Well, a weekend without football. Or rather the Arsenal playing. Even in these fractious times, the sight of the red and white shirts on a pitch still holds me in its thrall, just as it did in the distant past. The relationship with the club is different, as is everything else. Football has morphed into an almost unrecognisable beast in reality, even if the concept of twenty-two men running around a pitch, chasing a pig’s bladder still holds true.
The innocence of youth is beyond the horizon in the rear view mirror of life, replaced by the cynicism of maturity. If I think back now to the terrace talk of twenty years ago, the gap between players and supporters was growing but not beyond breaching as it is now, and there was still an approachability about them. Maybe it’s because they wore their hearts of their sleeves for the most part; that was the bond then, the uniting characteristic.
Some were distant but they were the minority, dismissed with invective. On the pitch, they were still the Arsenal, so long as they gave their all. There was little forgiveness for the player who didn’t try; sympathy was in short supply if their career went south.
Arsenal, as a club, was different. Corporate, yes; it was a business, just as it did today but more ‘in touch’ with supporters. The numbers which matter today aren’t the same. Then, the number on your season ticket book meant something more than the number on the waiting list.
I wonder what the me of then would think of football now. The idealism of youth can’t be replicated; too much cynicism and life has been injected into these tired limbs.
I believe, however, it would be more or less, the same as now: “WTF?”
I Look Pretty Young But I’m Just Back-Dated
Which is roughly the same as reactions to the current situation at Arsenal. We’ve seen the board mishandle things before; different people, same madness. Don Howe’s reign as manager ended when the club made an approach to his friend, Terry Venables. It became public knowledge and Don chucked in his ticket. A disrespectful board, naive in their actions and make a balls up of it; sound familiar?
The directors of the time came out smelling of roses (eventually) with the appointment of George Graham. Changing manager had a positive impact after a difficult start. I think it was the autumn when we hit the top of the table, through to the end of January / early February. The now-familiar collapse saw us fall away; instant success rarely comes.
But it was different, the staleness eventually gave way and a new era truly began. The same as Arsène’s arrival finished the job started by Bruce Rioch and washed away the odour of the past.
The scent of the past still clings in the air now. There’s nothing new about Arsenal on the pitch, no sense of new ideas. We are stale and need a change. Some wonder if the obvious power struggle between the two senior officers of the club has been won? I doubt it. Arsène pushing the question of his future back to the club reeked of a man schooled in what to say by people aware of the PR mess he created.
The Simple Things You See Are All Complicated
Paranoid about losing control of the situation, the message is clear: the future is undecided. We limp on, waiting for Liverpool to blow up with injuries taking their toll and hoping to maintain some form to take advantage of the two games in hand. It’s not the best managerial philosophy in the world but it may yet prove effective for Wenger.
The genuine disadvantage of a ‘hands-off’ owner is shining through. Kroenke’s refusal to lay down the law to Wenger and Gazidis exacerbates the situation. There comes a time when the majority shareholder has to make a decision, instead of being an indulgent parent who lets the squabbling children sort it out between themselves. When the elder sibling is intransigent, progress is never made.
Can Arsenal reel in the manager and force change through? Under normal circumstances, you would argue that it is the natural order of things but Arsène’s tenure is anything but normal and I suspect we will never see the like of it again.