Regrets? I’ve had a few.
I’ll be able to tell a lot about you by whose voice sings those lines in your head. If it’s Sid Vicious, there’s no hope for you. Arsène’s got more than a few and in essence, he captured how we feel about the situation.
Moving from Highbury was not popular but accepted because we needed to compete. Or at least, that’s what we were told. Ivan mentioned Bayern but we weren’t listening. He actually said, “We’ll be Bayern players who enable us to compete with Everton, Burnley and Leicester.”
“Highbury didn’t die for this” is the slogan on the t-shirts we’re waiting for, and for Arsène, it was the same.
“I believe Highbury had a special spirit. It’s a cathedral, a church.
“You could smell the soul of every guy that played there. So it was special. It will always be special for me.
“The Emirates, for me, was like buying a new house. It took us a while to feel at home there. It’s a fantastic stadium — but there was something special at Highbury that you could never recreate when you build something new.”
Or to continue his cathedral theme, it’s like living in St Paul’s and seeing them build Paddy’s Wigwam over the road.
Arsène’s final pre-match press conference as Arsenal boss was a baring of the footballing soul. I like the idea his conferences were at 9 a.m. just so the hacks had to get up early. Even better was Wenger invariably keeping them waiting 15 minutes or so. Small victories make life more bearable.
The problem for the Emirates it is, like other modern football grounds, a soulless bowl. A nice soulless bowl, don’t get me wrong, but its ‘special moments’ are few and far between.
Bless This House
That’s what makes a stadium; history. Not putting banners around the bottom of tiers or pictures of a player’s dogs, but genuine heart-filling moments. Highbury had 80-odd years to build that; stories of glory with tales of woe. Everything which goes into making a football club.
To expect the Emirates to come close to that in a decade or so is unrealistic. And so terribly modern football. We want it all and we want it now.
Of course, the Ems problem is the lie it was sold on. That is Ivan’s problem to deal with and belatedly, he’s got the structure which should enable us to compete in place. The trouble is, those we were aiming to compete with a decade ago didn’t hang around and have put even more distance between us and them. We’ve moved forward by taking six steps backwards on the pitch.
Arsène knew this was coming and at least some of it was down to David Dein’s departure. Now, Dein was no saint; he was a keen – possibly the only – proponent of us moving to Wembley. The Emirates might not be perfect, but Wembley is even worse. A horrible ground and frankly, if the FA sell it, let’s hope England don’t have to play there all the time. The morality behind the sale is another matter.
Back to Dein.
“Ideally I would have loved to continue working with him,” Arsène said, before ignoring the reality of why Dein left.
“I think it was down to the fact that the football world has changed and that you build a stadium. I signed for five years accepting it will be more limited resources. When you have that you have less good players.”
And nothing to do with him going behind other shareholders’ backs. No, not at all.
You’re the One that I Want
It’s interesting because Dein essentially fulfilled Raul Sannelhi’s role and negotiating the deals, etc. Wenger fought against the essence of accountability behind a director of football, which is more the one that Sven Mislintat is filling. It’s this latter role which I suspect was more of a block to the club modernising than anything else.
Certainly, this was the angle Wenger followed in 2013 when he rejected the notion of a director of football but he opposed the idea five years earlier, despite appearing more receptive on the surface.
The new manager will be used to the concept; it comes down to personalities over whether the role works. If the manager or DoF don’t get on, then it’s usually only a matter of time before the former goes. Rarely is the latter the casualty.
And Arsenal’s new boss will be Max Allegri, according to reports. Whether you believe them is another matter, but there are claims this morning that the Italian is the one who sends the club’s chills multiplying. Whoever it is, Arsenal are preparing for the future with a long overdue overhaul of the coaching staff.
Gerry Peyton, Neil Banfield, and Boro Primorac all left with Bould, Lehmann and Sal Bibbo all waiting to speak to new boss over their futures. None of this is surprising; certainly, the first three were all identified as ‘Wenger men’ – and that’s not meant pejoratively – and it’s football’s way for the new boss to bring his own men with him and that high profile position is one of them.
However, in the short-term, Bould is a useful bridge to the dressing room. It will be for that reason (mainly) he is kept on, trying to minimise the impact of Wenger leaving.
It’s a sign change isn’t just coming, it’s here.