From the outside looking in, everything seems to be fine in Gunner land. King Henry comes back to save the day with a late winner against Leeds in a 1-0 victory and Arsenal hosts Aston Villa in the next round of the FA Cup.
However, after reading between the lines, I wasn’t too thrilled with Arsene Wenger’s pre-game “motivational speech” to the fans, players, owners, and sponsors. I realize that football’s changed over the last few decades and there’s a lot of negativity attached to it these days, but has it really come to the point where managers are setting their team up to fail even before kickoff?
In my eyes Wenger disrespected the FA Cup and everybody involved with the competition before the match against Leeds by telling the press that it isn’t really that important. He said it’s a “bonus” and is played for “enjoyment” since it’s a compulsory tournament. He basically wrote the Cup off before the players laced up their boots and had many fans wondering why they should spend their hard-earned money on tickets or tune in to watch the game on television.
I’m sure one of the last things club owners and sponsors want to hear before a game is that the world’s oldest cup competition isn’t important. What message does this send to the players and fans? It’s basically a pre-arranged excuse for coming up short on the pitch and gives the players a reason to put in a sub-par performance. If the manager doesn’t care about the game and competition then why should they? It’s sad enough that football managers feel this way about domestic cups, but they should be keeping all negative thoughts to themselves as they don’t do anybody any good.
Wenger said the real goal for the Gunners this and every other season is to qualify for the Champions League. But why, isn’t it the objective of football teams to try and win every game they play? Why pick and choose the matches you’re going to put an effort into winning and those you can’t be bothered with? After winning nothing for six years Arsenal fans want to see some silverware, no matter what competition it’s won in.
Qualifying for the Champions League pads the team’s bank account but other than a few extra games and higher ticket prices I’m not really sure what it offers the fans. When Arsenal does make it to Europe, like they usually do, all I hear is Wenger moan about the fixture list. But he’s not the only one. I remember Alex Ferguson coming out the day before a Champions League game in Turkey or somewhere a few years ago and saying how the team would be happy to go home with a 0-0 draw.
If I’ve just flown to the continent to support United and spent a few thousand quid doing it I’m definitely going to ask myself what’s the point? These types of statements are harmful to a club since the players may easily adopt the same attitude. Why can’t football managers and players display true enthusiasm and passion for the game like the fans do? These guys use whatever they can for convenience sake. If their team’s playing poorly in the Champions League they suddenly say the Premier League is their priority and if they’re struggling in the league they announce to the world they’re concentrating on the Champions League.
It’s easy to see why some of the older football fans are becoming jaded with the modern game and modern-day players and managers. I’ve noticed Wenger always has his finger cocked and loaded when it’s time to point the blame. He has a bad habit of blaming everybody else for the team’s shortcomings. He goes on about the referees, the schedule, the weather, and whatever’s convenient on the day. Not once have I heard him take responsibility himself. Have you ever heard Wenger say he picked the wrong starting 11 or admit he made poor substitutions? I haven’t.
Anyway, everybody’s happy for another day and Wenger can thank Henry for saving him the embarrassment of being prematurely knocked out of another competition. But if Arsenal supporters are happy to settle for an empty trophy case and mediocrity, then that’s exactly what we’re going to get. I think the fans deserve a lot more than just qualifying for the Champions League. We’ve done it for 14 years straight now and haven’t won that either. There should be a lot more to this game than just money.