By Tony Attwood
The idea is simple: let’s make up someone who can be Mr Incompetent, and lets laugh at him a lot. Oh I know. Mr Wenger. The one man in the Premier League who never ducks a question, never refuses to talk to the media, always graces even the most stupid journalistic question with an answer – let’s get him.
It is difficult to think of a club that has come under such attack as Arsenal have in the last couple of weeks. Arsenal were one of three top clubs that lost to lower league opposition recently in the Cup. But has Tottenham and Liverpool undergone such attacks? I suspect not.
Arsenal lost to Bayern Munich – and were criticised for that. Forgetting perhaps the English teams already out of the competition. Did they get attacked? No.
Arsenal might not qualify for the Champions League next season. They might, but they might not. So let us look at the league table. Liverpool isn’t even listed in my little extract from the league positions.
Are Liverpool being torn apart week after week? I think not.
No, Arsenal, and in particular, Mr Wenger, is the target. And when the journalists have had enough, they go and get all the ex-players who can be found and who just reiterate the same old stuff, over and over. The ex-players quite like it, since they are all after media work. Funny thing that – if you want a job in the media, your chances of getting such a chance are enhanced if you are an ex-Arsenal player with a penchant for mouthing off.
Shame on you guys. We worshipped you, just like we worshipped the team and the club of your era. Turning your back on Arsenal now and spouting this drivel does not help anyone – except yourselves. Now we see you as you really are.
Then a minority of fans get onto the phone ins and slag off Wenger. The pro-Wenger lobby – the people who have cheered at the recent upturn in form in league matches – don’t bother with such tripe. So it goes.
In reality is that this is certainly not our best Wengerian season, but it is one hell of a lot better than we have been most of the time in Arsenal’s history. Do you remember when we were bottom of the league? Well, if you claim to have been an Arsenal supporter who saw the first double under Bertie Mee in 1971, you’ll remember. It was Bertie Mee who also took us to the bottom of the league. Under Wenger there has been more doubles and nothing like that.
Instead of the years and years of failure after 1972, we have had 13 years of playing in the knockout stages of the Champions league. And for all the years since we won a trophy, there is no reporting in the press of how many years it has been since Tottenham won the league. Why not? If Arsenal is due all this attack, why not Tottenham?
OK they may have won some things (I haven’t really noticed). But if that is the case it is only because of the way the media has framed the question. Why is winning anything the issue? Why not “winning the league” or “winning the league without losing a match”.
We also have the Emirates, which I think is a brilliant stadium. We are not like the clubs who have yet to develop a new stadium (rather like Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool). We didn’t have to get the state to build the stadium for us (as did Man City, and presumably as WHU are getting).
And we don’t have huge debts or a benefactor, just at the time when financial regulations are moving in a direction that benefits us.
Of course I would like us to be higher up the league, to have beaten Bradford and Blackburn, and not to be behind Tottenham. Of course.
But not at the cost of the spending of Manchester City or Chelsea and giving ourselves up to a benefactor who changes manager when he feels like it.
And so what I want to know is why the press corps let Roberto Mancini say that he has been the best manager in England over the last 15 months or so, without anyone who was at the press conferences having a bash at him, rather than bashing Arsene Wenger.
That is not to say that I want to attack Mancini, any more than I particularly cared about the fact that Sir Alex wouldn’t talk to the BBC for quite a while (actually I quite enjoyed that) but it really all does seem one rule for Arsenal, one rule for the rest.
Where was the criticism of the failure of Man City and Chelsea in the Champs League this year? Sure there was some, but it only lasted a little time. And I don’t mean to compare that with Arsenal who will probably go out to Bayern after the next game. I simply mean, judged by their resources and expectations, surely they were due some criticism. And yes they got some – but nothing like the stuff thrown at Arsenal by the press day after day after day after day after day.
For me the worst possible outcome of this media and AAA hysteria would be not that Mr Wenger would leave (although that would be bad enough) but rather that he would leave and go and manage at Manchester City. Because with the endless resources there he would walk off with the Double. And the Champions League. Worse we would get one of the other supposedly top managers like Benitez. Now that would be a test of my endless loyalty.
But of course we don’t know who will go where or when, and we can only marvel at how Liverpool FC has managed to sink as low as it has, and to screw up its transfers as much as it has, without getting 5% of the negative comment Arsenal gets every day, every month.
I wonder also about the summer to come. If Luis Suarez is tempted out of Liverpool and Gareth Bale out of Tottenham, just as Cesc and RVP were tempted out of Arsenal, what then? Will they both find replacements that continue to keep them where they are (striving for a top four in Tottenham’s case, playing catch up in Liverpool’s).
But let’s try it backwards. What if Arsenal had not been the force it has been. Supposing we had continued with Rioch – would we have stood in the way of endless domination by Man U? I doubt it. Instead I rather think the league would have been closer to the situation in Scotland in their top league (and come to that in their third division).
Under Rioch I can’t see us having kept pace with Liverpool, let alone Chelsea. I rather suspect that we would be more interested in keeping up with the clubs at the foot of the league, rather than having created the only Unbeaten Season in either the 20th or 21st centuries. No doubles, just a mid-table job with occasional trips into the Championship – just like Man U, Man C and Tottenham before us. (Actually I am sure Chelsea went down as well sometime, but I just can’t remember when it was).
We have had a wonderful time, seen wonderful football, are still up with the elite, who spend so much more than us, and are ready to take advantage of our new money, and the new FFP regulations. Of course if you demand that Arsenal win the league all the time, that’s not enough. But perhaps I still remember being bottom of the league under Bertie Mee, and that’s why I am willing to wait a while longer.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches
- Royal Arsenal: from the Common to the Manor. Coming next.
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