By Tony Attwood
Quite why some of the Manchester City supporters felt like singing “Only one Arsene Wenger” during this game, I am not too sure although I’ve never understood northern humour. Perhaps it was not a recognition that one could win the League and FA Cup across a number of years without the input of Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyanthe deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, minister of presidential affairs of Abu Dhabi – but they had chosen not to do it that way because they like rabid dictatorships, stoning, detention without trial…
Or perhaps it was a recognition that they put winning the League above issues such as forced disappearances, illegal detention, torture in custody, access to counsel, flogging… or maybe just the realisation that in the land their owner governs freedom of speech, religion, the media and association are guaranteed and they might lose their season ticket if they speak out too much.
Which in turn raises the issue, does it matter who owns your club? While that is a matter of much debate at Arsenal, it isn’t at Manchester City which says a lot about their supporters. Perhaps if any supporters speak out against Mansour they get their season ticket curtailed, I wouldn’t know. At least at Arsenal people are free to protest against owners and managers without looking over the shoulder.
To the rather bizarre Man C chant, many Arsenal supporters responded with “He’s won more than you” sung in very fine voice, which made me wonder if it were true. And yes, during Mr Wenger’s reign, it was true. Both clubs won the league three times. Manchester City won the FA Cup just the once – Mr Wenger won it seven times.
Of course in some fields Manchester City did do better. With the much prized and highly regarded League Cup they outdid Mr W 3-0 so perhaps the Man City supporters were remembering that. Oh but if we are counting the League Cup let’s count the Community Shield – they won it twice. Mr Wenger won it seven times.
But maybe Manchester City fans were recognising their club’s great history throughout their time in the league. They’ve won the league five times (twice more than Mr Wenger in his 22 years) and the FA Cup five times (two fewer than Mr Wenger in his 22 years). Arsenal have won the community shield 15 times to their five, although again they outdo us on the League cup five to two. We’ve won the league 13 times and the FA Cup 13 times. That’s nice and easy to remember.
As for after the match it was clear that the media were not going to change anything. After all they have bored us stupid with the same stuff year on year and watched sales and reputation decline, so they were unlikely to change. There were of course “5 talking points” here and “10 talking points” there and none of them really reflected on what I heard people talking about after the game.
So we had the notorious Transfer Tavern going overboard with its rancid anti-Arsenal rhetoric with “I never want to see Xhaka in an Arsenal shirt again” according to a fan, according to TT. “Emery made a stupid mistake when he didn’t banish Arsenal man from the Emirates this summer” was just another of their post match comments. Perhaps I sit in a different part of the ground from their people – I never heard anything remotely like that. Nor come to that did I see it.
But it was the Guardian which once again proved itself to be watching football from another planet. “It was strange seeing someone other than Arsène Wenger there,” their article says. Really? I think most of us sitting in the East looking across at the bench would have been extremely surprised to see Mr Wenger there.
And it went on… “While Arsenal had become accustomed to their manager staying seated…” I suppose from the press box (from which it is very difficult to see the Arsenal bench) one really doesn’t know, but from where I sit directly opposite the bench, I was very used to Mr Wenger getting up, pulling his trousers up in that way he has, walking up and down, sometimes wiping his hand over his mouth, pointing, sometimes even arguing… Goodness me, does the Guardian not remember Mr Wenger’s imitation of Christ on the cross when he was sent to the stands at Manchester United?
The article continues “It is not difficult to imagine what the audience reaction would have been had Wenger plumped for such a similarly experimental line-up.” I suspect it would have been the same as normal. Some, those who follow the likes of Football.London, Transfer Tavern and indeed the Guardian, would have made a bit of a fuss, and most of us would have wondered what he was up to, remembering that some of Mr Wenger’s more bizarre and unexpected re-arrangements did work. As did some of his transfers.
So the media saw the game, and the crowd, differently from me – no change there. And the fact remains that if we have to be owned by one person (which is the tragedy of the last 90 years of Arsenal as the club has moved from a multiple ownership model down to a tiny cabal and then one person) I am also pleased that we are backed financially by a man whose biggest crimes seem to be a desire to run a TV channel showing the killing of animals (on which he backed down – in the UK at least) and not investing in his sports franchises.
Those crimes are annoying indeed, but nowhere near the crime of running one of the most appalling human rights denying family based dictatorships in the world.
Maybe one day reporters will actually seriously mingle with football supporters so that they know what it is like. The cancelled trains on the way to and from matches, the gross and unsafe overcrowding on trains and platforms, the security checks on entering the stadium, the crowds at half time, buying a hot chocolate and being given a black coffee…
The media, rather like those Manchester C supporters who sang “One Arsene Wenger” have really got no idea.
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