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.