by Tony Attwood
Yesterday Walter in his article How to kill a player raised the issue of how the club is treating Ozil, which itself raises the question, how does the issue of Ozil fit with our long-running banner headline “supporting the club the manager and the team.” It’s something I have been becoming increasingly uncomfortable with of late.
Then Blacksheep wrote the article
These articles were not co-ordinated, and I didn’t know either were being worked on, until they were passed over to me for publication. Indeed Walter made it clear to me that if I felt that his article was not right for Untold given our banner headline about supporting the manager, he’d fully understand.
What neither Walter nor Blacksheep knew was that while they were writing their articles I was also writing a piece about the 10 plus years of the “supporting the manager” banner headline on Untold – a piece which I’ve held back until now given that Walter and Blacksheep’s articles have come in.
Clearly, since we all ended up writing articles on the same topic, at the same time, and given that all three of us were very much supporters of Wenger, there’s an issue we’re all aware of: is Emery really the right man for the job? And of course the infinitely smaller issue, what to do about our “supporting the manager” slogan on Untold Arsenal.
Being an Ancient, as it were, I’ve had a long time supporting Arsenal and during earlier times I have most certainly not always supported the manager. I was particualrly unhappy with Bertie Mee, who seemed to allow the club to collapse around him in the aftermath of the first glorious double. As we sank into relegation battles through the mid-70s he told the world that Arsenal needed to contract in size to save money. He wanted the youth teams and the academy cut to shreds, a first team squad of little more than 18 players, fewer backroom staff, all in the name of modernism, rationalisation and ultimately contraction. And all combined with a military style discipline within the club totally out of step with the social change of the era. It was an utter disaster and set the club back years, in my view.
So I was delighted when he finally went, but then I wasn’t overwhelmed by those who followed him – Terry Neil with his record run of defeats, Don Howe with his “defence first” approach, and so on. Of course George Graham won trophies and of course I loved the cup double – making us the first team ever to win both the FA Cup and League Cup in the same season. But at what a cost: played 42, scored 38, conceded 56, 10th in the league. Scored 38 goals in 42 league games!!! It was awful.
I suppose it is because I remember those managers who came before that I valued Mr Wenger so much. Goal scoring went up by 26% in Wenger’s first season to 1.63 goals a game – a significant leap in just one season. We actually reached 2.28 goals a game in 2005 – the highest since the 1930s when defences were far less disciplined and scoring six plus in a game was commonplace.
So I saw Mr Wenger as not only the man who gave us the three league titles, the unbeaten season, the record number of FA Cup wins and the Champions League final, and the man who brought in real innovation, but also the great entertainer.
Besides which buying the relatively unknown Henry, pairing him up with Pires, breathing new life into Bergkamp, buying Anelka, and when he demanded to leave, selling him at such a profit that it paid for the new youth academy facilities, and buying the unknown Vieira for £3.5m while he (Wenger) was still in Japan, expanding not restricting the youth system, picking brilliant youngsters out of thin air, taking on the PGMO when accused of accosting the referee, and defeating them hands down, it was all good stuff in my book.
And of course he not only delivered all the trophies, but he kept the club in the top four when paying for the stadium. Which I know to many was of no consequence – top four is not a trophy after all. But today it rather looks like it might have been – a trophy in the sense of it being a key to a pot of money which could be spent on players.
So yes, “supporting the manager” for me was very much the case of “supporting Mr Wenger” – not least because he was our manager for longer than anyone else.
But in the end, for me, the “Wenger Out” issue wasn’t about Mr Wenger, but about the way football had changed in recent years, for I believed and still believe the real issue was about our owner vs other owners.
And that is what I will try and look at in the next article – which I hope to publish later today.
- Clubs are showing signs of fighting back at journalists
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.