- Arsène Wenger, November 2013
I bet Vincent Tan wishes he had this. Not Wonder Woman although I cannot say that for certain; maybe he would like the 1970s vintage Ms Carter in his entourage – she would probably enjoy Jimmy Choo’s company. No, Vince would probably like her lasso more than anything else, to throw it around the collective nuisance, or Cardiff City fans as the rest of us refer to them as, and make them forget everything blue. Everyday Heroes is the title track from today’s Dad’s Jukebox on the right sidebar or here, a fitting appellation for football supporters everywhere but when faced with the wrecking ball of an owners ego, resistance is not entirely futile.
Like Assem Allam, tinkering with a club’s identity has dented Tan’s popularity when having steadied the club financially, he ought to be well though of. His decision to fire a member of Malky Mackay’s staff made headlines, causing speculation over their manager’s future and an unwelcome distraction. It was interference which Arsène made clear he would not tolerate,
I have sympathy for Mackay because a boss has enough problems and when you have to fight for your own responsibilities and power it makes your job even more difficult. The role of new owners is becoming more of an issue in football. That is why I appreciate what I have at Arsenal. I am conscious that I can work as I want here, at the right level.
When it comes to the playing and coaching side, there is no doubt that managers ought to have total control; it is their job after all and their head on the line. If they are judged on results, then interfering owners is the last thing they need but this is football and that is what they get. A lot of the focus is skewed by attempts to portray this as an issue of nationality; it isn’t, this is ego. Football club owners were egotistical before the creation of the Premier League, they are now, they will be in the future. Brian Glanville christened it “The Greed Is Good” League but that, I am afraid, has always been the case. The difference is that now the greed is on a rampage with nothing apparently capable of stopping it.
As Wenger himself famously observed, does a passport matter? OK, in the case of Thaksin Shinawatra, yes, it does but all his reign at City proved was that Fit and Proper regulations do not work and for the most part, defining that is subjective once you get beyond money laundering and proven crimes. Personally, I don’t think much of Stan Kroenke and even less of Alisher Usmanov. That has nothing to do with them as people but everything to do with the ownership model at Arsenal Football Club; plurality of ownership served the club well for a century or more. It is something which will return in an ideal world but this world is far from ideal.
On the pitch is where it matters today though. History resonates through this fixture, the ghosts of 1927s FA Cup Final circling. Dan Lewis’ name will become familiar to a new generation of supporters as will the tale of his jersey. For a game which tries hard to forget the past, to let it rest so that Sky can claim to have created the sport, such joy, quirks and miseries are a nuisance and to be sidelined. See even I am guilty of the same, forgetting to mention the attributed goalscorer, Hughie Ferguson, in all of this. Whether dubious goal panel would have left this as Ferguson’s moment of glory is open to debate but Dan Lewis’ Elbow has all the hallmarks of a fine Half Man Half Biscuit album.
There is a certain symmetry to Cardiff’s home record this season, two wins, two draws, two defeats, seven scored, seven conceded. Such quirks are an aside of course, the results count and they have acquitted themselves well in their big matches thus far, defeating Manchester City whilst taking a point from Everton. Last weekend’s draw with United was as commendable as it was unexpected. The visitors had plenty of opportunities to kill off the game but failed to take their chances. Arsenal would do well to avoid such profligacy as on display during Tuesday’s win over Marseilles.
I am sure United supporters before their trip to South Wales viewed this as three points waiting to be picked up. We are no different in that sense except Arsenal have that wake-up call to take heed of and everything this season suggests that they will. Arsène has suggested that he is going to rotate his squad ahead of the trip to Naples in a ten days time and with three games to fit into the next seven, a few can be expected today. In that sense, Theo Walcott’s return to the squad could not have been more timely and I expect that despite midweek scoring heroics, Jack Wilshere will drop to the bench to give the nation’s most famous ankle a rest. As Brazil 2014, the media will become as obsessed with that as they have with metatarsals in the past. Football supporters will ditch their economics degrees for medical qualifications once more.
It is a double-edged sword for Wenger; Walcott’s fitness is vital for the overall health of the midfield, to allow the creative types to be swapped and rested as necessary. That and the return of Kieran Gibbs will be the only changes to midweek and today you sense Walcott’s pace will be a nice outlet in a fixture where I expect Arsène to pair Flamini and Arteta in expectation of matching their hosts exertions. That would leave a starting line-up of,
Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta, Flamini; Walcott, Giroud, Özil
It gives Wenger some outstanding choices from the bench; Rosicky, Cazorla and Wilshere is a frightening trio for the opposition to face as the game wears on.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.