The numbers simply don’t lie: Seven long years without a trophy. Comments regarding the team’s demise have been loaded with vitriol: “The worst Arsenal team in ten years,” for instance. Arsenal as a team appears to be in a state of crisis, but there are yet more questions than answers concerning any resolution. Arsenal fans are rightly demanding to know whether Arsene had access to the fat reserve account, whether he should be the target of blame and villified or else forgiven. Within the next couple of days, we will all know if Arsene is still all the hero we once knew him to be or else a piece of waterlogged deadwood weighing the team down.
I have long been an ardent Arsene supporter, an outspoken critic of his critics. I have wanted to team to do well, and I have trusted Arsene’s judgment and perception that the team will improve. I take much of what he says at face value, without the proverbial grain of salt. He’s the boss, and if he didn’t know what he was doing, he wouldn’t still be in that position, trusted as he is by Arsenal’s owner. Nevertheless, a case is being built against Arsene. It won’t be long now before the angry mob shows up with pitchforks and torches, so we need to know whether we stand with him or the mob.
In the past couple of days, the community of Arsenal fans has finally reached a breaking point. A long season of dramatic inconsistencies has created a level of barely-contained frustration that can be difficult to properly articulate. Naturally, fans are looking for someone to blame, and it’s virtually a sure-fire bet the target of the angst will be Arsene Wenger. Making Arsene a scapegoat week to week was a fun past-time for the past couple of months, but most fans have grown weary of this game. Enough is enough. Most of us just aren’t willing to spend any more time in Arsene’s little fantasy world. We’re tired of being placated, sick of being told that each loss was just another minor setback or speed bump. Most of us know the difficulty telling someone that “Everything is going to be all right” when we know they are actually in the midst of a horrible tragedy from which there will be no return to the good life, and with this unfortunate experience under our belts, we can smell an Arsene lie from a mile away. Those of us that continued to demonstrate our loyalty to the veteran manager despite the copious evidence to the contrary now feel like court jesters.
For what it’s worth, Arsene is loathe to admit defeat. Calls for his immediate resignation have been met with typical Arsene cockiness, the expected cheeky comments that demand analysis and criticism. “There has been a lot of conversation about whether I will remain with Arsenal or leave, But I will tell you that I am still committed to this project. So committed that I will continue to manage Arsenal until the day Theo Walcott wins the Ballon d’Or or the day Andrei Arshavin scores four goals in a Premier League match again. Whichever comes first. Or at all. Only then will my work here be complete.”
Basically, Arsene is committed to staying around from now until infinity. But Arsenal fans, represented by the Arsental Supporters Trust, is ready to help Arsene start packing.
Arsenal fans have had little to celebrate recently. The season of disappointments was made only slightly bearable by glimmers of former glory suggesting barely reaslized potential. Thierry Henry energized the team, but even his morale boost in the locker room couldn’t translate into a winning season.
Week after week, Robin van Persie did everything he could to stimulate the offense, and when he scored, he did so in true style, exemplifying all that one could want in a superstar. He remained calm and focused when it mattered most, and ironically, the only glimmer of unbridaled emotion we saw was when he screamed “No!” at Arsene when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was pulled from the field. Van Persie later down-played the strife between Arsene and himself, but one can reasonably assume that the emotion Van Persie was displaying was shared by Gunners fans all over. Due to the miserable season, many Arsenal fans were convinced Van Persie would jump ship as soon as his contract expired this coming summer. Though he’s currently making 80,000 pounds per week, the club is offering him a significant pay raise, increasing his salary to 100,000 pounds per week in addition to a sizable (but undisclosed) renewal fee. The Arsenal club is sure to change dramatically during the summer months and experience a significant makeover, but it’s comforting to know Rob will most likely still be around next year.
The Arsenal Supporters Trust is taking action. They are going to be polling the membership, attempting to gain a consensus regarding Arsene’s future with Arsenal. Seven consecutive seasons without a championship seems to be the golden number. The support that Arsene accumulated over multiple years has dwindled considerably, and his cache of nostalgia-based goodwill has all but evaporated. Arsene has essentially lived off his past accomplishments, but the capital just isn’t there anymore.
Arsene has chosen to spend less money than some of Arsenal’s rival clubs, and the money he has spent was invested in continuing an ongoing experiment that has been primarily a dismal failure. Investing in promising youth, expecting future dividends once the players gain some experience and maturity, makes sense from a purely theoretical perspective, but what works in theory does not necessarily translate to the pitch. Clubs like Manchester City and Manchester United are more immediate-results-oriented, spending their funds on experienced veterans that translate into…Well, winning seaons. Without the wait.
The AST wants to know whether or not Arsene was authorized to spend all of the club’s cash reserves (fifty million pounds at last count.) Did Arsene have the prerogative to spend all of the money, and if so, why didn’t he engage in more transfer activity during the periods encompassing the summer of 2011 and January of 2012 during the windows? If the money was held back, why wasn’t Arsene given the opportunity to spend it? These questions are well worth asking, and the answers will tell us much about the current state of Arsenal and Arsene’s status as well. Arsene has supposedly been given £55 million for this coming summer, what many sites refer to as hardly enought to reconstruct the team into a winning endeavor once again. That £55 million has to cover not just the cost of signings but the wages of the new signees, so we must hope Arsene chooses wisely.
The Arsenal directors have a regularly-scheduled board meeting this week, and the team’s profits will be under close scrutiny. The Arsenal owner, billionaire Stan Kroenke, is expected to fly into town to loudly and vocally express his sincere support for Arsene Wenger, which will do little to boost the confidence of Arsenal fans at this exact point in time. In a sure sign that he’s floundering, Arsene has attempted to bolster support by restating his belief that Arsenal will finish in the top four, thus qualifying for next year’s Champions League–something he equates with winning a cup. Nice to know he’s bold enough to keep expectations low.
Wenger’s contract with Arsenal doesn’t officially expire until 2014, but considering he’s still a top candidate to replace Mourinho at Real Madrid, a lot of Arsenal fans may be happy to help him pack.