Sitting down last night at the Bengal Lancer over a Chicken Pathia and a few cold Cobras, I had plenty to talk about with my cousin. We hadn’t seen each other for about 17 years but I always knew he was a hearty Gooner. “You might as well blow yourselves out now with Arsenal,” said my West Ham supporting dad, and so we did. We agreed on all the fundamentals: that Almunia is shit, the trophy famine is down to a lack of hungry players, spending to improve the spine of the team is necessary, and that my brother had been a pussy ordering the Korma.
So why in our separate worlds had my cousin and I known that Arsenal’s goalkeeping assortment was about as good as the general election options? If my stomach could have managed a side dish we might have covered Arsenal’s history since we last saw each other, but it couldn’t so instead we went over the problems between the posts and the last five years.
The ground we stepped upon wasn’t really anything new because it had already been trodden down by other Arsenal fans with the same ideas across the country, probably speaking like us, digging into Buna’s, Balti’s and (for the brave among us) Phall’s. Why then can the average Joe see things more clearly than Wenger? How could one man seem to get it so wrong when the millions of outsiders looking in had known the roots to Arsenal’s troubles all season?
It was exactly that, that one word: outsiders! People on the periphery often have a clearer perception of things, whatever it might be. I remember my first year in halls at University when one girl had her man troubles at home and needed advice. I thought it strange at the time why she would come to me and not her friends, but I guess having the opinion of someone with an impartial view on things would deliver more sense. Perhaps it is the same at Arsenal.
Could Wenger’s judgement be clouded by the good nature and noble standing of his players? They all seem nice enough; Eboue with his charm and end of match shirt donations to the crowd, Walcott’s Eton speaking skills or even Diaby’s docile temper. But can this detract Wenger from seeing what is most important, giving the fans a return for their money with results and trophies? To Wenger, this is undoubtedly imperative, yet I’m sure taking care of his colleague’s careers is equally so, and a big reason for his serene tolerance of them.
The average football fan isn’t as forgiving and probably doesn’t have the patience of somebody like Wenger. After his howler against Wigan, Wenger was quick to defend Lukas Fabianski, explaining we will see his talent come through and on that day he will be right. There is nothing wrong with standing by a young keeper and there have been plenty of times I’ve sided with mates who were definitely in the wrong, but that’s just the way it is.
Still, this doesn’t side-step the fact that the fan holds a valuable position in a football club’s make-up. Of course, the football fan doesn’t interact with the players on a day-to-day basis, instead only sees the weekend game which is the thing the intensive mid-week build-up has been all about. At the end of the day, the 38 games of a Premier League campaign is where a club’s season is judged, far from the niceties that goes with running a club from Monday to Friday.
I’m not saying that the manager should have no contact with the players and chose his team by sitting in the stands once a week and taking notes from there. This is what Gravesend and Northfleet tried, by allowing the fans to choose the team. Somehow I don’t believe a Conference club could have 30,000 fans and this footballing model scares me, to think some businessman in Japan is playing a little fantasy football with my club for a few poxy shares.
Having said that, the voice of the fans should be taken more seriously as their viewpoint is precious in being straightforward and uninfluenced. If Wenger needs some advice then a quick Q and A after the Fulham game wouldn’t hurt. My advice would be to spend the larger chunk of this summers transfer budget on a ‘keeper already considered top-class. That, and not to eat such a spicy dish on a work day, so unfortunately Insiders, I will have to end things there. Only pray there is toilet paper!

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