By Tony Attwood
If the question above were posed as “What SHOULD Arsenal do now” rather than as it is written, the answer would undoubtedly be very complicated. But Arsenal commentators on football don’t do complicated – they like simple, easy solutions. And therein lies another problem.
For the problem with simple solutions to complex problems is that they rarely work. Yet they can look and sound very appealing when presented and can quickly rally support. The media will thus always go for the simple solution, but then, being the media, when it doesn’t work, will forget it, until the next simple solution comes along.
Thus it was with the “Wenger out” approach to Arsenal which some fans and the media adopted across 2016/17 and 2017/18. That was about as simple a solution as one could get, but it rather ignored many of the issues surrounding the club and its owner.
Now, with the situation this year looking much the same as the situation at this stage of last season, some commentators appear to be waiting for the next simple solution to come along. Last night some adopted a “get rid of Xhaka” approach, not for the first time, and once again we are taken into a simplistic “analysis” (I use the word lightly) which is unlikely to make that much difference to Arsenal in the long run.
Indeed in a flashback to the old days There was even a comment made here recently that Arsenal get more injuries than other clubs, although I have yet to see the blame be put on Arsenal’s current manager for that – although it could easily happen soon.
But clearly the search is on for another simple explanation as to why Arsenal are not in the top four, and why once again we are out of the FA Cup at the first time of asking.
Injuries are not helping of course, especially when a number of them appear in the same part of the team at the same time. Sokratis, Koscielny, Bellerin, Holding… that is a pretty good group of defensive players, all now out of action; but this is what happens to all clubs at different times, and the manager’s job is to find ways of working around it.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that even now commentators whose commentary is based on simplistic analysis to complex problems fail to see their own analysis failing. Take this one from the Star about Arsenal, “They have gone in to this stadium to generate money and compete with the top teams in this league and to go into this window and only getting loans is just, I mean it is just ridiculous.”
No, Arsenal went into the new stadium when the notion of mega-money running football was only just starting to emerge, and before the board of directors betrayed the fundamental notion of Arsenal when the club moved to Highbury, as a club owned by thousands of people, not just one person.
Still at least we had a little laugh recently as Mauricio Pochettino defended his lack of trophy type objects at Tottenham Hotspur by utilising Arsenal’s song “You won the league in black and white”.
He then said that the single biggest factor stopping Tottenham winning a trophy was the move out of the old White Hart Lane stadium to Wembley, and then, what one might call a bit of a cock up on the building front.
“Tottenham, no history of winning,” Mr Pochettino announced, with a speech that seemed rather in contrast to the standard line one hears from the club. “Our glory, I watch the video about the glory, it’s with Nicholson. It’s black and white and I watch it nearly every week. To create again that feeling you need time. Four years, five years, that’s nothing in the history of the club.”
And maybe that is true. But unfortunately just as a single simple solution is always sought by supporters to complex issues, so a single simple explanation is always sought at the problem in the first place.
For the media, and those Arsenal supporters they led (rather like the Pied Piper of Hamelin leading the rats) there is one simple solution: get rid of the manager. Now that has been achieved and instant glory has not followed, they have another problem. So do they pick another simplistic notion and say that is to blame (like Tottenham’s Pochettino blaming the club’s celebration of his ancient history as a reason for his failure to win the league) or do they for the first time ever admit that such problems are complex, and that simplistic single item solutions simply don’t work?
I very much suspect the former. More simplistic notions, which will whip up a frenzy among some supporters, but actually make no odds to Arsenal’s future.
I do very much hope I am wrong, and that somewhere within Arsenal there is a long term solution that addresses the multiple difficulties the club is facing, but as yet I am not seeing the signs.
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