Well, the match day wasn’t quite the emotional response we expected from the players or the fans. Empty seats, a muted celebration of Wenger that only came when we were winning and a pretty bog standard 2017-18 game from the boys on the pitch.
The real interest was focused on the post-match comments. Wenger played the pity card, guilted a fan base he felt betrayed by and made it 100% clear the ‘resignation’ was not his idea.
Here’s the thing, there’s no point in getting riled by it. The man is broken by his firing, he’s still in shock, and I don’t think he’s ever been told he’s underperforming. No one likes to be told they’re dispensable and no one likes to lose their job, even if there’s a sweet £9m payout.
“I feel this club has a fantastic image and, for me, that is absolutely vital. We can speak and speak and speak but sport is about winning and losing and you [the supporters] have to accept you will lose games, even when I will not be here any more. But it is about something bigger than just winning or losing and that was always a worry: how the club is perceived worldwide, for kids playing in Africa, China and America and the dreams it can create for young children who want to play football.”
Bleating on about soft-targets that elevate the job of Arsenal manager close to religious leadership is great for the soundbite, but the reality is, football is about winning trophies. Sadly, the kids in Africa are more inclined to pay attention to the colour of the jersey lifting a Champions League trophy than they are to the intangible values Wenger trumps up every time things don’t go his way.
As I’ve said many times this year, there are no fallbacks this season. He failed on all fronts. He stopped making money, he showed his Midas touch with talent – young and old – had gone, and he had fans staying away from their prepaid tickets. Not just that, look at the state of our team. No direction, character, structure or joy. He’s left the squad a wreck, which is why we’ll be so incredibly appealing to every coach on the planet this summer. The only way is up.
The West Ham game didn’t offer up much we don’t already know. The player’s hearts are only in one competition this season, so anaemic performances in the Premier League outside United will be par the course.
Monreal, our superstar striker put us 1 up when he smashed home a left-footed volley from a Xhaka corner. A really tidy finish for a left back. Arnautovic drew West Ham back in 13 minutes later, a car crash of a goal that started from a classic Ospina punched clearance. He really is a shoddy keeper. Not that our defence or midfield showered themselves in glory in the ensuing melee of Sunday league defending.
Ramsey popped up with our second, scoring his oddest goal of the season when he tried to find Aubameyang with a flaccid cross that slipped through the West Ham defence past the hapless Joe Hart. God help us if he’s England’s #1 this summer.
Danny W started the move for our third, making a quick one-two with Xhaka, he found Auba who played in Lacazette at a tight angle, the Frenchman belted a deflected shot that beat Hart at his near post. More poor keeping if we’re honest.
The West Ham collapse was completed when Auba played Ramsey into the box, some silky quick feet from the Welshman and an incisive pass to Lacazette allowed for an easy 4th, taking his goal tally higher than Morata’s, 3 behind Lukaku and 2 behind Firmino. Not a bad return for a player who missed 2 months out injured.
A lot of the post-match whining from the press focused on the lack of singing from the fans. Please. This really has to stop, the never-ending gratitude some folk in the media think we should show Wenger is incredibly indulgent. The response was muted because he overstayed his welcome, he used his past glories to steal undeserved contracts and he sucked the joy out going to Arsenal for at least 6 seasons.
I love the notion that this is because of the ‘modern fan’. Average age of a Premier League season ticket holder was 43 last time I checked, old enough to have sat through the George Graham years. It’s such a bourgeois notion to think that Arsenal fans should just suck up the depressing 14-year decline because Wenger can titillate the Crouch End press core with occasional pithy anecdotes about philosophy or Brexit.
What is the expected behaviour? Start a 40-day celebration of Arsène? Sacrifice a few chickens in the ground? It’s very unique that Arsenal fans, who had the longest serving manager by 19 years, are critiqued as being bad fans so often.
Our loyalty to the manager was borderline sycophantic up until 2 seasons ago. We let him go 9 years without a trophy, 14 years without a league win (or even getting to March competing), 7 seasons not making it past the last 16 of the Champions League, as well as never winning a European trophy. Not to mention ‘Arsene knows’ became a religious turn of phrase amongst Arsenal fan to explain any and all of his actions.
Wenger’s comments on our fans had a few people finger wagging at AFTV.
‘Personally, I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England … our fans did not give the image of unity that I want in the club all over the world, and that was hurtful. I feel the club is respected. Overall the image we gave of our club is not what it is and not what I like.’
I think people are giving Wenger a bit too much credit for his web browsing habits here. Bellerin gave you all the insight you needed about what the players/coaches think of AFTV. It’s football panto played by a group of fun characters. It’s not serious like the issues we’ve had in the ground with the banners, the planes, the empty seats, the booing, the shoddy atmosphere. That’s the message of unity he’d like us to have improved on.
The ultimate sin that killed Wenger wasn’t rage, it wasn’t over passionate displays of pantomime childishness, it was antipathy. When the fans stopped caring, that’s when the club had to act.
The comment also highlights that Wenger doesn’t really understand why this firing happened. He can’t see what he did wrong, he hates that his stellar reputation and past deeds can’t control fan feelings, he’s devastated he could no longer reimagine failure in a pithy sentence the fans would buy, he’s absolutely baffled that setting the bar isn’t enough, unless you can maintain it.
Ultimately, Arsenal fans have had 6 years to get used to the idea Wenger shouldn’t be manager. He’s been a bit of a squatter lately and a progress blocker, so good riddance is obviously going to be the vibe, and that’s why you’re not seeing disingenuous shows of gratitude right away. Still more comments like the one below will get the fans back on side.
“I’m happy when the fans are happy and I’m even ready to suffer to make them happy. If sometimes they make me happy as well [by singing his name], I will take it. Every single decision I made during my 22 years was for the good of Arsenal and every single decision was with the priority of doing well for the club. I tried to influence the club on structure, development of players and style of play. To combine the three is not always easy and I believe I leave a club that is in a very good position.
“My target was always to do that and give continuity to the guy who comes in after me so we can be better in the next 20 years. That’s my wish.”
I like the way he talks about sacrifice like he’s the Jesus of Arsenal. Hopefully, a godly performance against Atleti will see out his career!
Right, that’s me done, see you in the comments x