Criticism of Arsene Wenger is generally viewed in polarised terms. There are those who regard him as not being immune and those who think of any criticism as heresy. The truth is that he manages our football club and therefore is fair game for critical appraisal. I should point out that, in my view this never incorporates personalisation or obscenity. The thing is that this weekend I have sensed a swing in opinion. The substitution of AOC for the ineffective AA against United was frustrating and was greeted as such but should not be over examined. The fact that prior to the game the normally staunch Merson and Nicholas turned on Wenger on Sky Soccer Saturday says a lot.
Perhaps, finally, time, good will and memory are not enough. Perhaps we are formally seeing a seed change in the perception of Arsene.
If one accepts that the club have been in decline where it matters; on the pitch, there has to be some scrutiny in why this has happened. Why the decline hasn’t been halted, who’s responsible and how do things change. So far so reasonable, however discontent breeds irrationality particularly when this discontent appears to have its roots in the irrational way the club is being managed.
Are we as Arsenal supporters too busy being angry to enable us to debate and discuss our club? Too busy abusing each other to converse?Supporters who are unhappy about having lost as many games this season so far, as we lost the whole of last season would say that unhappiness is a reasonable response. A key thing is how that unhappiness is transmitted. Hayley Wright makes a good point in her ‘diary of a season’ when she encourages articulating that feeling through writing, blogging and commenting on forums; this is a way of getting feelings across and encouraging debate. Debate, though, is hard when vitriol and abuse are in the mix. Passionate argument and discussion is what it’s all about yet supporters of Arsenal who, having read other clubs’ internet fan base’s blogs, are amongst the most articulate of writers are using marginalisation as a tool to prevent discourse.
We have seen Arsenal drop 30 points so far this season and certainly been involved in games where those points were not battled for. We have seen the limitations of the squad, albeit that an appalling injury list has been our nemesis, and we are staring down the barrel at a Thursday night Channel 5 scenario. We have gone through a period of trophylessness (if that’s even a word) and we have seen a number of good players leave the club. These conditions, by their very definition are bound to provoke strong feelings and concerns; if not then we are in the wrong business as Arsenal supporters.
We all want the same don’t we? For the Arsenal to be better, to achieve more to have a bright future? Of course we do but the subject that keeps rearing its head is the subject of whether or not our current manager is the right man for the job.
The state of play at boardroom and cashpoint level is unknown to most of us so we can only look at the stuff out there on the green oblong.
Most fans want Arsenal to move forward with Wenger at the helm; a changed Wenger, in most cases, a Wenger that accepts that some things aren’t working and responds with positive changes. Now Arsene seems like a good bloke and he’s someone who you would have all day long compared to some of the obnoxious managers at other clubs, but some of the mystique surrounding him is up for scrutiny. Defenders of Arsene often use the word ‘genius’, often the terms ‘he discovers great players’ or ‘he develops youth’ are bandied about. Yet when you look underneath the headline the truth doesn’t quite match up to the presumption.
The genius status is only relevant when discussing past achievements and a real genius continues to develop and adapt. Discovering great players is somewhat misleading also; Vieira, Henry, Pires, Ljungberg etc were all internationals who had cost clubs proper money prior to them being bought to Arsenal. So good was this era of Arsenal players that inevitably every squad that has come since has been compared to it; and failed the comparison.
Development of youth is another one that doesn’t quite stack up for me; aside from Anelka and Fabregas are there really that many young players that have come through and developed to that standard since 1997? (Remember Cole was already here)
In a way the reason that some hang onto these proclamations about Arsene is a bit likes a relationship. The girl/boyfriend with whom you’ve spent the last fifteen years doesn’t do it for you anymore but you don’t want to be single, out there in the meat markets with the rebuilding that needs to be undertaken when embarking on a new relationship.
Hanging on to past memories because you’re frightened that you will never find someone who will be as good together with as you were in the early days of your time together. It's not all about speed dating, Blind dates and hopeless set ups, there are plenty of other ways of meeting Mr/Miss Right.
I want Arsene to make changes, I have no axe to grind against him as a human being, but I don’t think he can change. I think that we should not accept mediocrity for fear of the unknown. Most of all I think we, as Arsenal supporters need to start thinking about our Football Club and not focus on individual perceived loyalties and factionalisation.
We need to be united whoever is at the helm. And if the person at the helm is steering us in the right direction we should give him all the support and encouragement we can muster. If he’s sailing us towards an iceberg we should not be afraid of recognising it and acting accordingly; with dignity, respect and above all honesty.