Keenos wrote a piece on here a couple of days ago about how Arsenal supporters were uniting against the media and the way they deliberately portray Arsenal Football Club. I wholeheartedly agree that we should all draw the cannons round and have them facing outwards right now – by the way, that includes those fools from YouTube who claim they’re Arsenal but really aren’t.
The Arsenal have always been at our best when realising that everyone hates us. It’s borne of jealousy passed down through generations, borne of Arsenal becoming the pre-eminent football club of the 1930s. I’ve always loved the idea that people dislike my club because of our class, our heritage and our success. Even when we’re rubbish and no real threat they continue to despise us and go out of their way to have a pop. That’s the power that the name of The Arsenal still carries.
George Graham made that anti-Arsenal feeling, especially in the media, one of the cornerstones of his motivational technique. He was even clever enough to use it on the Christmas VHS in 1990 to whip up the supporters with the staged team-talk at the training ground. George’s message was basically, “We’re The Arsenal. They hate us. Go out and be The Arsenal.” This is exactly what’s needed right now and I hope Mikel Arteta realises it.
I certainly think the match-going supporters will be doing their bit in that regard as the team tries to recover from the disastrous first three league games. Whoever instigated the whole squad standing in front of the away end at Man City perhaps understands the need to be The Arsenal but the whole thing needs bringing back to basics, as I’ll expand on below.
I mentioned Arsenal’s class and tradition a bit earlier and I remember well the day it started to be eroded. Along with quite a few others I was stood outside the players entrance at Derby County in November 1997 and we were all shocked to see Arsenal’s players get off the coach in tracksuits. Gone was the Arsenal blazer and tie. It was a mistake then and it’s still one 24 years later. They used to a play a voiceover from Bob Wilson in the pre-match video at Emirates Stadium saying, “It was just this feeling of turning up with this big gun on your chest…” and you realised how proud it made him and countless others like him. The likes of Brian Talbot, Eddie Kelly and co still turn up at supporters’ events now wearing their Arsenal tie, even their blazer! So why did Arsene Wenger stop it from happening? We’ve seen a decline in standards ever since.
The players today don’t know anything about that. Thomas Vermaelen tried to bring it back by insisting on a club suit when he was made skipper, but it was only used for home league games and “club occasions” such as their charity ball. We’ve had the quite disgraceful sight of Arsenal teams turning up at Wembley finals in tracksuits. What was that about being The Arsenal?
Before this group of players can start putting things right with their play on the pitch they need to be taught The Arsenal Way off the pitch. That means a few basics:
1. Club suits to be worn home and away
2. Club ties to be worn with top buttons fastened – this is The Arsenal
3. No more stupid headphones to be worn when arriving and representing The Arsenal
4. ALL outfield players will wear the same length shirt sleeves and no undershirts beneath short sleeves
5. If there is no need to change kits then Arsenal will ALWAYS wear red shirts with white sleeves and white shorts
6. Arsenal’s goalkeeper will wear green and never the outfield kit of their choice
7. The players will not wear a tracksuit top onto the pitch as though they are in a Wembley final every week – those red shirt with white sleeves show we are The Arsenal
8. The team will run to the centre of the pitch and line up before applauding all four sides of every stadium after entering the pitch
9. The Manager will wear his club suit at, and during, every fixture – no designer Guardiola lookalike rubbish
10. The Arsenal Captaincy will not be treated as unimportant and given to players on seniority on any measure other than being a leader
I know a lot of (mostly younger) people will see all this as superficial nonsense and has no bearing on the team. I got stick online a few years ago about the sleeves issue saying players should wear what makes them feel comfortable. Nonsense. This is The Arsenal. Those are the rules. If you don’t like it you don’t play. If the cannon weighs too heavily on you then find somewhere else.
There is a quote which is these days often incorrectly attributed to David Rocastle. Bertie Mee it was who coined “Remember who you are, what you are, and who you represent” and as a motto it should be right up there with Victoria Concordia Crescit. If you turn up to a game looking like a bunch of scruffy misfits you’ll probably end up playing like it, especially when most of the players aren’t top class in the first place.
Once we’ve sorted out some proper discipline and laid the ground rules of what it means to be The Arsenal, then we can start building this team into something to be proud of again. And hopefully we’ll see the mugs making a quid out of Arsenal’s misfortune get out of our club.