By Tony Attwood
Ever since the Unbeaten Season and the end of the 49 the media and their troll allies have been saying Arsenal are not good enough. Indeed some of them claimed the team of the Unbeaten Season wasn’t really that good – going out of the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Champions League. Reading some of their comments it felt more like failure than success.
The AAA trolls have been arguing ever since we beat Man U on penalties to win Wenger his fourth FA Cup, that the quality of play was not good enough. The knives have been out and the counting of the number of years since we won a trophy started.
Now as Arsenal have their best chance of winning the FA Cup since that defeat of Man U the argument changes again, and the winning of a trophy is suddenly is not after all the issue. The issue now is that being beaten by a big score is not acceptable.
Recognition of how things were done in the past is irrelevant for most people, and all that matters is the present. And so we reach a point when there seems to be quite a chance that Mr Wenger will refrain from signing a new contract this summer. We ignore the facts, and instead abuse and sneering becomes the prime method of communication.
Of course no one alive today recalls the days of Herbert Chapman, but we still revere him as the greatest manager we had, before Wenger, who has achieved much more. And if we do look back we find certain interesting moments…
The 1933 defeat to Walsall, the 5-1 thrashing by Villa in 1931, the fact that by throwing everything at winning his one and only FA Cup in 1930, Herbert Chapman took Arsenal close to relegation for a while, the 7-0 drubbings by West Ham and Newcastle…. it was all part of the Chapman era.
Inevitably these things are forgotten – as if the fact that Chapman and his teams were regularly abused by the Highbury crowd. Indeed Chapman railed against what were then called the boo-boys, in his newspaper column. And it didn’t stop with the championships won by Joe Shaw and then George Allison. By 1953 when Arsenal won the league under Tom Whittaker the situation was so bad that members of the team spoke out publicly, saying that they were ashamed of the Arsenal fans who they called the worst in the country. It was a statement made over and over; no club has support as bad as Arsenal’s.
Herbert Chapman and Tom Whittaker both died while managers of Arsenal, and given that Mr Wenger knows his Arsenal history inside out it is quite possible that he has decided he doesn’t want the same fate and will go before the stresses of managing to the accompaniment of the commentaries from the modern boo-boys takes him to an early grave too. I fear he may have had enough of the mindless abuse and he might well just walk.
If he does, he will do so at a moment when his teams are getting a higher percentage win rate than ever before. But the problem is that if Mr Wenger does decide to leave, there is absolutely no guarantee that any of the top names touted as a successor will come to Arsenal. What the media and their trolls always refuse to acknowledge is that Mr Wenger is held in the highest possible regard outside of the UK, and the sight of a top club’s camp followers abusing such a manager appals many senior people who follow football across Europe.
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We are talking of course of managers who have the pick of the clubs, and who can through their influence have the pick of the players across Europe. And they look at what the media, the trolls and the AAA together have achieved and ask, “do I want that?” and they think no, they don’t.
It is a similar situation with players. There is a widespread recognition of what the AAA did to Gervinho, and again the question is being asked, “do I want to subject myself to that?” Only the power of Wenger persuaded Ozil to come to Arsenal, and now he sees the way he and his boss have been treated in the media and blogs, he probably wishes he had not left.
So the problems combine. Managers of repute don’t really want to come to Arsenal and get the level of abuse. Meanwhile there is a certain reluctance among some managers to manage in England because of what the English like to describe as the “robust” nature of the press, which others call “intrusive”.
There is then the refusal of the legal authorities, and the Premier League to deal with in ground abuse. Mr Wenger famously saw off the press on his first day in office when they talked to him about “the rumours”. The slimy toads who were there that day have never dared print a word of that event, but up and down the country supporters of teams reprocess in their songs the abuse that the press so were desperate to print, and apart from a few bleats from Sir Alex F no one has done much to stop this.
Managers also don’t want to suffer abuse from their own club’s fans, and nor do they want to have to waste time trying to persuade players that “it’s not that bad with Arsenal really” when everyone knows how the media and the trolls behave towards Arsenal.
Indeed the only positive thing that can be said in this situation is that at least the players who are at Arsenal stick with the manager, which is more than can be said at Man U where David Moyes appears now to be under criticism from his own team.
However given that the owners just see Man U as a cash cow, and not as a football club, nothing much is likely to happen until such time as Old Trafford stops selling out. But then, if Man U get rid of Moyes they are going to have as big a problem as Arsenal in replacing their manager.
Paul Scholes is meanwhile using his position as the golden boy of analysis to have a dig at Moyes. There has even been a bit of a fracas as the anti-Moyes mob (the AMM I guess) tried to storm part of the Stretford End and remove a pro-Moyesian banner.
Which is all so sad as Arsenal does have an incredibly good squad, although now decimated by injuries to Özil, Ramsey, Theo, Jack, Koscielny… Ferguson left Man U having brought in RVP on a ludicrous long term contract, while not refreshing parts of the team that needed attention. Wenger on the other hand has built the squad that is ready to take off. It would be a tragedy if it all fell apart before it has time to mature.
Indeed if Wenger does leave and some players follow, and Arsenal have trouble recruiting a new manager of quality, and the new manager has trouble recruiting players, it will be the biggest victory for the trolls and their friends in the press, of all time.
They won’t stick with Arsenal as the quality goes down, but at least they will have won in their ambition of getting Wenger out.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal