enjoyment watching the team play. Just ignore them.

  • Goonermikey

    Thanks for your support Polo. they won’t ruin my love of the club but sadly they are already ruining my enjoyment and have been doing for some time.

  • Menace

    Zuruvi – I’m so disappointed with your football knowledge. Your criticism of Arsenal players shows up your knowledge. Arsenal players are all top quality. They might have a lack of attitude but certainly not of quality. There is a very good reason for attitude when every step you take on a football pitch might be when your leg is broken.

    The players are not stupid & Alexis asked Swarbrick when he was fouled for the fourth time & pulled back ‘no yellow?’. The tackle on Alexis that eventually got a yellow should have been a straight red. It was studs first with no attempt to play the ball. I personally would have kicked the life out of Swarbrick & walked off the pitch & the game. It is not a game that is worth playing in when the PGMOL allow GBH with disdain. The attitude was summed up by the TV pundit who said that it was practice for Ireland v Wales & Bale.