I read an article on a blog yesterday in which the writer (who claimed to be writing one of the most highly read of all the Arsenal blogs) said that this was the time when Arsene Wenger had to prove himself.
It struck me as one of the most crazy things I had ever read, although in style and approach I must admit it was similar to a number of letters published on this blog. The central theme is that the writer can see the reality and only Wenger is blinkered, inept, silly, stubborn, unable to see what needs to be done etc. The names of Song and Diaby come up quite often in such pieces at the moment as examples of uselessness.
This morning there is a piece on the Mirror’s web site in which they have the headline FLOP GUNS WENGER
I am not quite sure what it means, because after the usual journalese in the first couple of lines it settles down to being a rather good article, with a very lucid and clear set of statements in impeccible English (no split infiniteves here) from Dennis Hill-Wood.
What really surprises me is the lack of credible alternatives that are presented in most arguments. Not all articles, I admit, but in most. The argument is, this is rubbish, Song is rubbish, Denilson is rubbish, you are on another planet if you don’t see we need a defensive midfielder…..
What I find is a lack of any set of notions as to who would replace Wenger. And in this I mean someone who would be better without taking the club to the edge of ruin that Liverpool currently face.
(And it is important to recognise that the Liverpool crisis is not just of my invention for the sake of this blog. In July their money runs out for the very last time. The current £350m loan was given on strict instruction that none of it is to be used to buy players. Their only hope is that the Arabs move in. The Arabs have every ace – they can cut the price, they can withdraw, they can let the club sink, they can lose interest, they can declare war on Israel (or vice versa) they can find another Iraq in their midst…)
So who could run Arsenal better without taking us to the financial edge? Not Sir Alex F-Word. Apart from the fact he wouldn’t, he survives by having endless money to throw around – and of course that is going to stop eventually.
Look at the other managers near the top. If it were O’Neil, I would walk away, because that would be a total betrayal of everything Arsenal. (Ask Celtic supporters too – there are many who were just delighted to see him go, even though he delivered championships).
There’s in fact no one in England I would think is likely to do any better – and the same is true when I look overseas.
Look at Real Madrid – the only coach there who could deliver is now the coach of England, and he’s not going to come here. I won’t go on and on, but the current England manager is probably the only person who could have a claim to take over Arsenal – but my goodness that would be boring. Just go back and look at how he got those two championships at Real Madrid. True he used more flair in Milan, and maybe he could do it, but… it won’t happen.
the point is that most of the negative arguments are too narrow – they are mostly criticism without credible alternatives and ways of handling the finances, and they are based on what seems to me to be the intellectually unsustainable idea that Wenger has lost the plot while the blog writer (who judging from the style of writing) possibly hasn’t actually been at all the games, can instantly see what is wrong.
The example of Denilson is perfect here. Some fans think he is wonderful, some think he is useless. The stats show he is brilliant – and the response from the negative camp is either to ignore the stats, or say that you can make stats say anything, or suggest that he only makes easy tackles to get his stats up. It seems a sterile argument to me.
And yet there has always been criticism at Arsenal. When George Allison (one of the great Arsenal managers, as you will know) first came to the club in September 1910 he was employed by Henry Norris to write the programme, under the name Gunners Mate. He wrote the most vitriolic attack on the players that has ever been published – something no club programme would ever dream of printing today. Now that is making inside criticism public!
Here’s another example – although it is just based on one conversation. In the 1930s when Arsenal ruled football for the first time, my father used to go regularly, and he told me that even when they were winning the three consecutive championships there were moans and groans. A dire 1-1 draw with Portsmouth on December 29 (my dad’s birthday) 1934 produced boos, moans and groans from a crowd of only 36,000 (Highbury held 75000 in those days). Shouts of “rubbish” were heard across the ground, and the players were jeered. They won the league that year.
So maybe I shouldn’t be too amazed at all the vitriol. Maybe it is just what people do. Maybe my suspicion is right and that a lot of people are simply not at the games but just watching it on TV. Mabe blogging makes some people negative.
Maybe it is just me, carried away with a 9 match unbeaten run.
Hopefully Wenger won’t explode like Megson did this week and start arguing back. Because if he were to go, I really have no idea who we could get who would do any better.
Final note on different matters.
I have to go away for the rest of friday, and won’t be back at my computer until after the West Ham game tomorrow. If you have had 2 pieces published here before, and want to write in, then your comment will be published automatically. But if you are writing in for the first or second time, it will be held until I return. This system does help keep out the spam, but I am sorry for the delay in the next 2 days.
And, all things working out ok, I should be doing the fans eye view in the Observer on Sunday on the West Ham game. Expect 10 out of 10 for every player!
(c) Tony Attwood 2009