What is football if not abuse?

By Tony Attwood

As we await the big game on Thursday and all serious transfer talk is on hold until we know who the new manager is going to be we are dealing with scraps from the table.   Important scraps but nonetheless not the main news about a) who the manager will be and b) who that man will sign.

What we do know, or at least I think we might know, is that Holding has signed a new contract.  If that is right I think that is great news.  He has been terrific for his age in a position in which most players need a few more years to establish themselves.  What’s more he was an absolute bargain.

Elsewhere we are being told that there is a thought that the West Stand will become the Arsene Wenger stand.  Not a bad idea because from there you can see our banner.  Here’s the video, just in case you are not tired of seeing it yet.

Meanwhile the Guardian’s resident cartoonist has a piece titled, “What is football, if not for dreaming?”  Well, actually, if you go to the games, it is by and large abuse.  Lots of it.  It used to be abuse of the other team’s players, but now (at least at Arsenal and at least in one or two parts of the ground and certainly in the press and on the blogs) it is abuse of our manager and some of our players.

As the recent review of the comments of Sky Sports commentators and pundits showed, the abuse is at such a level that the logical extension of it must be that if Arsenal are as bad as these people say, then so must all the clubs below them be.  75% of the Premier League is therefore utterly clueless and awful.

I pondered on this point once more on seeing another headline today: “Fans demand entertainment and unambitious managers are paying the price.”  But I wonder if that the case?   Arsene Wenger was dedicated to entertainment and yet he paid the price for not winning enough games.  George Graham was never a great one for entertainment and yet a part of the Arsenal fanbase revere him for his trophies.

  • Under George Graham we scored 711 goals in 460 games.  1.54 per game.
  • Under Arsene Wenger we scored 2142 goals in 1227 games thus far.  1.74 goals per game.
  • In terms of defence with Graham we let in 403 in those 460 games: 0.87 goals a game.
  • In terms of the Wengerian defence we let in 1137 in 1227 games thus far: 0.92 goals a game – slightly worse.

So who was the entertainer?  Graham or Wenger?  I’d argue Wenger.  Not just that he had a win rate of 57.38% against Graham’s 48.91%.   But Graham still wins many people’s plaudits as the greater of the two managers because of the trophies.  Two league titles, one FA Cup, two league cups and a Cup Winners Cup.   Six trophies in nine seasons.  As opposed to 10 trophies in 22 seasons.

That’s the point.  Many people don’t care too much about entertainment – they want trophies.  Coming second isn’t a trophy.  Indeed it isn’t even worthy of a mention as we found last time Arsenal did it.

But what of ambition.  Who has the ambition now?  Presumably the managers of the top six clubs in the Premier League, although probably not to win the league next season.  That, as we already know, will be won by Manchester City.

13 Replies to “What is football if not abuse?”

  1. George Graham might have won more if he had stopped his players eating junk food and abusing alcohol whereas Wenger has always encouraged his players to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Arsenal under Graham played boring football whereas under Wenger the team has always tried to play Iin an attractive attacking style. Graham was dismissed for dishonesty whereas Wenger has always behaved with integrity. Graham was a successful pragmatic manager whereas Wenger is an iconic figure who transformed English football. No comparison.

  2. @Steven,

    you may add another thing or two :

    1) Arsene Wenger leaves but one part of his legacy is the Emirates
    2) another part of his legacy is a youth organisation that is conveyor belt of players into the first team
    3) Arsene Wenger has the name ‘Invincibles’ forever as synonym in the sports world and the number 49
    4) Wengerball is obviously named after him, not Wengertime which is a synonym of cheating.

    Tell me the name of another coach who’s done as much on and off the field and leaves such a legacy over more then 2 decades in the same club.

  3. Bayern denied a clear penatly just before half time….wonder if that is a PL ref officiating ?

  4. People forget Graham rebuilt the Clock End and the North Bank under his tenure that’s half a stadium and bought youth players through like Martin Hayes.
    He also did the impossible and won a trophy for Tottenham that’s Two plus One League Cup for all the non Little Englanders out there.

  5. Bayern denied a penalty? I saw Madrid players carded for anything & everything whereas Bayern were allowed freedom of the park. The Ref was an absolute obvious cheat.

    He started the game after 2 balls on the field by dropping the ball to Bayern when Madrid had possession giving Bayern an open chance to attack with Madrid unprepared.

    I don’t care who won but the officiating was corrupt.

  6. The North Bank was built during Grahams tenure not by him. It was funded by supporters buying debentures & seats that are now part of someones living area! It was part of the all seater stadia required by Maggies government following Heysel.

  7. So the fans built the North Bank and Emirates Airlines built Ashburton Grove.
    Not by Sir Robert Mc Alpine?

  8. While some arsenal fans are saying Graham is better than Wenger, they should not forget that Wenger did help arsenal to build a new stadium.
    At a time when Wenger had just started to sign expensive players as the stadium costs have been reduced, it’s when the media, aaa , aaa fan tv succeed in forcing Wenger out. It’s a disgrace.

  9. Why in the world are we comparing 2 coaches who were there in different times, for a tenure that is not comparable, in an environment that is totally different ?`Why are Arsenal fans riping apart one to make the other better ?!?!?

    Stupid. Both are great men, and comparing them is like comparing an apple and an orange.

    Stupid, senseless and self-distructing

  10. Chris,

    There will always be comparisons, whether we like it or not. Both Wenger and Graham are (still)/were great managers, and we can count ourselves fortunate to have lived in these times.

    Unfortunately, at this point it’s our fanbase that requires the most work. Divided and unable to reach compromises in the simplest matters, we will always be an easy target for the blogettas and the scandal-seeking press. That in my view is the biggest disadvantage we carry, and we can only hope that the new manager will pay attention to the phenomenon and give his best to alleviate it. I’d be happy to see Arsenal’s PR reinforced tenfold. Just my opinion;)

  11. I thought Arsenal played some good attacking football during George Graham’s two championship-winning seasons (we were the league’s highest scorers during 88-89, you might remember it!) and also during the 1991-92 season, when again we were top scorers. Rocastle, Smith, Marwood, Merson, Limpar, Campbell, Davis, Wright. Boring? Not for me.

  12. Matthew – exactly. The managers that brought success to Arsenal were all good in their way. GG was one of Mees stars in the early 70s. I enjoyed all of his time with Arsenal including the famous back 4 or 5 that defended so well.

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