Before our Carling Cup Final defeat to Birmingham City two years ago, and the end of season collapse that followed it, the title of these thoughts would have read: If Arsene Wenger is wrong; I don’t want to be right. But now it’s phrased as a question.
Three league titles, four FA Cups, a forty-nine game unbeaten run, fifteen consecutive seasons of Champions League football, a new state of the art stadium, a new training ground, endless world-class players, and a style of football to be proud of. And all of this whilst retaining our class, tradition, and history. Quite simply, Arsene Wenger is the greatest ever Arsenal manager.
Even Arsene’s failings are not to be frowned upon. Our ‘darkest hours’ under him include two European Final defeats (the UEFA Cup final of 2000 and of course the Champions League final of 2006), the FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool in 2001, Carling Cup final defeats in 2007 and 2011, and not finishing in the top two of the Premier League since 2005 (including 2008 when, following Eduardo’s leg break, what appeared to be a title-winning squad ended up finishing third). I know supporters of other clubs who would dream of this list being their brightest days, never mind their darkest hours.
But since that fateful day at Wembley two years ago I have doubted Arsene. Not so much his ability to keep us in the top four (I was confident we’d achieve it last season and I retain my hope, if not confidence, for this season too), but more in his ability to make us title contenders once more and to win another trophy as Arsenal manager. The question has always been who could do a better job, given the constraints we’ve been under, but those constraints no longer exist. Arsenal Football Club has the financial capacity to be doing better than they currently are. The lack of investment in the playing squad during recent transfer windows has been baffling to say the least. Why have departing players not been suitably replaced? Why are average fringe players on such large wages we can’t offload them?
And then you sit on the other side of the fence. Six young British players signing new long-term contracts, not long after Vermaelen and Koscielny also signed new deals. Signings like Arteta, Mertesacker, Podolski, Giroud, and Cazorla have been positive; experienced, quality players, bought for reasonable fees. In a world of economic uncertainty, football has become so delusional that these shrewd signings are overlooked and instead it’s deemed ok for a small club, with its one time FA Cup winning manager, to spend £12.5m and £100,000 a week on an average defender like Christopher Samba. And all because said manager is the media’s darling and might help his employers make a great escape. To hell with the fact he’ll leave them in ruins like he did with numerous past employers. It’s embarrassing and disgraceful.
And then you hop back over the fence and take a look at our part in this mess. A willing participant in the breakaway that formed the Premier League, we gave little care for the ‘smaller clubs’ and the impact it has had on them. We have a stadium that makes over £3m per match day, with my season ticket costing a ridiculous £1,300 and top of the range category A tickets going for an astronomical £125. Yes my season ticket includes seven cup coupons which other clubs don’t (a fact always ignored by the press when reporting our season ticket prices), and yes our category C games can see you get a ticket for £25 (pricey compared to the £10 for League Cup games), but the price of football tickets is beyond a joke. Long term, genuine, loyal supporters have been, and continue to be, priced out. And why do we need to do this? Well, because we’re trying to compete with sugar daddy funded clubs who distort market values, and because we need to support our huge wage bill, which is the fourth highest in English football, with Arsene responsible for a whopping £7m a year of it.
What’s that you say? Fourth highest wage bill in English football? And Arsene has ALWAYS finished in the top four? *Hops back over the fence*
I’ve hopped back and forth over the fence so many times when thinking about, and now typing, this directionless babble. I’ve become so firmly planted on the fence I think I’ll be pulling splinters out of my arse for the next few weeks. So what conclusions have I come to, if any?
- I love Arsene Wenger. The man has many faults, but he also has many more qualities. He loves Arsenal Football Club and desperately wants us to succeed. I accept some people want him gone, but please do not treat him with disrespect.
- Like Arsene, we all desperately want Arsenal to succeed. So again, respect each other, respect opinions, and stop fighting amongst each other…especially physically as was the case at Brighton.
- I’ve lost some of my love for football. Not Arsenal, that will never happen, but with football. It used to be about pride, adventure, and fun. It was about belief, and hope, and when you were lucky glory. We had many of those moments. But now it’s about greed, and money, buying your way to success. It’s sad and depressing.
Midweek internationals have given us a breather. Combined with the end of the January transfer window and our 1-0 win against one of the most hideous teams ever (whose existence and approach to the game is another source of despair with modern-day football) has, as you’ll have read, got me thinking about the game and club I love. I’ve not reached the answer to many of my own questions, but I have reached one: if Arsene Wenger is wrong, do I want to be right? And the answer, for a little while longer at least, is no.