One man’s meat is another man’s poison… or as the proverb was first written in 1576 states
“quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum”
what is food to one person may be bitter poison to others.
Thus it is that Arsenal fans saw their season hopes of Silverware disappear with another semi-final defeat. Yet console yourself with this thought, Normally no one remembers the losers of semi-finals, but what Arsene Wenger has brought to this club in particular and the football world in general means that Arsenal will be remembered for bitter sweet moments. Sweet moments like witnessing the Emirates with flags waving and noise that made the skin tingle, only to be silenced by the bitter score line on the field of play.
What I found more humiliating than the defeat by the best team in the Premier League, but not in the world or Europe, was the behaviour of many so called supporters during and after the game in the Stadium and on the airwaves. What is it about those who claim to support a great club like Arsenal, and yet they wish to destroy all hope of recovery at such a difficult time? What the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Man United have demonstrated is that money win trophies. Lots of money. Guess what, here at Arsenal football club we are on their heels, but without all of that money. There were glory hunters and disappointed fans leaving the ground, I refuse to call them Gooners anymore. These fans were voyeurs of a spectacle, and when that spectacle did not please them, they got up and left the auditorium.
So what if we have gone several seasons without trophies? Compared to the years between 1971 and 1989 We have been absolutely spoilt. Winning the league or finishing second has been taken for granted during the heady early years of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Succcess after success especially in the FA Cup saw Arsenal fans regularly attending finals. Even allowing for two Doubles along the way. Yet Man Utd apart, no other team had been as consistent as Arsenal Football Club, and the more sanguine among us are prepared to support, feel disappointed yes, but we realise that Arsenal Football club does not have a divine right to winning trophies. So the fans support should be unconditional for the club, in good times and bad times. But how this has changed…
Take the early exodus of fans from the game on Tuesday. What message is that sending to the players on the pitch that have to fight for the club? What encouragement is the sight of columns of fans streaming for the exits going to give our enemies? The humiliation of defeat was compounded by this embarrassing sight. The Club made an effort and had it thrown back in their faces. Contrast that behaviour with what we might have seen from Liverpool fans or the fans of Portsmouth. Who can forget that 2004 FA Cup quarter final tie at Fratton Park, when Pires and Henry destroyed Pompey with a breathtaking master class of beautiful football. The Pompey Chimes and the theme tune of “The Great Escape” was kept going until the end of the game despite losing 5-1. This is what REAL fans do, support their team in bad times as well as the good. These fans within Arsenal Football Club need to learn this simple lesson.
It is with the stark realisation of this humiliating defeat that makes me understand that there is only so much that a manager can do. After all of the preparation on the training ground, part of the responsibility that Arsene Wenger has, is to sit by and witness the consequences of his misplaced faith in certain senior players. It is my belief that given his detailed knowledge of our youth players, Arsene Wenger is well placed to deliver the glory days again, Which makes my meat, clearly another anti-Wenger Gooner’s poison. I make no apologies for Arsene Wenger’s mistakes. After the defeat by Fulham, If someone had told me that Arsenal would be in the semi-final of the FA Cup and Champions League and that we would finish the season in the top four, having gone 21 games undefeated in the Premier League then I would have taken it there and then without dismay. We have now another world class player to look forward to next season in the shape of Arshavin. The fans and Arsene Wenger have been humiliated by the lack of performance of key players in whom he entrusted the fortunes of the Club along with the inevitable damage to his reputation.
I ask those who call for Arsene Wenger’s head at this time to reflect upon the consequences that would follow. Any new manager would want to secure success through buying almost half a team of new players. That could amount to almost one hundred million pounds at today’s prices. That would have to be paid for somehow and the fans who pay some of the highest prices in the Premier League would no doubt bear the brunt. The current owners of the Club do not want to invest hundreds of millions in the club which they will never see again, as Vic Crescit pointed out, there are many people making themselves rich at the expense of Arsenal football club. In the hundreds of millions invested in share dealings, received collectively by David Dein, Danny Fiszman and now the Carrs, the fans have just a plastic flag to show for it. No wonder so many left the stadium so early in disgust. Yet this was a sincere attempt by the club to generate atmosphere. It worked for at least seven precious minutes, then the rest they say is history.
So if we agree that Arsenal cannot afford a new manager having to invest in half a team of new players, even if we sell before buying. Then you can understand why Arsene Wenger’s youth policy is a foundation for our future. But he must inject the right balance of experience with new players in the defence and attack. Arshavin has proved what we can do with one world class player added to the ranks. There is one aspect that causes me concern about Arsene Wenger, and that is what I would describe as his stubbornness. It’s almost as though he is determined to prove to his critics that he was right. The poor play of Denilson against Fulham merited a prolonged run in the team. The mistake of Keiran Gibbs against Manchester United resulted in substitution, even though in fairness the lad was very distraught. But if there is anything that would leave me speechless would be yet another season relying on Adebayor as the Arsenal saviour.
If progress is to be made, then selling Adebayor has to be one of the priorities. The statement by Adebayor on Arse com yesterday must be reverse psychology to ensure that the asking price from AC Milan is higher than the Milan outfit asking to be paid to take Adebayor off our hands. If on the other hand this is a statement prompted by Arsene Wenger in the face out mounting hostility towards the Togalese striker, then I’m afraid Arsene Wenger will alienate even more fans and we could see protests by fans and the return of unsavoury booing. I hate to say I told you so but it was way back in October 2007 that I wrote the following.
“One on one opportunities define a striker’s predator capabilities, these are the moments that they are paid for. They are not easy, and there is a lot of pressure and options that have to be considered as a striker in those vital moments. However, I have to state that it was Adebayor’s missed header in the first half, when Sagna crossed the ball to him, and he rose unchallenged only to duff the ball feebly into the ground and miss a cast iron chance, was the reason why I decided to make myself so publicly unpopular today. I find it frustrating to see those chances go begging, and in a tense encounter when against the Mancs, or Chelsea, when gilt edged chances have to be taken I hope and I pray that Adebayor proves me wrong.”
The on-off saga over the last summer left many Arsenal fans angry. His last two lazy performances for the club in both semi-finals has meant that opinions have hardened against him. So if Arsene is going to make this a point of principle, then this will cause consternation among many Arsenal Fans. This is what the player had to say.
“Before signing, I can remember people telling me I had the chance to win things, now I am empty-handed but I don’t have any reason for leaving until I have got trophies and what I came here for. Arsenal put me where I am today. They made me one of the biggest strikers in the world. I have to pay them back. How am I going to pay them back? Make them win trophies. That’s what I am here for and I have to fight for that. Next season, 100 per cent, I am an Arsenal footballer. I will do everything that it takes to come back next season and show how good I am, show character, personality and desire for this club.
I have been doing my best, giving 100 per cent in every single game but don’t forget last season I played without injury. This time I got three injuries and that has made it quite difficult for me. But we have a good squad. We are learning things and are all young so we just want to achieve things. As soon as we have the chance to win the first trophy, I think many will follow. We just have to believe and keep going. We are very disappointed tonight for the fans and for the way they believed we could do it. We are very sorry for that. But it’s very important for the next season that we are here to play and ready to bring glory to this Club.”
So my point for debate is next season how will we measure progress? Success begins at the back, and if the defence is not strengthened then there is the risk of a repeat of this season with more heartache in big games. We have many quality midfielders and what better platform to enable Arshavin and Walcott to show off their skills if we could introduce a top quality centre back to our ranks. So in my opinion Wenger must stay to coordinate the renaissance but should Adebayor? I am not touched by his apology, in fact if anything it has made me more angry. As I sense that it represents a cynical attempt to increase his transfer value…
Fabregas the King.