Arsenal’s Divisions Still Bring No Joy

If Stan and Josh, Ivan and the board have five minutes, reading Richard Williams article in yesterday’s Guardian would time well spent in understanding why they are deeply unpopular. The final paragraph is a killer:

“What fans really want from an owner, whatever his or her background, is the sense of an authentic personal commitment. The vacuum left by its absence tends to be filled, as can been seen in the season’s final stages, by a cynicism that stinks the place out.”

The weekend isn’t giving Arsène any respite from managerial shenanigans. There some spin against him surfacing, with claims that Wenger is blocking the board’s desire to have Thierry Henry back in the fold. Now, I am naturally inclined to be cynical about such notions. After all, what better way to paint the board into a positive light by ‘leaking’ that you want a club legend to return?

And what better way to defend yourselves against the inevitable criticism than with the retort, “We tried but Arsène didn’t want it”? The problem is that it makes the board look weak if Wenger is blocking change. If they genuinely want someone at the club, the manager is told that Henry is joining and if you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit on your arse on the way out.

Except I, not for one minute, don’t believe the story. It is too obviously trying to make Junior – for this is Josh’s idea – look good in supporters eyes. Even for a board as useless as ours, this saga would be plumbing new depths of incompetence.

Left To Blind Destruction

Henry himself casts doubt on that solution. Writing in The Scum, he questions the state of the club from a player’s perspective. And not just any players, the best in the world:

“It kills me to say this as an Arsenal fan, but my old club are not an attractive destination any more for the top, top players.

Why would the leading players who can have a real impact in the Premier League and improve that Arsenal team come to the Emirates?”

He rules out the Champions League as a motivator in choosing clubs, pointing to Kante’s move to Chelsea and Ibrahimovic joining United. For the latter, it was a chance to join one of the biggest clubs in the world and a massive payday.

For the former, he was sold on the vision. Don’t forget, Chelsea were in turmoil last season with Conte just arriving to a squad in disarray. So, please, tell me again how changing the manager will deter players from joining.

“But competition for trophies is the key. If you are a director of football and you work for Arsenal, how do you attract a big player?

I’m not suggesting people aren’t doing their jobs at Arsenal — just that selling the club has become increasingly difficult over the last two or three years.

I don’t see anything to attract the big players.

That’s a damning indictment of the way the club is perceived, if true. While it just Henry’s opinion, it also cannot be ignored as a grotesque truth about where we are now.

We Would Go On As If Nothing Is Wrong

Despite his belief that he can solve the problems, Arsène has nothing to persuade players to join. Respected as he is, Arsène, if Henry is correct, is no longer a selling point. Certainly he can’t answer the question on how the team will improve otherwise he would be doing that now.

We are in the same place as twenty-one years ago when he arrived. Now though, Wenger is not the breath of fresh air to revitalise a stagnating club; quite the opposite.

Now, we know Henry is a pundit and needs to stoke the fires with controversy. Applying the same cynicism to the Kroenke spin, it’s easy to see him as picking the scent of dissent and running with it. And I agree, there is an element of that. However, the questions he is asking are the same as those running through everyone’s minds. The difference is that he does have a unique perspective on it all.

The only remaining question is whether he’ll get the chance to rectify the matter at some point in the future.

Finally, here’s something I prepared a little earlier for tomorrow night’s game at Middlesbrough.

’til Tomorrow.

50 thoughts on “Arsenal’s Divisions Still Bring No Joy

  1. Whether Arsene departs now or in ten years time , the choice of our next manager is crucial.

    Get it wrong & real mid table mediocrity (or worse) awaits.

    With regards to attracting big players we’d need a big name as manager & will need to pay big.

    Despite all this being blindingly obvious to me , I’m not convinced those at the helm will see things that way.

  2. The largest problem is Wengers complete inability to select and then recruit players of premiership experience with the physical and mental ability to gel together, Whats wrong with Keane (Burnley) and Holding currently not even on the bench they would make a grat defensive pairing. Wenger would rather go to La Liga for some totally untried nobody so he can give himself the chance of massaging his own twisted ego (nothing to do with love of the club) Then pay him exhorbitant wages forever ( Sanogo wouldn’t get into my village team but named in our CL Squad). Wenger insults us by assuming that we all know less about the game than he does, recent events have proved him so totally wrong, still can’t sort his central defence midfield or striker. Leaves out the OX plays Walcott I ask you.

  3. If people head to the Guardian another great read is Diminic Fifields piece on Antonio Conte – “The making of Chelsea’s manegerial maestro.”

    …“It takes time to accept the sheer amount of work he is asking of you. Everything he does, in preparation or tactical organisation, is done with maniacal precision and attention to detail. It can be overwhelming at first. But, when you realise by buying into it you can win things, you follow. He is a perfectionist. The best there is. The No1.”

  4. Morning,

    It all comes down to the money. Silent Stan has no loyalty to Wenger, he just provides what the owner wants from the club. He optimises returns for as little outlay as possible. As a financial model it’s beautiful in its simplicity, top four and CL knock out phase guarantees a steady revenue stream including plenty of lucrative TV appearances. Next season we miss out on 4-5 televised home ties in the CL which will, to some extent, be offset by the less profitable Europa league. We are also likely to see a drop off in televised PL games unless we have a flying start to the season. We’ve already seen the signs with the game against Leicester already being dropped from the live schedule. If the revenue flow is threatened Wenger’s head is on the blocks. He may well be able to get himself a new deal this time around, but if I were the owner I would want to know what changes will be put in place by the manager to seriously improve on this season.

    The Henry story does seem to be more of a nonsense the more i think about it. It does seem to be a planted story. If it’s a play by the owners it shows that they still think they are dealing with an audience who need to be conned. It really doesn’t bode well for the club if they think the best approach is to play the fan base.

  5. Wavey,

    Didn’t Wenger and Henry fall out when the latter was helping in the academy? Maybe they have kissed and made up but work together? Never in a million years!…..unless the money is right.

  6. In hindsight I really wonder if the move from Highbury was really worth it. Different ground,more history, crowd closer to the pitch and in all probability the Board might not have broken up before Danny died, as there were many for and against where we should move to, and I hate to say it the revenue lost on the additional 20000 seats may well have been made up by winning more, better sponsorship and shirt deals, and in all probability AW would have gone long ago and Dein might still be there.I appreciate there are many caveats in this but none of us expected to find us in the position we are today.

  7. I must admit, I immediately loathed it and have never watched it since. 🙂
    Each to their own, I guess.

    The idea of TH returning is a terrible one.

    Forest Gump.Love that movie.

  8. Orson Kaert,

    Not sure they fell out. The story seemed to be that Wenger wanted Henry to do the job full time, or not at all. Henry was taking the Sky job and volunteered to do the academy job part time for free. I think he saw it as a good way to carry on learning whilst getting paid a nice salary by Sky.

  9. Wavey,

    You could be right but that sounds like PR spin to me. How much of Henry’s time does the Sky job take up? Combining the two would appear relatively simple but Wenger probably saw him as a potential threat to his own position. He couldn’t allow that!

  10. Arsene can stiil atract good n great buys to d club.dnt buy iinto d gloom n doom stuff.we jus need beta sfirit n determinate n soul iin d team n dey wiil soar.wat we hav can go far even witout much addiitn

  11. Superb post, YW. I very much appreciated that article in the Guardian yesterday on the value of engaged ownership as I have been condemning the absentee vision less takeover by Kroenke of this club vociferously for so long.

    Regardless of the political ploys involved in the reports about the board trying to recruit Thierry Henry but being opposed by AW, one of my long standing complaints about the club has been the failure to build continuity with the successful winning culture of the past by engaging club legends in appropriate roles. I always said that AW seemed reluctant to have his former players or previous legends join AFC. Ajax, Bayern, Barcelona, RM and Juve do this routinely.

    As far as TH’s comments. You are right to analyze this cautiously, but I am inclined to believe that we are not an attractive destination now because under Wenger AFC is not a convincing contender for trophies. AW has had the money and the time but failed. In fact AFC gas gone backward.

  12. Limestonegunner,

    I’m not sure that many Arsenal “legends” would be much use in a coaching role. Adams has had a less than glorious managerial career thus far, wasn’t he the first to be named as a future Arsenal manager? Bergkamp’s fear of flying ruled him out early. Remi Garde only lasted 147 days at Aston Villa and Vierra is still learning the job in the US major league

    Any others?

  13. Orson Kaert,

    I am not talking exclusively of coaching roles with the first team but involvement at the club in a variety of roles. See examples of other successful clubs in Europe. We have no football people on the board, no football operations structure, a purely corporate exec with no connection to Arsenal, and could use more in the youth set up. Why is it that City have found many valued uses for Patrick Vieira but Arsenal did not? It is a repeated pattern. How have Ajax found a role for all manner of great players over the years? How has Bayern kept Hoeness, Beckenbauer et al so key to their continued success? AW’s monopoly on all football decisions has kept Arsenal from making use of some of the Invincibles era knowledge and experience to inculcate and keep some continuity with a culture of winning.

    I am not talking about handing over first team coaching or other roles out of sentimentality.

  14. Orson Kaert,

    We always go immediately to Bergkamp’s fear of flying as if a) there weren’t several other players who have the experience and intelligence to be a coach in some capacity and b) as if there weren’t numerous roles Betgkamp could do at the club that didn’t involve him flying weekly–what is he doing at Ajax by the way?! He could be a technical director, youth academy coach, or a board member… The list is long. What has been lacking is any willingness by AW to have other voices besides his own at the club with any knowledge and authority in any football matters. He has been remarkably u welcoming to former players except as trainees getting badges and so forth in very temporary and subordinate positions but not as contributors to Arsenal. And likewise there had been no recruitment in other positions at the club. Patrick Vieira started as a club ambassador as did Zidane at City and RM. they helped recruit players. Learned, did badges, then had coaching roles and now are managing. Why does AFC have nothing like this happening at all?

  15. 1984 surely?

    Paul,Hayward wrote a pretty damning article in the Telegraph yesterday as well. The knives are out in sections of the media.

  16. @Wavey
    I see not many fans comment without bandwagon opinion like yos.
    Henry is Arsenal legend, but he had betrayed Arsene many times over. He behave as being bigger than the man who made him. Not only at Arsenal, since Monaco. Definitely, they will never work together again. But Henry made that decision simple for Arsene by again, dumping the club and Arsene when he chose to sky-pundit, rather than work with Arsene in trouble time. Henry always diappeared in trouble times.
    It is treacherous if that attempt had been made, because Henry himself had run away to Barcelona when Arsene had him as his long term plan then.

  17. Arsenal is not a draw for big players because of its direction and management not because the club is diminished. It takes pride in going nowhere fast and everbody knows it. Same financial strategy, same lack of tactics, same weaknesses on the pitch, same lower pay, same management.

    Tottenham is a smaller club on a smaller budget, it has changed manager and plays direct football so now punches above its financial weight, whilst entertaining its fans. Even for the same money a professional footballer would choose to go to Tottenham, because as Yogi puts it, it smells like it is going somewhere and the players seem happy.

  18. The lament for some time has been that there are no other “football people” at the club other than Wenger, and that that is causing issues with respect to getting him out and also replacing him.

    I always maintained that it was a huge mistake to get rid of Bert and keep Gallas. Bert was another player who was respected and could and should have been kept and grown into a staffing role.

    As seems to be suggested by a few on here today, it might not be through complete coincidence that Wenger is the only football person on the admin side, it might just be through his own machinations that it has turned out like that.

    I suspect a number of issues are going to come out of the woodwork over the next few years, and we might well find that his ego and selfishness has been more than just a little toxic for the club over the last decade at least.

    No doubt I’ll get a few “tut tuts” and “that’s a bit muches” from the usual unimaginative types, but in a few years I think we’ll find out that it wasn’t anywhere near the flower power socialist love fest we have been led to believe it is.

  19. Anybody else think Anichebe fouled the goalie in the run up to Sunderland’s first goal? Lampard called it a half foul on MOTD, what the hell is that meant to mean? I thought Anichebe deliberately backed in to Randolph and obstructed him, making no effort to actually get the ball. It’s a contact sport, I know, but it’s so blatant as to be criminal. I recall Stoke doing something similar to us a few seasons ago from one of their long throws. The player in front of the goalie intentionally backed into the keeper pushing him over the line and allowing the striker a free header.

  20. United putting in a strong performance against Chelsea. Maureen has changed his tactics to stifle them and play on the counter attack. Winning 1-0 at the moment and Chelsea had only one shot on goal in the first half.

  21. And Chelsea concede again. A massive deflection, but Chelsea don’t look like they are going to get back into this game. Spuds only 4 points behind. Yikes.

  22. United have being playing a blinder so far. Swapped to just Rashford up front and been able to outnumber Chelsea in their own half. Route one to Rashford could see them nick another.
    78 minutes played and Chelsea have not had a shot on target.

  23. Hi Wavey

    I always think the “football is a contact sport” thing needs to be clarified.

    Boxing, rugby, wrestling, etc, those are contact sports,

    Football actually isn’t a contact sport.

    Its a sport where contact under certain specific circumstances is tolerated.

    It’s a big difference, and it lays bare the attitude of many of the commentators and management in the UK.

  24. It would be interesting to see what football fans in Europe think about Arsenal and Arsène Wenger. I am not sure that football fans in France revere him in the way people do over here – and being humiliated 10-2 by Bayern doesn’t do a lot for the image…

  25. Another nail in our season’s coffin as United beat the Champions elect and move closer to the Top Four Trophy.

  26. Todays result open ups the title race. Spuds only four points behind.

    Oh, there’s a lot of potential sour grapes coming in to play here.

    I can think of some weird outcomes and none of them are to my liking. Though would spuds winning the league, winning the double and beating us in the final be the straw that breaks the camels back.

    Would it be feasible to offer Wenger a new contract on the back of their success?

  27. Good Job Arsene Wenger….

    The Spuds are now chasing for the title and the despicable Mourinho is going to finish above you AGAIN with a different club.

    Kudos man, you managed to fuck this season in the Ar….

    I know the Spuds will falter again but at least they’re within 4 points of the leader, think about that Mr. Wenger.

    21 points……4 points

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here.

  28. Welsh Corgi Cardigan,

    Unfortunately we have an owner and a manager who do not give a jot about Spurs and do not appear to have any understanding of the rivalry between the clubs. The significance of Spurs winning the league, or even just being as many points ahead of us as they are is completely lost on them. Incredible that Wenger makes no effort to understand given the length of time he has been at the club. He understands nothing of the culture of the supporters, but claims that he loves the club. How can he?

  29. G4E,

    Wenger doesn’t get involved in petty rivalries with men who always get the better of him. Actually, his dislike for Maureen is the closest thing to a genuine rivalry he has, so I’m amazed that he lets himself get beaten by Maureen so often. Surely he’s going to be trying to make sure that if nothing else, he sticks it to Jose.

  30. Mike SA,
    I certainly think AW has at least not been welcoming of any football expertise that wasn’t clearly subordinate to him. Perhaps we will find out that he has been hostile to other such efforts. None of this is to say the latest story isn’t a transparent Kroenke ploy. But It will be interesting to see if this miserable season forces him to accept a DOF or something similar as a condition of staying on.

  31. Well, the weekend did not contribute anything to the Arsenal cause – so be it.

    It was predicted from the start of the season -not the exact running order of the table, but that several teams would be competitive. In February C and I said even Everton could come on strong and potentially close on us.

    Inside and outside of the club people have refused to look objectively at the ‘Wenger Reign’ for years, an abdication of responsibility from numerous parties. So here we are, and if anyone expresses surprise at our standing I’d ask them to kindly go screw themself.

    Compounding all, at this late point in the season there is still nothing to indicate any clear and intelligent decision will be made regarding any matter. Frankly, as has been said, its root and branch at this point.

    Any objective fan is now grappling with the idea perhaps best thing that could happen is for matters to deteriorate further. That we lose more games, that we lose European football, that we lose star players. Perhaps then and only then the powers that be might grasp the idea Arsenal need a massive course correction.

    It is such a pathetic and demoralizing position to be in, you repeatedly question what, why and who you are supporting in the first place.

  32. Wavey,

    I’m more and more leaning towards the opinion that he’s a very lucky man to have been a manager for Arsenal for 21 years.

  33. Welsh Corgi Cardigan,


    I said the other day he was doing real damage to his legacy. I would imagine a number of people will now look at the early years also and underscore a number of factors came together to enable Wenger achieve the success he did. Not least of which was tapping into a generation of French players.

    When left to his own devices and opting to carve his own path, things slowly deteriorated. Additionally, the building of The Emirates covered increasing ineptness.

    For example, just slide the start of Wengers tenure (give him the same ability) back or forward by a few years. He would have been unable to tap into the French players as he would have been
    too early to identify them. Or too late as their careers would have already taken off.

    My view is Wenger knew this and it troubled him, which is why he then embarked on his vanity project post ‘Invincibles’ to prove he could forge a team in his own image.

  34. DFS-,

    Where Arsene succeeded was as a nutritionist, a coach, a scout, but not as a manager as such, he didn’t ‘manage’ the team he inherited they managed the other players on the pitch for him. There were no great tactical innovations, they didn’t even play the way Wenger prefers (which we’ve seen post-invincibles), yes he brought something necessary to make them winners but I believe that equally the players he inherited were at least as influential in our success. And without David Dein he would have sunk like a stone.

    So I agree, circumstances were perfect for him when he arrived and once those factors were no longer in play and it was down to Arsene to do it on his own he struggled. As has been said many times if he had kept some of the senior players at the club to pass on the Arsenal spirit that had driven our success then I’m sure we would have been more successful over the last decade. But then Arsene would not have been able to shift our style and play the tedious ineffectual tippy tappy that he so loves or indulge players that lack the attributes that previously made us great.

  35. andy1886,


    In the last Arsecast, Andrew ranted about Wenger needing to go but then posed Wenger and his legacy would be look perfect again in short order, once he departs. I don’t think so anymore.

    He will be a legend, he will have a statue outside the ground and be regarded as the greatest ever – but I think he will also be viewed as a flawed individual and one who should have left some years ago.

    People kid themsleves – I am not aware anyone thinks it a good idea anymore for Wenger to go upstairs – that speaks volumes.

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