The Arsenal of Today: Who Are You?

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.

’til Tomorrow.

50 thoughts on “The Arsenal of Today: Who Are You?

  1. Morning,

    Posted this just as today’s blog came up, so thought I’d repost:

    DFS-,

    Spot on.

    I do wonder how the relationship and reporting lines work between each of the men and Stan. You would have thought that Stan would be talking fairly regularly with the CEO of one of his companies, as he is the guy running the business. There’s no way that Wenger does any of the actual business management stuff, even though he seems to have complete control of all footballing aspects of the club’s management. Maybe Stan has given so much control over the football side to Wenger that no one else has any real input. If that’s the case the club is just going to continue on as is, with average performances and top stars being able to hold the club to ransom or walk out the door. We are in the hands of a stubborn man who will continue to follow a path of mediocre football and dated tactics which have been found out by most half decent clubs. The problem with a bully is that eventually those you are bullying grow up and fight back.

    To my mind, the only way Alexis and Ozil sign new contracts is if the club give in to their pay demands and that’s bad news as it signals that the club won’t be able to attract top stars without paying over the odds.

  2. Morning.

    “I suspect we will never see the like of it again.”

    I bloody well hope not!! 😜😜

    With just about every manager, given enough time, you see the inevitable rise and decline. The trouble here is that Arsene’s decline has been more of a shallow tailing off, a more dramatic fall from grace may well have seen him leave a long time ago.

    It’s a bit like the old frog in a pot analogy. Only the club is the frog, Arsene can hop off whenever he likes (no xenophobic pun intended). The long he stays, the more damage will be done and one day Stan will wake up and find his asset stinks like a boiled amphibian.

  3. Wavey,

    Think we’ve been in this boat for quite some time, it’s part of the reason Why we’re in this mess. Is it a bad thing? Not necessarily, if a squad is built correctly to challenge.

  4. Andy, oh, great Cassandra, you have started off in the way that only a decent Greek mythologist can do. 🙂

    I cannot get my head around your dubious binary, that a shallow tailing off in performance is the worst of the alternative of a conditional possibility than that of a steep decline.

    A shallow decline from a peak can lead to a shallow climb back to that peak — the conditional preference for a steep decline that has not happened, speaks to wishful thinking.

    To round off your morning appetiser — I would have to leave you to that, as I have never knowingly tasted a boiled frog – French or otherwise. You are clearly a well travelled gourmand!! 🙂

  5. Interesting Post, Yogi.

    You mentioned board room cock-ups from the mid-eighties stretching to the current day – in actualité the boardroom is mainly a non de plume for the ‘owners’ who are the main drivers for good or ill.

    We have all had our say on the guesswork as to whether AW will or will not leave, and the reasons for either choice and who is going to make that decision, with the BoD only recently interjecting that they will announce the final decision jointly with the manager.

    Frankly, this has the makings of a much bigger executive mismanagement than anything that has gone before with Howe, Graham, Houston or Rioch.

    Whatever the leanings of individual fans and their preferences for Arsene to sign a new contract, or not, ignores the lack of management immediacy and the apparent indecision of the only person who can agree to an extension, or a forced separation is Kroenke – and he seems as decisive as the pendulum on a grandfather clock.

    In the real – non-football world — this would never be tolerated, and heads would roll, but as the bungler is also the owner that is not going to happen, unless Gazidis is being offered up as the scape goat to take the fall. Weird.

  6. HenryB,

    It’s like the frog thing – a sharp decline like a sudden increase in heat would cause the frog to hop out of the pan, or in this case Stan to tell Arsene “thanks for the memories”. To stick with the analogy I’m pretty sure that unless there is an unexpected gas supply problem this decline is terminal ☹

    In keeping with Greek mythology on Monday we must slay the Minotaur, or Fat Sam as he’s otherwise known. Let’s hope we don’t just spend the evening wandering aimlessly around the labyrinth instead.

  7. Perhaps Stan isn’t as silent as we are led to believe. I find it hard to believe that Ivan is as incompetent as is said, he must have done something right to get a bonus, and would have to have been extremely fortunate to get where he is today if he was. It is possible that Stan is taking a short term view of the situation at the moment, given our recent results, hence siding with Wenger.
    He surely had to buy into presumably Ivan’s plans, before all the adverse events. After all it is fact that he ok’ed the big money transfers of Ozil and Sanchez. Surely he would have given the go ahead for last summers spree as well.
    All guesswork of course, maybe I’m making the pieces of the jigsaw fit.

  8. Wavey,

    Thanks for the re-post – I posted a small reply at the back end of yesterdays blog!

    andy1886,

    This is the problem – the way I would put it is ‘slow creep’.

    We all (here) recognized things were degrading years ago. Most did not. It took this season for a majority to grasp we spent big yet have failed to progress in any way – it changed the general perception.

    The problem is specific targets should have been laid out at least 5 years ago. However, with a hands-off owner such a Kroenke, the board had neither the incentive or gumption to put Wenger on a performance agenda.

    Perhaps this, in part, is what Gazidis and the board were trying to put in place this past week. If finally Gazidis and Co do comprehend things are beyond the pale, this still means little or nothing if Wenger takes an intractable position.

    What do they do if Wenger simply defies them? He is the public face of the club, he meets the media, sets the agenda – he is the authority.

    My sense is Wenger has long decided he will not leave unless fired. He banks on the idea even if the board is questioning his management, they will turn to Kroenke for the decision, and Kroenke will back him.

    Not only that, I suspect Wenger believes he wins in either scenario. If he stays, he wins. If he’s fired he can work the martyr angle even more than he has done (if possible) for the past decade.

    He gave Arsenal his all and they burned him at the stake.

  9. Colts,

    That presupposes that Wenger has any intention of rebuilding the squad. To his mind there is nothing wrong and all the players are happy. This is where I can’t decide if he’s delusional, or taking the piss. I’m not insulting him, I genuinely believe he is off his rocker if he believes we just need some small tweaks. If he is playing us he deserves everything he gets for the lack of respect he pays to the fans. We may not be footballing experts like Wenger, but we are football fans who watch on keenly. We know how a team is doing by its performances and its results. If Wenger truly can’t see that we are repeating the same cycle every season I fear for his sanity.

  10. Club went on life support when the old board decided to bring Kroenke in as a minority shareholder and to prepare to sell to him.

  11. I’d like to see active pressure on him. At least we shouldn’t forget how dismal an owner he has been–he’s no steward of the club.

  12. Alli puts the Spuds 1-0 up at home to Watford.

    Finding and developing ‘rough diamonds’ used to be a Wenger hallmark. Along with his knowledge of the French market and introducing continental training and dietary methods.

    Now that these attributes have waned can anyone actually tell me what makes Wenger a ‘great’ coach? I mean we’re told that he is, his followers and the media repeat it, but I can’t find anyone who can tell me WHY he’s a ‘brilliant’ manager.

    Of course he used to be, mainly because of the things I mentioned earlier, but using his earlier achievements to justify that label would require the addition of those words “used to be”. In that last decade the only thing that I can identify that he has been ‘brilliant’ at is building the myth of his own greatness at the expense of the history of our club (he built us, we were nothing before he came etc…).

    Spurs now 3-0 up btw. Will they bottle it?

  13. andy1886,

    No they won’t, because they’re finally coming into their own just as we are losing ours, in a real way. Look at their 3 goal scorers today so far – Alli, Dier and Son, all under 25 years old. All quality in their own ways. And keep in mind their best goal scorer in Kane got injured (who’s back now anyway) and still haven’t lost a game in the mean time. Pochettino is also a young manager with true quality.

    Worrying shift of tide in North London me thinks.

  14. Wavey,

    I don’t think he has any intention of rebuilding either, but agree only tweaks are needed.
    Major tweaks that should not be overseen by him, centre forward, formation etc…
    He’s brought relatively well, the bones of champions.
    I just think we’ve been over paying to keep players since we moved. Which is fair enough given our Euro status, but after ten years he should of pulled a Ranieri by now. Or at least made a proper challenge foreign and domestically.
    Tuchel would have us ticking over in no time.
    I very much doubt he would have stuck with Jack or Aaron when kongdogbia was on the market. Or missed out on both higuain and Suarez in the same window after selling one of the top strikers in the world.

    He won’t leave unless a larger number of fans make it unbearable or Ivan grows some balls. Even if that means resigning, the point will be made and added to the beautiful propaganda against him.

  15. Think I may have to follow Spurs the rest of the season. I haven’t enjoyed a game like I am this one in some time. They are everything I want Arsenal to be but arnt.

  16. HenrikJ,

    It certainly looks that way. For those old enough to remember this Spurs side has a similar look to George Graham’s early sides back in the mid/late eighties. Even early on they had some great spells and competed with the best toe to toe, once they added one or two key players and found some consistency, well we all know what happened.

    Certainly Spurs have some strong opposition in Chelsea and to a lesser extent City, but compared to the all-conquering Liverpool team of the eighties it’s not such a stretch to imagine that they could finally do it if they keep this side together and hold on to their manager. It’s a shame that nobody at AFC seems to be bothered that we’re being overtaken by the old enemy.

  17. Pistol Fish,

    Spurs are superb and look the best coached squad in the Premier League.

    Without Kane for a string of games, without Wanyama or Kyle Walker today.

    You might as well have been watching the first eleven – Keiran Trippier on the wing was unplayable. They are young, athletic, intelligent and all in snych for 90 minutes. They are obviously close with each other but Pochettino also. Eric Dier scored, celebrated with his team mates and then went over to hug the manager on the sideline.

    Last week there was some funny back and forth on this forum as a few of us said we would prefer them to win the League over Chelsea – but I admitted Pochettino and Spurs had made a fan of me some time ago.

    Even if Arsenal were challenging seriously I think my admiration for Spurs would still stand – they are that good to watch.

  18. andy1886,

    Exactly! What’s worrying me the most is that we seem to be oblvious of this shift – the signs have been there for a while now and we got by the skin of our teeth last year but so many of these Spurs guys are so young; if we don’t pay attention they’re going to mature into a side that will cause real problems for us especially when you look at our supposed core – who are mostly all 25 and above and theirs who are mostly under 25. Our guys are in their peak years (and struggling greatly) and their guys will enter their prime in several years, yet are starting to run circles around us. They are also tactically efficient and flexible which really worries me when I see our rigidity. Their manager is young and making a name for himself, and ours is nearing 70 and capitalizing on past glories. I say this and I don’t even really have a horse in this whole Arsene in or out debate!

    Basically we seem like the past and they seem like the future. How we’re sitting idly by and letting this to come to pass is so puzzling, especially for a club that supposedly is so “savvy” and “forward thinking”.

    It’s all mind boggling to me.

  19. DFS-,

    Re: Spurs I agree with you that you can still dislike the team and acknowledge our rivalry with those guys but admit that they are doing some good things with themselves. You’d be a bit dim to ignore that, because hopefully it motivates us into some action to fix this situation we find ourselves in.

    I still don’t want them to win the league though…can you imagine the scenes? They finish above us for the first time in ages and they go ahead and win the whole damn thing at the same time. No thanks!

  20. DFS
    It feels dirty, but one has to admire what’s going on there.
    I’d love them to win the leuge. It would shove the whole money argument in the trash. Two seasons in a row a team with significantly less resources than us have won the title.
    Let’s be honest, we were beyond lucky to finish above them last season.

  21. HenrikJ,

    Yup, can’t say that I would want them to actually win it and I think that’s maybe it’s too much of an ask this season but next season they may well be one of the favourites. I could see them winning the FA Cup though, on their day they can beat anyone. It’s no good burying our heads in the sand, we were told that Leicester last season was ‘an anomaly’, I expect the same will be said if Spurs finish above us, and also if we fail to make top four. Before you can fix something you have to admit that there is a problem in the first place.

  22. If anyone still has doubts about the need to replace Arsene Wenger as manager of Arsenal, let me refer you to an article in this morning’s Telegraph Sports section headlined “Revealed: nine games prove if coach will thrive”.

    A model devised by experts at the Henley Business School suggests, among other things, that this is the first season when there is a sound argument for Arsene Wenger to step down at Arsenal.

    The article is well worth reading and should be mandatory for the owner, board, chief executive and manager.

    It’s unavailable on the Telegraph website.

  23. It IS available on the Telegraph website! Despite what my tablet said in the previous comment.

  24. Pistol Fish,

    Henrik J

    Yup, they should have held onto second but stamina is not looking like it will be a problem this season. In fact I mentioned that their last season has unfortunately prepped us for the idea they could finish above us.

    Its going to be an interesting few months for Pochettino.

    He was just interviewed recently said he could never manage Barcelona due to his loyalty to Espanyol and seemed really serious and sincere about it. But this week the speculation is high once more and I think it is only going to increase.

    I hope he stays at Spurs. His star seems set to rise and in another couple of years he could have his choice of elite clubs if he wanted to move on.

  25. Great post yogi.

    If we win the 2 games in hand we will be in 4th. Liverpool have lost their top scorer for the rest of the season and ManU have trouble scoring and they get draw after draw but can’t win. ManU also has the Europa league as their best avenue to get back to the CL next year. Like him or not we all have to admit that Arsene is the great escape artist and it always seems to happen but the football gods are conspiring to throw Arsene another lifeline and who would bet against him pulling off another miracle top 4 finish. If that happens then he gets to tell everyone “I told you so” and give all of the disbelievers a figurative double barrel middle finger. Rinse and repeat, the beat goes on and on and on and on. Use whichever cliche you like but the status quo will be maintained.

  26. There is probably not another manager in the history of world football who would not love to be in the situation Arsene has built for himself. He is the one who judges his own performances and sets the bar for what are adequate results and his job is secure for as long as he wants it. There have been rumors about offers for him to move away in the past but why would he even consider that? It’s the ideal situation for a football junkie who enjoys control and loves nothing better then managing a big football team. Top that all off with a world class wage packet and who cares about fan or media pressure? Which of us would voluntarily walk away?

  27. It is a sorry state of affairs when we are admiring Spurs, but we cannot deny that they have a young team that plays good football and seem to be very well coached on far less resources than we have.

    AW has done more poorly recently with ever greater resources. That’s a major indictment even in terms the accountant-fans have to acknowledge.

  28. Bill,

    That’s why he is staying unless the board/owner put conditions on him. And that is precisely the point of his recent public statements–defiance. He wants no limitations on him. That could be the one way he chooses to take another job like a PSG. But this is very unlikely.

  29. I don’t blame Arsene for wanting to maintain the status quo. The board and the owner are the ones who should get the blame for allowing the situation to evolve the way it has. What I do blame Arsene for is his inability to take advantage of this perfect situation that he has built for himself. We were never going to outspend Man City or ManU but its not like any team in our league has become an unbeatable juggernaut. Over the years Stan and board have given Arsene everything he has asked for and within reason they would have given him more if he would have asked. The fact that we have not even been able to to compete for a title since 07/08 and we have stagnated is down to Arsene’s management.

  30. Why would Arsene even consider PSG or any other job when he could never replicate the situation he has built for himself at Arsenal?

  31. Orson Kaert,

    Does that means according to their model previous years provided no sound arguments for AW stepping down? I think last season was a clear signal he could not or would not progress the club–I don’t think those 9 games this season were needed, in fact.

  32. Of the underachieving big teams of last season, AFC were really the only ones without a new manager.

  33. Bill,

    If AFC impose conditions he doesn’t like that reduce his free hand and autonomy he might decide a comparable scope of power in Paris with an easier league to win and more resources to try to win the CL would be an option. But as I said–very unlikely he would leave because AFC is a pretty perfect position to be in if you just want to be a manager at a high level. Very cosy situation.

  34. He clearly doesn’t want anything to change in term so of his authority and freedom to make decisions.

  35. His main goal is just to be a manager at a big club and ideally the freedom to do what he wants without interference. That’s his top ambition. Of course he wants to win but he doesn’t seem to know how anymore. The criminal part of this is that we have an owner who doesn’t care and is happy to cede all this power as long as his investment is safe.

  36. He wouldnt get that at PSG.

    They’ve even said he was somewhere on the list, but not even on the short list in reality.

    Even if he got the job, he wouldnt last a season, and he knows it.

    He’s got a job now he wouldn’t even get vaguely close to anywhere else, not even a smidgen.

    That said, he doesn’t want to yield an inch of it, otherwise the board might get ideas and actually expect something from him he is incapable of delivering and before you know it, he’d be standing outside with his suitcase waiting for the next bus.

    He thinks he’s got too strong a hand (I made a joke about Zuma earlier, but it sure as the proverbial looks less like a joke on either end as this develops), but he might get a rude shock at some point.

    I think he’s got to the point where he is no longer able to honestly evaluate himself, so he intends staying till they carry him out in a box (he’s got nothing else anyway).

    It’s going to get very ugly unfortunately.

  37. I don’t often take note of the outpourings of newspapers on sporting matters.
    In today’s Daily Express however, on the vexed subject of whether or not Alexis Sanchez will remain at the Ems next season, Arsene Wenger is reported as saying “I believe that basically he wants to stay at the club and it’s down to finding an agreement with his agent”.
    Yet again there is this reference to the powerful greed of these leeches who taint professional football by stirring up jealousy, envy and dissatisfaction in their clients, in order to load their own pockets. 😉

  38. nicky

    I think the reference to Sanchez is Arsene misinforming the public where the problem lies. In his own interview on the club’s website, Sanchez makes it clear that he needs to be motivated and that winning is all. If Arsenal can’t deliver next season, he’s walking. Not the agent that is necessarily all of the problem, but the failure to challenge for trophies.

  39. And that’s the real issue, Wenger doesn’t see that there’s a problem to fix in the first place.

    All of the teams above us won today. We may have games in hand, but we have to win them 9 points off Liverpool with 3 in hand, 7 off City with 2 in hand. Spurs look to be out of sight to me…even if we win our 2 games in hand, we have to catch up another 8 points in 7 games. We would need them to collapse like they did in the last 3 games of last season and we have to win all of our games. We just don’t look that good.

    nicky,

    Arsene has made very similar comments about players in the past and been completely off the mark.

  40. It’s not a bad season. It’s a normal season for post 2008 Arsene Wenger. We’ve seen worse. The real differense compared to the previous seasons is that our rivals are doing better. Much better. So is Wenger finally paying a high price for his arrogant miscalculation his half competitive half free fall seasons would be enough to carry him forever. And of course it’s not just him. It’s the cynical owner, the indifferent board, the yes saying management members, the super loyal journalists, and the brain washed fans. All of them will have to share the blame for the coming tough times for Arsenal. They have been warned many times. Now they will witness something they praised Wenger for not missing even once in 20 years.

  41. @YW et al,
    I should have known better than to raise a remark by Arsene Wenger and not expect a criticism.
    I still feel that agents are generally not necessary and I suspect that they are often the cause of much discord in dressing rooms. 😉

  42. Come on Nicky, you and I both know that Arsene changes his tune to suit his agenda. the man spins faster than a centrifuge.

    I agree that agents are a blight on the game. I also believe that for a top player earning millions of pounds a year the chance to win the PL or CL is far more attractive than another few thousands of pounds a week. It’s not as if our wage bill is much different to the totals at the other big 3.

    They all leave eventually when we don’t challenge for the top honours.

  43. If you blame Sanches’ agent for turning away his employer’s head, you should also admit Sanches coming to Arsenal, and not to Liverpool, was in the first place exclusively down to money and his greedy agent. Which means we are sometimes on the winning, and sometimes on the receiving end of the agents’ greed. But my personal opinion is it’not just about money. Arsene, who has allegedly had many top offers and rejected them, must know this.

    If the longest serving manager in the league can not use his reputation to keep his best players, what is the point of this “stability”? And can you trust him to rebuild? Will he attract the players of similar quality to replace the departures?

  44. @Andy 1886,
    “Spinning faster than a centrifuge”. Even Arsene would be amused by such a description.
    On a more pleasant subject, how is that gorgeous grand daughter of yours progressing?

  45. nicky,

    😃 All good thank you Nicky. My son-in-law and his family are also big Arsenal fans so there is zero chance of any football related disagreements. 👍

  46. The trouble with grandchildren, particularly grand daughters, is they grow up far too quickly.
    One minute you can give them a loving cuddle, the next minute you invoke the wrath of the current boyfriend. 😉

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