After the “accident” at Liverpool, the Chelsea result was branded an “accident”. Apparently we’d put in convincing performances against Munich and Spurs, so it must have been an accident, according to our manager.
Erm, forgive me if I’ve been wearing Stevie Wonder’s glasses, but Spurs was about as far from convincing as you could get. An early goal and a couple of crap finishes apart, we sat back and rode our luck time and time again. How we got away with 3 points I’ll never know, but we beat that lot so that’s the main thing at the end of the day.
At Chelsea, Wenger cut a forlorn figure on his seat. There were no instructions for his team, who went through the motions committing mistake after mistake. The much-heralded 1,000th game turned out to be probably his biggest, most humiliating moment as Arsenal manager. Let’s not beat about the bush, it was an out and out disgrace what happened in that game.
So a “reaction” was called for as out of form Swansea came to town, but what we saw was flat, lacking in passion and ideas, and players who – one minute of the game aside – didn’t look that bothered. We’re actually lucky that the referee didn’t let play continue at the very end (as most refs would have) with Swansea clean through, as we could have ended up with another embarrassing defeat. Not saying a draw is much better, of course – the result was still poor.
Once again questions are being asked of our manager. Is this a blip? Is his time up? Has he lost the dressing room? Will he fight back in the summer? Does he still have the determination? Does he think he’s done as much as he can?
Arguments aplenty have been taking place on social media and elsewhere and the fanbase is as split now as it ever has been. In my time supporting Arsenal I certainly don’t remember fans at each other’s throats like they are now. What is the cause of these arguments? One man.
Extreme Groundhog Day
One thing’s for sure, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day would have spontaneously combusted had he been faced with the Arsenal situation. We’ve seen the same story over and over and over and over and over again; a case of treading water and treading water some more. While some consider playing in the Champions League (nowhere near winning it) and finishing 4th as a good season, I certainly don’t. A top four finish alone is NOT success in my eyes as a football fan. Football is about winning, not balance sheets and profits.
Transfer windows & squad ‘strength’
In the last three transfer windows we’ve bought one starting player. One. We paid for one other player in squad left back Nacho Monreal and we picked up a couple of freebies – one a gamble on a long-standing injury record which made the player consider giving up and being a postman, and the other a short-term loan for a bloke with a broken back.
The shambles of last summer put us in a poxy position in terms of squad strength. Not strong enough. This meant that January became even more vital but as is usually the case, the manager sees “no value” in the January market and “nobody is available” etc. etc. So once again we made do and the wheels fell off.
And as for squad strength, this is what’s needed when we get injuries – but of course injuries is a convenient excuse for the apologists who see nothing wrong with our squad make-up. Yes we’ve got 3,094 midfielders but so what? We’ve got one striker who is okay but not top quality and he’s been shagged so much this season (on and off the pitch) that he’s been running on fumes for weeks. Our other striker is that young would-be postman and yes he’s a lump and yes he tries, but that was also the case for Kaba Diawara. Nothing against Sanogo and he may turn out okay but he’s not for the here and now, and it’s not his fault he’s being chucked in at the deep end with fans crying out for quality up front.
Is it worth mentioning tactics? Most people would say “what tactics?” Previously it was fine – we had world class players who could turn up and take the piss out of pretty much any opponent. Now we don’t have that luxury so when things go wrong, nothing much happens. Unlike most managers Wenger sits there on the bench, hardly up on the touchline screaming instructions. It’s like the team is sent out with a task which it has to stick to. Doesn’t work first half? Change it at half time. Doesn't work second half? Stick a sub on after 70 minutes. And that's it. I know that’s a crude way of looking at it, but when it comes to the best in-game tacticians in football, you wouldn’t put Arsene Wenger high up the list.
“We’ll put it right this summer”
Will we? The people who’ve pointed at the “stadium costs” (even though the published accounts have shown cash available) previously maintained that 2012 would be the turning point. Then 2013. Now 2014. To be honest this summer will be the first REAL chance to go for it in the transfer market given the huge amount of income from Puma, Emirates, and the renewed TV broadcasting deal.
However is it Wenger’s style to go out and splash the cash on a few players of top, top quality in one window? Personally I think at best we’ll see one decent signing and maybe one or two lesser known players. After all, too many signings upset the rhythm don’t they? Look at Spurs. Only thing is, our lack of activity in the last few windows means we’re now in need of a number of top players in key positions. Add Sagna to the outgoing list, that’s then a right back we need, too. So a decent goalkeeper is required with Fabianski going, a right back, a proper defensive midfielder, and at least one top class striker. That should be the bare minimum. And we’re not talking promising kids, we’re not talking cheap (or free) injury-prone gambles, we’re not talking final half hour of the transfer window loan attempts for other clubs’ 4th choice strikers. We need proven, ready to go, QUALITY.
The World Cup Excusefest
But let’s not forget that the World Cup takes place this summer. We’ve seen in the past the excuses that the market is shortened because of this tournament, that the best players’ prices are “artificially inflated”, that the market is “distorted” and so on and so forth. What does this mean? Identify your targets BEFORE the world cup and get deals done then. Wait until after the tournament and we could be stuffed. Again. In the biggest most important transfer window Wenger has ever faced in his time at Arsenal. Mess this one up (assuming he’s still at the club) and there will be uproar like no other. Failure is most certainly not an option.
Stay or go?
This is the biggest debate doing the rounds among Arsenal fans. Should Wenger be awarded with a new contract? Should he call it a day? Should he go even if we win the FA Cup and finish top 4? So many permutations.
Personally I’m someone who is never scared of change so if things aren’t going right I wouldn’t be scared of us changing manager assuming we get a top quality replacement. Ignore those using David Moyes as an excuse. Does a change in manager immediately mean failure? No. Man City and Chelsea don't seem to be doing too badly after changing manager. Pep Guardiola hasn't fared too badly has he? And looking back at our own club, didn't Arsene Wenger win the double in his first full season? Didn't George Graham turn a struggling Arsenal side into winners, and indeed bring silverware back to the club in his first season?
As for me, I'm torn on what I think should happen. Win the FA Cup, I say keep the manager on a rolling 1 year contract while a replacement is sourced, as let's face it, Wenger isn't going to be here another 5 or 10 years. If we fail to win the FA Cup (let's face it that would be a catastrophe given the remaining opposition) and finish outside of the top 4? I'd say time for a change in that case. Who knows, maybe the man himself is biding his time and is yet to make a decision.
But that’s just me. I’m genuinely interested in which option fans would choose, so I’ve put together a very short poll to gauge opinion. Ignore the last two match results – read the options and give your honest answer. There are no hidden agendas, it's purely to get the feeling across as wide a section of Arsenal supporters as possible.
Take the poll here. It also contains a bit about off the field stuff, below.
Ready to renew your season ticket?
I’ve looked at the issues on the pitch but what about off it? Season ticket renewal time is almost upon us and as we know, the club are demanding an extra 3% on top of what’s already an overpriced product. This 3% will give the club an extra £2.8m when it’s already got around £140m sitting in the bank. Fact is, this £140m won’t be spent so your extra £2.8m you’re giving the club will just go in the bank and stay there.
This begs the question…. WHY THE INCREASE?
I’ll give you the answer. Enos Stanley Kroenke. The man with absolutely no clue about the English game of football and no clue about how loyal football supporters need to be valued and treated with respect. He sees demand for tickets as meaning the prices aren’t high enough. Rumour has it that he wanted prices to go up by 8% (yes, EIGHT per cent). He sees Arsenal as a money making machine and absolutely doesn’t care if the club isn't successful on the pitch, as long as the money floods in.
Kroenke has one weak spot when it comes to Arsenal, and that’s Arsene Wenger. With Wenger at the club, we have achieved Champions League football consistently on minimal spend. That equals profits and that equals share prices flying up. That’s why Kroenke will never get rid of the manager while we’re getting into the Champions League.
At the BSM we’ve previously called for the Board to “manage the manager” but that’s where our Board is weak. It answers to one man, the majority owner. And now it’s even weaker as it’s appointed Josh Kroenke. Why is he there? No football knowledge, no links to the English game, no links to Arsenal. He’s a successful businessman in America but he’s a puppet on this Board – he’s there purely in a Kroenke Sports Enterprises function… to ensure KSE can continue amassing cash.
So back to the Board seeing fit to demand a further 3% from fans, is it right? Are you happy at having to cough up even more for your ticket? Some fans have said “it’s only another £40 / £50 / 60” and seem fine with it, but what do the majority think?
Click here and give your view.
Personally I say the 3% increase is a disgrace. It’s an out and out rip-off and gives further evidence to those who maintain that the Board isn’t in touch with the fans, and that it doesn’t care about the loyalty of our hardcore support.
When all is said and done
In closing I’ll say this… As an Arsenal fan you may see some of the above as moaning. You may think everything is superb with the club and that it can do no wrong. You may think that all of our players are superheroes and untouchable. You may be fine paying whatever the club charge. You may think that certain players aren’t good enough. You may think that the Board is ripping off hardcore supporters. You may think the manager is above God, you may think he’s past his sell by date.
At the end of the day, we are all Arsenal fans. Many of us have grown up loving this club, and many have done so before Arsene Wenger came along. Many only know the club under Wenger. But one thing we share… we’re all Arsenal. So if you're going to our remaining games this season, do all you can to get behind the team. They're going to need all the support they can get.
Up The Gunners.