The weekend’s press conference was something of a first for the manager. Not a first but a rarity nonetheless with the lack of respect shown to him by journalists through the years being contemptuously slapped away. Arsène is not averse to toying with them, teasing them, even outright lying to them but there is something so wrong about journalists portraying themselves as men of the Arsenal people that it beggars belief that they even try to do so. They are rarely in tune with the majority of Arsenal fans, opting to float the extreme views at either end of the spectrum without recognising that most people are perched (un)happily in the middle.
Not that the media care about such things. Even the Arsenal supporting press have a job to do, papers to sell and ignoring the away fans at Villa Park seemingly turning on the manager would be considered by their employers, to be a sackable offence. It is no good telling the media that they are against the club, they are constantly on our back when they are reflecting what a section of the support gave their opinion. There is previous in this with discontent surfacing against United last season and to a lesser extent, Reading in the League Cup this season.
“We want our Arsenal back” is a generic chant that nobody is able to quantify. Do you want the Arsenal which existed when you first went to football? I don’t. Dear God the 1970s between 1972 and 1978 was fairly dire. It marked the end of an era, a transition between Bertie Mee’s reign and Terry Neill’s ill-fated spell in charge. Do I want to be at Highbury back then? No. Comments about the 1930s Arsenal, who the hell wants them? Put Arshavin or Cazorla in a pair of Alex James’ shorts and you won’t see either player as they will be engulfed by the material.
So what is it exactly that you want back? A club that cared for you? When did that exist? It’s a myth, never happened. Supporters had more sway because gate receipts were a greater proportion of the revenue but we had no input into the club. Now, even if it feels that most of the time it is lip service, the club are at least listening to the supporters organisations.
Which begs the question, what Arsenal do you want back. The only commonality is the winning team, or even the team that challenged for trophies. We knew that the move to The Emirates would be tough for the club and mistakes would be made. It has been and they were but quantifying those mistakes as a result of the move and those which would have happened anyway, is difficult. If you look at matters, the sales of Toure and Adebayor would probably have happened anyway; the money for them both was too good to refuse and the latter was reportedly divisive in the dressing room. Flamini? Hleb? Nasri? Fabregas? van Persie? Do I think any of them would have stayed if the club was challenging for the title? Genuinely, no. Double Fs had additional reasons beyond money, so did Hleb who was going to leave for Milan before he ended up with Tutti Frutti over his face. Nasri and van Persie? Money talked for the pair, the trophies can be won anywhere.
The salary structure did not work, you have to learn from mistakes. Promoting youth worked for a while and it is nonsense to claim that Wenger has not spent money in adding to the squad. Not enough might be a valid point, too cautiously and there have been some dud purchases. Were these down to the stadium move? No, any transfer carries an inherent risk of failure; every club has their expensive signings who have flopped.
There are valid concerns about the club right now, the direction it is moving in and the endless cycle of poor form in the Autumn. We have a tendency as supporters to look at the most recent results but when the same thing happens year on year, lessons are not being learned. The problem with the club at the moment is that there is contempt in the air. If views disagree, the extremes won’t listen, that’s a reflection of life though. Some do, some are capable of listening and debating. Others rely on the answer Arsène gave to the media, “I’ve been lucky, I’ve only managed 1,600 games and in 200 matches in the Champions League.”
The media have wilfully missed that point; it wasn’t aimed at the supporters, it was aimed at the hacks for their impertinence. It was designed to quell their egotistical representation of the supporters, to stop their attempts at being divisive. You want a manager who is stubborn, he needs to be strong-willed, to follow his path. Those who are successful always are. For the most part, I doubt many supporters want Wenger replaced. I’ve repeatedly said this feels like the end of an era, the same malaise which dogged the final seasons of Mee, Neill, Howe and Graham, that same sense that the manager is battering the brick wall but not able to break through. I’d love Arsène to buck that trend but I am not sure he will, that he will want to. But one thing is not in doubt is his desire to do well for the club. I don’t buy the ego trip, he has an ego, of course, we all do. I don’t buy that he doesn’t know how to resolve the issues, I don’t know if he can, that is the point. I trust him to put more effort into that any of us can measure.
Where I have a massive problem is that I am not allowed to question the manager. This isn’t a cult; it isn’t a dictatorship. I will question when I think there is something wrong; don’t presume to tell me I don’t support the club. Somethings are wrong, a lot of things are right. There is a group of talented players, there is something wrong when they repeat the failings of their predecessors.
I don’t care if Arsène spends £10, £10m or £50m in the transfer window; it is not about how much he spends, it is about how he spends, that he spends correctly to resolve the weaknesses in the squad. Do I know who those replacements are? No, nobody outside of the manager’s cotorie does. Will he get it right. Of course you hope he will. Wenger has been the most successful manager in the club’s modern history. He deserves that respect, he deserves that chance. Do I want him to go? No. Do I want him to get it right? Yes. Will he? Time will tell.