The Fallout

Sometimes, I wonder if I care too much. I honestly do.

I’m not admitting to this because I want to pat myself on the back. My primary intention in supporting Arsenal Football Club is because I love the Club, first and foremost. I’ve been called a Wenger Apologist before, and I’ll probably be called it again. If I believed that Wenger was being completely ineffective and a change would definitely help our Club, I would be for it. I have zero interest in wanting to seem smarter than other fans or more faithful or anything like that. I care about the Club immensely, and that’s really all there is to it.

So, after reading some blow by blow recaps about the shareholders question and answer session, I was incredibly disheartened. The English media described it as Wenger lashing out at the shareholders in defense of his team. One blog gave a more objective description of the event, while another blog said he didn’t like what Wenger had become. That blog had said that he believed the way Wenger acted on the night was similar to a “classic symptom of paranoia.” Now that may be an accurate description of the event for all I know, as the ArsenalTV broadcast of the event was only 35 minutes long, and the more heated segments were edited out.

Wenger was subjected to some very direct questions about our team. And whereas before, Wenger could shrug off a question with ease and humor, he apparently seemed ill at ease and almost condescending to some of the people who asked the questions.

I could not sleep soundly last night thinking about all of this. The conclusion I came to was clear. If Wenger doesn’t win a trophy next year, the pressure will be so massive from a large segment of bloodthirsty supporters that Wenger may resign from the club.

To most, that won’t be of any concern. There are many people who ask for Wenger to be fired without asking themselves who would be better as manager of this particular football club. When I broach them on this topic, they say, “it’s for the board to find that person.”

Should we consider what our club would be like without Wenger? No matter who replaces him, even if we get a manager on a level of a Fabio Capello, there will be a massive turnover in the squad. That much is assured. Results may arrive within two years, but for a year, it might be a guaranteed struggle if players like Cesc leave the club. To those that say that players should want to play for Arsenal and not just Arsene Wenger, there is some truth in that. However, we are a unique football club. It is Arsene Wenger who has brought us to this level in international club recognition. He is the man who has led us to the Champions League year after year. He is the man who has imprinted a style to our offensive play that have people put us in the same sentences with FC Barcelona. He is the man who seems to trust youngsters more than anybody since Louis Van Gaal at Ajax. For all these reasons, players are attracted to our team. Before Dennis Bergkamp signed for Arsenal, he repeatedly asked his agent if Tottenham were interested in him. Such was the reputation of Tottenham, they were the aesthetically pleasing footballing mavericks. Now, would anybody consider Tottenham before Arsenal. The very fact that footballers say “Arsenal is my dream club” is quite remarkable compared to where we were 14 years ago.

Yes, Arsenal is a major club in European football. But the cold truth is, if Wenger never came along, could we be consistently mentioned as being one of the best clubs in the world by most everybody in football. I’m going to let you answer that question yourself.

Wenger today said that sometimes with everything he faces, he feels as though he has “killed somebody” to receive so much attention. People want trophies, and they want it now. And yes, in terms of the table, we have taken a step backwards in the league. But if we finish two points behind next year in the Premier League, in the semis of the FA Cup and Champions League, would people still just consider it another trophyless season? Can people accept progress and are they just frustrated that we didn’t challenge for the league this year? What exactly is it that allows our fans to crucify players like Eboue and Bendtner before they step onto the pitch?

When people ask, “how long can we be a feeder club for major clubs?” They should look to themselves and ask how a young player might feel when they get booed for every small mistake they make on the pitch. Wenger is trying hard to establish a team camaraderie that will want players to stay. In fact, I’d be willing to guess that’s why he let Lass Diarra leave; he didn’t want to upset the harmony within the squad. So, how are we supposed to keep up the team spirit and expect young players to stay when they’re in their prime if we criticize every mistake and rip players repeatedly?

A team like Arsenal should compete for major trophies every year, I am not denying that. Any fan who tells you that their club should WIN trophies every year has no idea what they’re talking about. Liverpool haven’t won the league for twenty years. Sir Alex Ferguson never won the Champions League until his 13th year with Manchester United. Sometimes we forget that only one team wins the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup every year.

Wenger considers this year to be a failure, but he can measure some progress as well. We have been fantastically unlucky with injuries yet again, and our entire defense was nearly decimated in the pivotal moments of the season. Wenger will look to get things right, and I hope he’ll have at least one more year to rectify this ship. He deserves that.

But a fair warning: If Wenger is fired by the board because of pressure from fans, we will become the laughingstock of European football. They’ll wonder how we ever let him leave, and he’ll get a job with a major club (if he wants it) almost immediately. I bet the moment the replacement steps into our office and sees the funds available, he’ll wonder how Wenger ever did it.

As for United tomorrow, we have to look at this game with a burning fire. We must attempt to prevent them from celebrating in front of our players and our away traveling fans (who are fantastic by the way). The added bonus to beating them would be the fact that they would have to try to get a point against Hull City the following week. That means Phil Brown, an utterly unlikable person, may be relegated in a season that once promised them so much. That would bring a smile to my face.

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