The death of hope is what does the damage. The realisation that there is a metaphorical treadmill and that we are all on it hits hard. A treadmill of underachievement: I should say now that rather than repeating myself all references to underachievement are in the context of achievement being commensurate with resources, revenue, location, opportunity, ambition, tradition and reassurance from the people that run Arsenal Football club (there that’s saved me having to place caveats all over the place)
We were sold a dream, a dream of seeing the best players playing at the Emirates stadium and elbowing into the European elite, we were told to show patience and we were asked to dig deep into our pockets but that dream died some time ago and for some time now I have stated that I believe that there is something rotten in the state of Arsenal and it is my view that rot stems from two sources: The Board of Directors and, more to the point, the current Arsenal Manager. “How so?” you may ask. “Isn’t Arsene Wenger the greatest Arsenal Manager of all time?” No, that accolade clearly belongs to Herbert Chapman: just asks Patrick Barclay to elaborate on that. “Isn’t Arsene Wenger the man that gave us the Invincibles?” Yes, but that was 12 years ago and the football landscape has changed since then (I’ll talk more about this amazing set of players later). “ Yeah, but who would you replace him with?” Klopp or Guardiloa spring to mind but the board have missed the boat on those two individuals who I feel would have been a great fit, or maybe Koeman or a number of young managers but the board have this misguided faith in Wenger confusing income generation with competitiveness on the pitch.
By misguided faith I suppose that’s inaccurate. The Board have well placed faith that while Arsene Wenger is in charge they will be well catered for in terms of their bank balances. Obviously there is a business imperative in all organisations but when that imperative places tangible success in football terms second to pocket lining there is a rightful need for scrutiny and yes, outrage.
If Spurs win the league its not as if they've done a Chelsea or Manchester City it will be because they got an inspiring young manager and recognised the importance of defence, tempo and hard work. If the 'transitional' Liverpool & Manchester United win cups and the 'hardly spent a penny' Leicester win the league and the 'Spent millions' Manchester City win the ECL what will that say about the best way to do things?
Spurs are palpably on the up, Liverpool will continue to improve, Manchester United will regroup, Chelsea will splash the cash, Manchester City will align Guardiola’s arrival with expenditure, Leicester City can continue to thrive if they retain their squad, West Ham will continue their improvement under Bilic and the Arsenal? By retaining Wenger's services and making minimal acquisitions in the summer the signs are that we will continue to stagnate.
That astute curmudgeon Alex Ferguson recognised some time ago that Wenger was no longer a threat and the boorish wretch Mourinho has said, rudely, as much for a while now.
The boards are also culpable; let's not forget that. They decided that Wenger would have autonomy
without accountability as long as he gave them the revenue that Champions league qualification brings. The board not having the ambition or recognition of the requirements of true success by missing out on Klopp and Guardiola.
The board must surely be responsible for those patronising stadium attendance announcements, setting the worlds highest ticket prices and wringing every last penny out off the fan bases.
As for local rivalries and the significance they have with supported
Sp*rs finishing above us for the first time in almost two decades (half of which we have been poor) can be met with sarcasm, grudging acceptance and 'Haley's Comet' badinage.
Sp*rs winning the league for the 1st time in 55 years can be just about bearable with a sense of humour, but Sp*rs winning the league aligned with our utter stagnation and realisation that we are going nowhere for at least another year under AW's stewardship will be, frankly, vomit inducing.
I will always absolutely say that no club has a divine right to success and trophies are few and far between for most clubs: it's all about context. The Arsenal one could argue have been uniquely placed in terms of potential to achieve. London, club history, stadium, revenue, fan base all these things were in place on moving to the Emirates the promise was a place among the elite: how so? Without an elite manager, without elite players at the business end of the squad. Was Giroud ever going to be on the level of Aquero, Suarez or even Kane & Sturridge for that matter?
Elite ambition has to be allied with elite level accountability and elite solutions to inevitable problems.
There are so many questions that I have that have never been met with a tangible and rationale response
· Why is there not more made of that incredible 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, or that 4-4 capitulation at Newcastle or the countless other embarrassing and unexplained defeats that have punctuated the last decade?
· Why the Inability to invest in Elite strikers
· Has there been a worse Goalkeeping squad than that of Almunia, Fabianski and Mannone?
· Do the 70th minute substitutions statistically have any benefit?
· Can anyone justify repeated unfathomable substitutions?
· Is there a rationale to the long list of baffling signings
· Why has Wenger’s failure to win a European trophy been so smoothly papered over by his apologists?
· What was the reasoning for selling players too early such as Silva, Pires, Campbell & Lauren?
· Why would any club with ambition sell Robin Van Persie to Manchester United by default handing them the league title?
· Why the bizarre team selections in crunch games-dropping a red hot Arshavin against Chelsea in the cup Semi final and playing Fabianski, playing Aliadiere in the Cup semi final against Manchester Untied
· Why is our injury record so appalling?
· Why do we consistently fail to invest in transfer windows
· Why have we been knocked out of The Champions League every time we’ve met an English Club?
· Why could we not capitalize on the 1-0 at half time against Chelsea in The Champions league and progress into possibly the poorest set of teams to reach a ECL Semi final?
Then there’s The Champions League Final of 2006 I have mentioned in the past and to an extent it represents the worst of Wenger. Now don’t get me wrong, there is no shame in losing a cup final to Barcelona but I don’t honestly feel that Wenger was able to rise to the occasion and subsequently he didn’t give the team the best chance that he could. How so? Well let me put forward my case:
· Why break up the best defensive record in Champions League history to accommodate Ashley Cole?
· Why take off the experienced and proven threat Robert Pires?
· Why leave the mercurial Bergkamp & Pires on the bench rather than going for broke?
· Why did we have a second string goalkeeper of such poverty who conceded 2 at his near post?
· What, tactically was the response o the Barcelona equaliser.
In my view, cometh the hour Wenger did not cometh: this is what differentiates the good from the truly great.
Another concern has to be the range of players that Wenger has bought. For every Sanchez there has been a Gervinho, for every Ozil a Bischoff, for every Bellerin a Santos for every Benayoun a Silvestre. Wenger’s instance at shopping in the bargain basement has led to a plethora of players wearing the shirt that have been both the object of derision and a liability to the club.
When the opportunity to get Suarez presented itself (a player who conceivably wins you the title) we dealt with is in a cack-handed embarrassing manner. When Fabregas was available and we had first refusal Wenger thought that he would not add anything to the team: his first half of season stats for Chelsea were a huge factor in Chelsea’s League title.
Time and again Wenger has been intransigent when it comes to adding proven quality to the squad. Such is his loyalty to lost causes that he may one day take his place alongside St Jude.
God knows he’s stuck with players who clearly were on a one-way elevator o oblivion: Denilson. Aliadiere, Bendtner, Diaby and the like. And as for the myth about developing young players. Remember the famous photo of the club tying down a core of British talent that were to be the future and the core of the club? Oxlade-Chamberlaine, has he really developed? Jenkinson, perpetually on loan, Gibbs, has place usurped by Monreal, Ramsey, is he being used effectively? Wilshere, a victim of injuries so it’s hard to judge, and as for Walcott, this is a player who ten years ago had the world at his feet, he now struggles with the ball at his feet.
Arsenal fan TV sums up the worst knee-jerk micro-celebrity viewpoint and resembles those ludicrous street interviews with Chelsea fans a few years ago; but in reverse, this is the inevitable outcome when a fan base are disgruntled. I find their indignant sound bites embarrassing but they pay to attend so they have he right to expound. I guess it’s just a symptom of what is almost a civil war of words amongst supporters who align themselves to opposing viewpoints rather than being united in adversity.
The bottom line to all this rambling? It’s the hope that kills you, and at he moment there is no hope of change, and change is absolutely what is needed. But there will be no change. The strength of Arsenal in the transitional 2015-16 season was supposedly stability but what we ended up with was stagnation. The board probably have a statement ready to release come Season Ticket renewal; time that speaks of ambition, desire, belief and stability and it will all be double speak. Next season will pan out like the last ten seasons and there will e wailing and gnashing of teeth but the emperors will look down from their lofty heights and smirk with distain. Things wont’ get better things wont change that treadmill will keep spinning. That’s the unpalatable truth that deep down we all have to face, powerless and grudgingly but that’s the truth.
I could quote Talking Heads now: The Road To Nowhere or Same As It Ever was, but I leave the last word to Woody Allen (at least a paraphrased Woody Allen)
“You know I think a
relationship Football Club,
I think is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it
dies. And I think what we have on our hands is a dead shark.”