Arsenal by definition, have always represented the very best of British. We are diverse and multi-cultural, welcoming players and supporters from every corner of the world, whilst retaining a class that no amount of money can buy. Essentially, Arsenal are aristocrats through their assorted share-holders, many of them titled, and extremely wealthy.
Supporters too, particularly Brits, are very generous in spirit, willingly sacrificing their undying loyalty, and asking for little in return. Watching the Women’s Euro’s, after Germany had beaten Norway to claim their sixth successive Euro title, Guy Mowbray came out with a line that immediately reminded me of Arsenal – “Norway wanted it, Germany demanded it…” A strong aggressive powerful message of intent mixed with an arrogant confidence, the Germans are drilled to succeed. Arsenal are like Norway, they want it, but they don’t demand it. The most successful clubs demand a regular supply of silver-ware, and are quick to act if that supply dries up. Arsenal behave as if they don’t expect any silver-ware, but should any accidently turn up they can award themselves even bigger bonuses (not to say they don’t already, isn’t that so, Mr Gazidis?).
It’s nine years since Arsenal won the title, and despite making much noise between 2004 and now, they haven’t really had the stomach to go for it. It’s our sixteenth successive year of CL football, but we’ve only been to one final and two semi-finals, and as with the Premier League, we really are a long way from the quality needed to challenge, and a lot further away than we were in 2004.
The financial debate is pointless. We are forever turning up in the top four/five of Forbes and Deloittes richest global sports clubs, which can’t be a coincidence. Chelsea and Manchester City haven’t suddenly become bigger and wealthier than Arsenal, they are just prepared to invest whatever it takes to make their brand a winning one, which will in turn reap huge financial benefits from commercial and sponsorship revenues.
Arsenal are over-cautious with their short-term no risk approach, the philosophy is mirrored by the product on the field, everything at Arsenal is done with the hand-brake on. As if any proof of this were needed, Arsenal had more possession of the ball than any other side in the PL. Possession for possession sake. That isn’t a money issue, that’s flawed football. That’s having far too much of the ball and half the time not having a clue what to do with it having passed themselves into blind alleys and cul-de-sacs that lead nowhere.
We are in a place now where we go into every game against the top three hoping for divine intervention, but deep down fearing defeat.
Is that really who we’ve become?
Maybe it’s part of the French DNA, that in the final analysis, they don’t have the blood and guts for the battle. They’re philosophers rather than fighters, which is why they virtually laid out the red carpet for the Germans in WWII.
I stand by my conviction that Arsene Wenger has refused to test himself at the elite level. People like to cite his loyalty and love for Arsenal, but my guess is that had he moved to a big club and failed, his career would have been quite short. And who else would renumerate a manager as generously as Arsenal do for achieving the bare minimum?
Arsenal supporters are very generous in spirit, they are fiercely loyal and very forgiving in nature. We never demand trophies, NOR do we demand ridiculously expensive big-money signings, but we do expect our tactical frailties to be addressed and fixed, and I personally expect the level of quality in our players to be of the standard required to take the title to the wire, and seriously challenge in the CL, just as was promised seven years ago by our club’s hierarchy.
Arsene Wenger arrived fresh-faced from Japan, full of life, full of ideas to revolutionise Arsenal and English football. Wenger cleverly utilised the French market at a time when the French football was in the ascendancy, and building around Dennis Bergkamp he discovered the perfect mix. But just as French football declined so too have Arsenal. The last transfer that excited me a little was in January 2004, when Arsenal signed Jose Antonio Reyes, and even then only because the British Press – as always when these things happen – were a little too lavish in their appraisal of the Spaniard.
Since that time, in my opinion, Arsene Wenger’s judgement and use of the club’s resources has been poor, without any clear indication of improvement. How many times do we give the benefit of the doubt, hoping to see a dynamic change, something exciting happen, only to be left feeling deflated again? Arsene Wenger gave Arsenal fans back their belief, and he made us fall in love with football again, but that was a long time ago. And it doesn’t matter what the excuse or reason is, Arsene Wenger has nothing new or revolutionary to bring to the table, and his best days probably left along with David Dein. This isn’t an anti-Wenger campaign, this is a pro-Arsenal thing, and an honest opinion of where I think we’re at.
In six years time, we’ll be celebrating 100 years of unbroken football in the top flight (save for WWII), wouldn’t it be great going into that season knowing that we’re back as a genuine force! There are a lot of changes needed at Arsenal if that is to be so,
I only hope those charged with making that happen are brave and intelligent enough to make the right decisions for the club and it’s supporters.
Written by We are The Arsenal