A stunning turnaround in the Camp Nou last night. Imagine an Arsenal performance with that intensity and belief from kick-off. No, me neither.
The stiff upper lip and sense of fair play frowns on the theatrics which have dogged European competitions since their inception but the Arsenal fan in me sees a job opportunity arising in Paris this summer.
Not that it will happen, according to David Hytner. Amid the litany of mismanagement from the board, is this gem:
What remains clear is that the chief executive, Ivan Gazidis – who in effect runs the club on behalf of the majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke – and the chief negotiator, Dick Law, retain faith in Wenger.
So that’s the owner whose bottom line pushes along nicely and two directors who owe their jobs to Wenger; cronyism is alive and kicking. Perhaps we should start referring to Arsenal as the Establishment Club, once again. Hytner delivers a killer line,
It should also be noted that they do not believe there to be an outstanding candidate on the market to replace Wenger.
I was tempted to end the post there, leaving that line hanging there for all to see but no, there’s more to come.
What Do I Get?
These are the people who are charged with assessing whether anyone else could manage Arsenal Football Club. The instruction from Kroenke is business first, football second. A treble-winning manager, a four-time winner of Serie A are available this summer, as is (most likely) a manager who, despite similar financial constraints as Arsenal, managed to win a couple of European trophies.
The best at delivering profits. The club is in a mess at the moment, with a significant number of contracts reaching the point where it’s sign or sell, including key squad members. I can understand the Sanchez and Özil situations; the board has no control over them in that negotiations have already stalled.
It’s believed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is holding out for more first team football. On Tuesday night, even with the match running away from us, he was the only player who didn’t give up. He’s the only one who escapes any criticism for his performance. The others? Towels wafted through the air in the most unforgivable manner. I can take defeat but not trying or having pride in Arsenal? Playing in the centre of the park unleashed Ox but it’s pretty certain that Wenger will play Iwobi and Özil ahead of him. Little wonder he is rumoured to be unwilling to sign a new deal
All of this is swirling around the club with the manager’s contract at the eye of the storm. This remember is a man who claimed he is logical enough to know what is best for Arsenal Football Club and put that ahead of himself. I’d say that is royally undermined by the continued lack of a decision. Arsène is stumbling into a contract renewal, punch-drunk from criticism and a squad which he is unable to motivate.
There’s A Harmony In My Head
The players remain loyal to the manager but they are undermining his authority. Per Mertesacker, for example, giggling at the question over whether the players backed Wenger did nothing to reinforce the feeling that they believe in him. As I said on Tuesday, Arsène answering the question did more PR damage than he can imagine, or probably even cares.
Having called the newspapers out over the story of arguments and fights, Wenger’s claim that they never happened is being destroyed by leaks from the squad itself.
Below is verbatim from The Guardian:
There are certain things that happen at training grounds,” Walcott said. “I’m sure it happens at every other training ground, most of the time, really. You don’t see it often at Arsenal. Things have happened. They need to stay in the dressing room and the players and staff need to sort it out. We are in it together here. We can’t be fighting each other.”
Arsène Wenger has been the focus of supporter ire at Arsenal but Walcott said the players had to take responsibility. “He [Wenger] will take this on himself but us players need to look at ourselves,” he told the Evening Standard. “The manager has been taking a lot of flak in recent weeks and us players have been accepting it, but we can’t.”
“We should have been smart and just [opted for] damage limitation, really,” he said. “It’s just a big shame. People will be saying that we don’t care and stuff like this but, obviously, we do care. There’s loads of players who are very hurt, completely, in the dressing room. We need to move on very quickly from this disappointment. It’s going to show if we’re ready for the fight towards the end of the season. Trust me, we are.
A Different Kind Of Tension
Theo’s always talked a good game and he’s right, the players are equally to blame. It’s something they are all culpable for but Arsène built the squad, trains them and instructs. That includes on Tuesday night when the message from the bench about closing out the game with the draw which we had. Instead, to Bayern’s delight, we pushed forward, looking to score. Where’s the logic in that? Why didn’t Arsène or Steve Bould get into the technical area and below the orders?
They gave up as easily as the players.
Look, it’s a mess and a point where the board – Ivan – needs to come out with definitive statements. Arsenal are spinning out control in the PR sense and in reality. The latter is more damaging in every way but the former makes life a little easier in solving the latter.