We’ve had a couple of really tough weeks as fans. There’s been so much going on, that all started from the Watford loss and has still been spiralling into anarchy ever since. The boss has been the basis of most discussions as well as the infamous AFTV getting some air time with Garry Neville in the Sky studios. So much going on. Piers Morgan continues to weigh in and make loud statements that only add to his glowing reputation. I’m of course joking. The moron professed to state that a loss v Sutton would be good as it would force Wenger out. The height of his idiocy has become immeasurable. Thankfully J.K. Rowling has taken him down a fair few pegs over the last few weeks and the internet finally seems to be breaking the horrible man. It will only be a matter of time until his ‘fans’ will be out with the violins as he comes clean on hacking dead people’s phones. Tosser.
In the football world there can only be one place to start. Munich. We set up in a manner that I thought would work. The only reservation I had was with Welbeck not being picked for his work rate and pace over Iwobi. I thought that as Welbeck has been there and done it for Man Utd as well as ourselves, he would be better suited for the game over a 20 year old who really needs to be managed in order for his career to thrive and not become an ‘also ran’. For the first 45 we were perfect. Yes we had pressure, but who wouldn’t away to a colossus like Bayern? 1-1 and we could have even been leading having spurned 2 big chances through Xhaka and Ozil. What happened in the second half is the sore point. Our reaction to Koscielny going off and conceding a goal was non-existent and this is what sparks debate on the manager. The ever brilliant @gunnerblog put it brilliantly when he said that it’s maybe due to the fact that the same message and same words are being said by the manager over and over again and maybe the words have now lost their meaning to the majority of the squad. There was simply no reaction to adversity when we were under the kosh. No one showed for the ball, everyone went into ‘safe’ mode to try and not make further errors, which only led to further errors. Now I’ve never been either a Wenger in or Wenger out person, as the debate is futile and detracts from the main issue at hand, the board. That being said it really does feel like the club is at a stage where the only outcome can be change. A fresh set of tactics, a fresh set of eyes, a fresh voice to change the mentality of a great squad. There is more to it than just a manager change, however and that’s what I want to talk about.
So many other fans ask the question “but are you really happy with the continued failure of the team? How can you stand for this?”. It’s both a fair and understandable point taken out of context, but it’s the context that makes these questions appear silly and tabloid like. The years 2006 – 2014 were all about managing to stay in the Champions League and remain competitive with a squad that was simply not up to scratch. The fact that in those years we were able to mount 2 realistic title challenges (07/08 and 13/14) as well as a Champions League semi-final berth (08/09) highlights that Wenger is in fact a great manager. Consider that he’s achieved that with the likes of Chamakh, Denilson, Almunia, Bendtner, Eboue, Squillaci, Andre Santos, Silvestre and Park Chu-young as main stays in the squad. It’s incredible that with the calibre of players mentioned we were able to stay competitive in years where spending was nowhere near the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Sp*rs and to a latter extent Man City. This in itself is an outstanding achievement. What we also need to remember is that we are the lowest spenders of this period. Even if we take into account just the last 7 years of spending, which includes a few years where we’ve been able to loosen the purse strings a little we’ve still been outspent by Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool and Sp*rs in terms of outlay. If we are being outspent by 5 clubs yet continue to finish above 3/4 of them how can we truly be disappointed in the extreme? I get that we are a big club and probably should be closer to the top than we are, however in the years where Wenger has been allowed to spend money (i.e. the last 3 seasons – not including this one yet as it’s not quite done!) he’s delivered 2 trophies. I know winning the FA Cup might not be quite as good as winning the League or Champions League, however it’s a trophy nonetheless and not one to be scoffed at. It’s a great day out for the fans and something to shout about at the end of the season, so Wenger has only really had one season of ‘failure’ in this period and by failure it’s a 2nd place finish. I just feel like some of the fan base are far more ‘entitled’ than they should be – it’s not all bad and nor has it been ‘all bad’ in recent seasons.
Back to Wenger. In his interview post Bayern he really looked a broken man. I’ve never seen him quite as downbeat and it looked like the end was near. He followed this in classic Wenger style by making the clearest indication on his future yet, in the following press conference a couple of days later. “Whether it’s here or somewhere else, I will be a football manager next season”. This was a pretty open statement to the board, saying that “if I go it’s because they made me go”, which to me is the clearest indication that he’ll be staying. In any case I think he hasn’t made his mind up yet, however the clarity, or the lack of it, is what is causing the most unrest at the moment. If he/the club announced that he was staying for example, the players’ contract situations could be sorted out and forward planning can commence. If the he/club announce that he is to leave at the end of the season, the players, fans and everyone around him can generate a bubble of positivity to ensure he gets the send-off he deserves, and once again forward planning in terms of a new manager/structure can commence or be put into place. The worry for me in all of this is that the board haven’t the foggiest idea in terms of a succession plan for change. They don’t seem ready to facilitate a change. The uncertainty around the whole thing, as so much of it is connected, is what is frustrating. He seems like a poker player, who’s unsure of his next move even though the options are clearly laid out for him.
Then we have the ‘problem’ of social media thrown in. AFTV, what I initially considered to be a great medium to get across real fans’ views has turned into a ‘rant’ festival of epic proportions, pandering to the moronic characters and their ‘fan bases’. I try not to watch too much of it purely because it’s mostly made into vines/compilations designed to embarrass Arsenal fans at large, however my non Arsenal football friends send me links aplenty! The recent debate where Gary Neville disagreed with a banner that was brought into the stadium for the Chelsea game by branding the guy an ‘idiot’ sent AFTV into full meltdown mode. They were incredulous that someone else had an opinion on Arsenal and called him out to be disrespectful etc etc. This led to Gary Neville inviting the AFTV regulars to the Sky studios for a half an hour chat about their spat. The entirety of the conversation was around the 5 AFTV representatives imploring Neville to change his mind on how he articulated his opinion, to which Gary Neville said ‘No’ on multiple occasions in various different ways. They all appeared to want to come across as calm non offensive individuals, however this video can address the BS that was being displayed during the interview. Hilarious and nothing really concluded or changed from it. Actually one thing did, the AFTV publicity grew. I thought to myself, yes I understand these guys, yes they may have a point in amongst all the abuse and yes they are entitled to their view, however don’t they get bored of voicing the same things week in week out? I, for pure curiosity, watched a few videos after the Sutton victory just to gauge how the content might differ after a victory and the results were spectacular. Every one of the regulars had very little to say and tried to spin every portion of their interview into a negative about Munich and the seasons failings etc. Without defeats they have nothing to say and when the chips are down who wins? No one right? Wrong. Robbie from AFTV wins with the clicks, views & vines. I would respect the medium so much more if they interviewed different people every week and looked for a more holistic view on the fan base, yet the regulars get the most airtime allowing little time for any others to voice their opinions. Why? Because the meltdown merchants are what generate the income. If it doesn’t become more credible and balanced it can die as far as I’m concerned.
To conclude we are in a real state of flux at the moment and it’s up to the club and the manager to steer this ship into a definite direction with some clarity. We now have almost a 2 week break before we play Liverpool, which has now become a must win to cement our top 4 credentials, else we’ll find addition to the mutiny that seems to be slowly gathering some momentum.
Have a great week folks.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.