Before I start, allow me to nail my colours firmly to the mast;
I am a fully paid up member of the BSM – I have questions over the way the club is managed, from the very top – all the way down. I question ticket prices, in fact I question the price of everything at the stadium – how is this the working man’s game anymore? How does this game belong to the fans? Fact is, it doesn’t, however this is going a little off topic.
Now, where do I stand with Arsene Wenger? These must be treated as two very separate things. My membership of the BSM has zero correlation to my feelings toward our long standing manager. There is no association whatsoever, those of you reading this that are bright enough will completely understand this, those less so, you need to do some research.
I have been a long-time admirer of the man – who couldn’t have been? He has delivered success, he has brought some outstanding players to the club and transformed the way we played. Not only did he oversee a complete change in our training structure and facilities, he was instrumental in our move to the Emirates. Don’t get me wrong here, I’d rather be at Highbury, where there was deep soul, history – it was ‘The Home of Football’ – actually it was ‘Our Home of Football’, but the game was changing, we had to move to a bigger stadium in order to compete, in order to attract the best players in the game – or so we were told. So, I have held a lot of respect for Wenger for everything he did for this club since he came to us 1996.
However, that started to wain several years back – continually selling our best players, not replacing or replacing with inferior players & poor tactical decisions – during all of which I listened to his apologists in an intelligent and fair way, with decent debate. I was clearly in a minority, a small number of fans that were starting to see the cracks appearing. I had been criticised, castigated and outcast – being regularly told to ‘Go and support Spurs’ – okay so when I said there was decent debate, there are exceptions to every rule and nobody can legislate for idiots, right?
I am guessing I’m lining myself up for a lot of criticism about me only being in this for the trophies, you are wrong! Of course I want pots, but more importantly, infact much more importantly, I want a team that is ambitious enough to compete. A team that has the desire and ability to win. Led by a manager that motivates and drives the team on. A manager that will recognise where the team need help and go out and find that support. A manager that isn’t happy to finish 4th – The third worst of the runners up. A manager and a board, that doesn’t continually lie. I’m not going to go into the comments Ivan Gazidis made in June about our financial fire power, you’ve all seen them and if you haven’t it won’t take much to find them.
The reason I started writing this article was about my experience at the game yesterday and what I witnessed on my journey home. The inspiration was about seeing, first hand, a shift in the dynamic of the fan base. I’ve hinted above about how I was one in a small minority of fans that were starting to question Wenger many years back – but now that’s different I feel.
There was a strange atmosphere in the ground yesterday, it was tangible. Giroud’s early goal simmered the tension for a while, but once Villa equalised, then took the lead you could feel it changing into a poisonous place. Once the third went in, there was an immediate response – the mass exodus of fans, clearly demonstrating, with their feet, their displeasure at what they were watching, was matched by the chorus of ‘Spend some fucking money’. For the very first time, one of my lads suggested we leave early and head home – A shift in dynamic.
As a father, and supporter of Arsenal, it was my duty to keep him there until the final whistle, but I could totally understand his motives. At the final whistle, the boos started to ring out, quickly replaced by the clapping of the team off the pitch – this is not their fault. It is not their fault they play for a manager who demonstrates ineptitude at any opportunity and I’m convinced they feel as frustrated as us fans a lot of the time. Then the ‘Spend some fucking money’ chants echoed around a half empty ground.
As I left, even the stewards were bemoaning what they had just seen – a shift in dynamic.
But, the most startling thing for me, was sitting on the train on the way home. I was with my two kids, and around us were another 7 fans. A conversation soon started. A lad of, I’m guessing 15, started talking about Wenger, then voices came from behind a seat, almost anonymous contributing to the topic, then out of nowhere an elderly lady, who must have been 70 if she was a day appeared. She was very well spoken, clearly educated and obviously a life-long supporter. Very open in her criticism of Wenger, she was suggesting he has ‘lost it’, doesn’t know what he’s doing or saying anymore, how we should all get together and demonstrate against the man.
Never had I experienced a journey like it – a definite shift in dynamic.
Finally, two more things…
I did hear a startling revelation, which I wanted to share with you, it could be hear-say, I wish to emphasise this is nothing more than rumour and there is nothing upon which to substantiate this, but I heard Wenger simply refuses to have any player at the club who earns more than he does – if this is true, it is slightly ironic as he earns more than his CEO – Ivan Gazidis, but more so is extremely concerning considering the way players remuneration has increased over the past few years. We are getting left behind.
Listening to his post-match comments were interesting too. He mentioned it was not possible to buy 6 players at five to three – I don’t know how everybody else felt about this, but I thought it was slightly rubbing our faces in it – the transfer window has been open since July 1st!! But to suggest there were positives to draw from the game is infuriating to say the least. The only positive I could draw, was that yesterday I lost my Piebury Corner virginity. If you have never visited these guys on Holloway Road – you need to make a point of it next time you go past. A great pie and fantastic hospitality – give them a follow on twitter to Follow @PieburyCorner
Onwards we go, onto Wednesday’s vital game, even more threadbare than we were on Saturday.
Whatever my thoughts on the club and Wenger, I always get behind the boys…Up the Arsenal.