Fan rage is back in business and Arsene Wenger has fired a hail of bullets right back into the medley of banners…
“What hurts me is that at the important moment of the season we played in a sceptical environment,”
“I think after the Tottenham game where we played a very good game with 10 men against 11 and came back to 2-2, I couldn’t understand why – at the moment when you need everyone behind the team – we had to hit that storm. From the media, OK. From our fans? It is a bit more difficult to take.”
I’d normally say from the outside it’d be difficult to understand why our fans are disgruntled, but I don’t think that’s the case now. I think fans from most clubs understand why Arsenal fans are showing dissent in the stands.
It’s like waiting for a bus. If someone tells you it’s going to be there in 25 minutes, you can prepare yourself to wait. However, if someone keeps telling you every one minute the bus is only a minute away, and it doesn’t show, you start to get a little bit hacked off. If someone continues to tell you the bus is coming in a minute, and the bus driver has great spirit and mental strength… but you can see the bus, it’s on fire and the bus driver is chasing lines off a strippers backside… you really, really get hacked off.
That’s Arsene Wenger at the moment. He’s asleep at the wheel. He’s so cocooned at Arsenal that he doesn’t really know what the people are feeling and why. And look, I’m really not one for protest in the ground, but here’s the thing, if the fans don’t protest in the ground, during the game, Wenger gets away with it. Because look, no one gives a rats arse what people say on the internet during the summer when nothing unfolds again. Then we get to September, and everyone says shut up and get behind the lads, then the team collapse in Feb and everyone says, ‘judge him in May’, then it gets to May, the warchest stories drop and nothing happens. Repeat process…
I get why the fans are hacked off. What I think is really interesting is that it’s the away fans that have cracked. Wenger was praising them a few weeks ago. The away fans, like it or lump it, are generally the mega fans and they make up a large chunk of the group that has previously apolgoised for Wenger. When they crack, the club know they have the problem… because they’re the first Domino. Like when a Henry Winter says an England manager should go… and also, let’s remember, that even he is saying it’s time for a change now.
I also think it’s quite interesting to read that we’re now being linked to managers. Forget that it’s the horrendous Jose Mourinho, it’s still a manager. That’s never happened before. Have there been light briefings?
Anyway, as far as I’m concerned. This stuff with Arsene shouldn’t be offensive. I’ve read the defenders say things like, ‘he deserves another chance’ and look, it sounds good on paper. But, the reality is we’re way beyond chances now.
To gain another chance, you need to have certain things in place. Here are 6 pragmatic reasons this show can’t continue.
1. Trust of the fans. If the fans don’t trust you or want you at the club, it’s very hard to mount a serious challenge. The atmosphere in the ground is toxic, the atmosphere away from home is toxic and fans are actually fighting each other. That’s not good, and it’s down to one man.
2. A vision of what you’re trying to do. It takes 2 seasons to build a club into a force. To mould it into something that looks like a shape. Wenger doesn’t have two years left on his deal and there’s no vision in place after 12 years. I’d hazard a guess and say he doesn’t know how to mould a successful vision these days.
3. Demonstrate the ability to be tactically flexible. Wenger changes his formation, what, twice a season? He never changes it during a game. He sticks to the same starting 11 where he can and he is incapable of managing from the sidelines. He doesn’t have a fundamental skill you need to take on the Champions League. He doesn’t have the basics to outsmart the most turbulent league of all time.
4. Player taste. Maybe taste is the wrong word, but I think buying players has evolved. Wenger used to buy the best talent, because he knew where to get it. The talent he could find was so much better than everyone else, it didn’t need a system because he could make it fitter, it could police itself because of legacy systems and it was just incredible. Wenger buys players in a silo’d vision.
He doesn’t really think about their development and he doesn’t buy players who are particularly adaptable. Case in point, we signed Callum Chambers who is 2 seasons from being anywhere near half decent… and he missed out on the 26 year old Toby Alderweirald who can play DM, right back and centre back. You can’t say, ‘oooooh, hindsight is a great thing’ because he came on against us last year and was excellent. The perfect player for less than £10m. He could have brought him in and given Callum back to Southampton. There are plenty of other examples of excellent players we’ve missed out on because we’re sleeping at the wheel.
What was Wenger thinking with squad balance this year? Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky and Flamini are either not good enough, too old or too broken to play with. What are they costing us? £345k a week! That’s £18m a year we’re wasting on players who don’t play! Where is the sense in that? Wenger talks about not being able to compete financially, yet he’s dropping £18m on that lot!
To stay on, you’d have to be confident that Wenger could take a machete to the squad and rebuild it with experience, flexibility and fitness in mind. Do you believe he has shown anything over the past 3 seasons that would indicate he’s worth the time on that front? He doesn’t even beleive in buying more than 3 players at a time!
5. Competitiveness. If you’re going to give him a chance, you should be close to your European competition. Forget the Premier League, we’re about to let the worst ever team win the league. So being anywhere near the top isn’t really an achievement considering the swirl of managers this season. We need to benchmark where we are in Europe and ask whether one more season makes any sense. Well, we lost 5 out of 8 European games this year and exited at the last 16 again.
That would indicate that we’re getting worse in Europe. So he’s not competing, or getting any better over a sustained period of time.
6. Players. Does it look like they’re really playing for him? Look at our 2016 form. Is that impressive? No. It’s terrible. We’ve lost big games when we should have been motivated. We went out of the FA Cup at home to Watford, we lost 3 games at home back to back. Why are they not firing on all cylinders? You can blame the fans, but the fans react to what they see on the pitch. If the players aren’t giving their all, then what’s going on? If the players aren’t professional enough to ignore the fans, what’s going on? The manager tells us all the time how mentally strong his boys are? More to the point, the best managers extract more out of their players than anyone could possibly think possible. Can you honestly say there is anyone at Arsenal who is currently playing beyond their ability?
So to wrap up. What exactly is the point in keeping Wenger on for another season? You might as well wrap it up at the end of the year and bring in someone new to spend the additional cash. Even if we pull it out the bag and win the league, it’s clear that the relationship Wenger has with his players and the fans is stagnating. Bayern chopped Heynckes after he won the treble, because they needed to progress. Inter sacked Mancini after 3 back to back wins in Serie A because they wanted to win in Europe. Frank Rijkarrd was sacked at Barcelona one season after bringing them back to life because the players stopped playing at the ferocious level Barcelona demand.
We can’t keep wishing a manager on if he’s not putting in the groundwork to make us a powerhouse. This isn’t a charity. This is an £8m a year job that’s not being done properly.
It doesn’t have to be mean. It doesn’t have to get aggressive. It just has to be a pragmatic decision that’s taken by the club because it’s the right one.
In short, the fans behave the way the do because they have no other voice. Question is, are the club listening and do they care?
Over to you Stan, over to you.