Saturday, 28 January 2012

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS


 
‘No one knows what goes on behind closed doors’ sang Charlie Rich in his wonderfully evocative country hit, and never has that term been more pertinent than it is now for supporters of the Arsenal. The feeling of frustration within the ranks of the Arsenal faithful was shown by the much mentioned reaction during the Arsenal v Man Utd game. This reaction was a ‘tip of the iceberg’ moment, in the sense that this may have been the first obvious show of disapproval that some have seen. Arsene was somewhat defensive in his comments and to be fair the paying supporters are entitled to voice an opinion and in the scheme of things the criticism was very much small potatoes compared to how other managers are treated when dissatisfaction rears its head.
I don’t believe that this show of disgruntlement was entirely about the substitution but the accumulation of feeling out of the loop and not understanding what is going on at the club.
If patience is a virtue Arsenal supporters must be the most morally excellent supporters in the league. That there has been only this one moment of voluble criticism is amazing given the decline at the club. That our manager has only received this one public show of discontent is astounding. Yes there are many opinions about Arsene and that’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with debate, but criticism of him is not generally something that is as recognisable as crowd reaction.
We see the manager making substitutions at the 70 minute mark and the word is that this is based on some sort of performance/fitness data. This would lead us to feel that managing the player’s fitness is intrinsic to the management of the players yet we have seen for many years now unparalleled levels of injury. No one knows why. Is it just bad luck, is the sports science at the club faulty, is it our style of play that attracts bad challenges or are the types of players that we buy injury prone in their very physiques? No one knows but it has been detrimental to the cause for a number of years; this causes frustration.
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We see good players leave year on year and inferior replacements come in. Are we financially handicapped? Does our manager choose not to pay amounts he feels excessive or does he choose players regardless of cost? Again, we don’t know; this causes frustration.
The mess of the summer has never been adequately explained. The collapses that are now an annual occurrence have not been rationalised. There are so many unknowns and it feels as if the powers that be at the club don’t care whether we are frustrated as long as the books balance. The powers that be obviously feel that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but I think it can be an empowering and reassuring thing. We are not simply customers; we are the clubs heart and soul and therefore deserve respect not contempt.
Yes we have seen some amazing things under Arsene; the Invincibles, Doubles and scintillating football. Yes great days, but they are in the past more. Recently we have seen Arsenal accumulate less points each season, the disastrous turn around at St James’ from a 4-0 lead and of course the humiliation of Old Trafford. We have seen Arsenal squads deteriorate in quality year on year yet we stick with it, as all good supporters do; a trusting attitude has indeed been shown by us all.
On the whole, as a body of supporters, we have shown tremendous respect and patience despite all the frustration and when that frustration boils over it is only natural that we verbalise it.
I don’t think any of us has the answers but there is a limit to how much of being kept in the dark we can tolerate. Season ticket prices increase, refreshment costs soar, corporate greed flourishes and we are the ones not reaping any benefit out there on the pitch. If the guys upstairs are really only interested in revenue they are being short sighted because lack of investment in the squad is a sure fire way to decrease our marketability and yes, marketability seems to be the primary motivator.
Which brings us back to Arsene; is he employed for financial reasons or for footballing ones? This may seem a frivolous question but look at the evidence and have a think about what that answer may be from the board’s point of view.
Apportioning blame is not what this is about, but understanding what’s going wrong, what changes need to be made and how well equipped or how willing we are as a club to make those changes. As I said; without information we are left drawing conclusions and this only leads to disharmony. Not a positive environment for our team and club to thrive in.

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