TGIF: Cos we are the proud ARSENAL!

PGL: I’m going to start this week with an admission… On Wednesday I was half way through an email to FTK asking to cancel this weeks TGIF. All I wanted to do was escape from the headspace of Tuesday night, it was consuming me like a depressed fat man consuming ice cream at Ben and Jerrys. I had enough of the result, the debate, the players, the manager, everything, all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and dream of the North Bank, Paul Davis and Tony Adams scoring that goal against Everton. When my mate’s (who organises travel and such for away games) emailed me, the title read ‘ManUre Away’ and I thought ‘I can’t go and listen to them singing about Rome, I can’t, nothing could be worse’…
So there you go. Tuesday shook me to my foundations but I’m pleased to report a quick text from my bro in New Zealand soon changed my outlook on things it read “Not much to say. Chin up. Go to Old Trafford and sing your heart out. Fu*k them.”
My brother always feels a tinge of guilt about my post defeat depressions. It’s something I learned from him, black clouds in the bedroom, the works but his text was a much needed slap of realism, so I’ll go to Old Trafford and sing my heart out. I’ll wrap my arms around the Gooners around me and support the club I love.
PGL: What next for Arsenal? That’s the big issue. Lots of new players? New Manager? A new transfer policy? Not bloody likely.
There is a strange idea propagated throughout the media and fans alike, that the youth policy at the club is Arsene Wenger’s Vision. He decided to go down this road. He said ‘we’ll sell all our players over 30 and trust the teenagers, we can do it on the cheap.’
I’m sorry folks but that is simply wrong. The CLUB decided on a plan of action to secure its future, the CLUB not AW alone. Mr. Wenger was presented a set or circumstances and told to find a way to make it work, and in a lot of ways he has. We remain in the top four, we played in two semi-finals this season, we have a side that competes and remains above teams like Villa and Spurs who have spent in the way and changed mangers in the way some fans are demanding. If you ask me its remarkable.
But I’m not blind AW has failed in some key areas. He has chosen players that at times do not compete the way they should. He has also failed to adapt to a recent coaching change which sees all the top clubs having specialist trainers working with players (a point I’m stealing from Berg 10, cheers buddy!) to improve detailed parts of their game. Pat Rice has been an amazing servant to the club but we need a number two who offers more than a yes man. Marco Van Basten would be ideal. Groom him to be our next manager with DB10 working with our forwards… AW needs to realise that squads need to be so big now he cannot spread himself thin enough to work with the players effectively.
FTK: Arsenal Football Club is again at a crossroads on and off the field. In just the same way that I have read the pain, anguish and frustration of Arsenal fans, we must understand that many fans of other clubs would give their right arms to be playing Champions League Football and to be considered one of the biggest clubs in the Premiership. Yet when one considers how the Board and Arsene Wenger have asked for our trust and patience, It is not unreasonable to ask how much longer?  I believe that much of the pain is due to witnessing players who don’t seem to care anymore. Theirs is such a comfortable world, earning enormous sums of money at a time when many people are wondering if they can even afford to go to the next match. We need people who care about the Shirt, the badge and what it means to play for Arsenal.
Whilst not wanting to bring politics into this blog, the effect of the Credit Crunch will mean that even if the Club will be able to withstand reduced revenues, it will still have to try and sell it’s extremely expensive seats in Club Level, these rich fans demand entertainment as well as trophies. If we see gaps in Club level next season, then there will be even more pressure on the Board. However what many people do not credit Arsene Wenger with is the fact that he has virtually been running the club single handedly until the appointment of Ivan Gazidis. He has put in place the foundation of youth players that will not only generate income through them being sold to clubs in the lower tiers, but the Academy will provide some of the most exciting players of the next generation.
We have arrived at a crossroads with a state of the art Stadium. The packed houses have ensured that by and large players have been retained. The only fly in the ointment is the Estates division and the lack of income being generated from sales of apartments. Now is the time for fans of Arsenal Football club seated on the Board to come and make a financial gesture. The model of self sustaining Club ensured that we have weathered the financial storms that threaten to take down the likes of West Ham, Newcastle United and Portsmouth. In terms of the turnover, we need to spend less than a hundred million to bring success back to the home of football. Next season I am convinced that Arsene Wenger will bring in several new players. I think that we will see the introduction of other world class players alongside Arshavin. I can’t wait for the new signings to be announced, because then the fans will feel even more confident.
So whilst we are all very miserable and down, angry and frustrated. Let me put this all in perspective. We have finished fourth in the Premiership after a season that we have seen the WORST football ever played by an Arsene Wenger side. Now the only way is up. The return of flowing fast attacking football is nigh… Keep the faith!
PGL: There has been debate and accusations and counter-accusations about our fans leaving the Emirates. And to be honest I can see both sides. I’m going to hand you over to a far more eloquent Gooner than I, Nick Hornby. He was writing about the end of the Graham era but it shows how fickle fans are, even the most loyal of them. So lets not be too harsh on those who departed, lets just ask that next time they think about sticking around:

“In the Winter of 93/94, I caught myself thinking, well, maybe it would be for the best if he went now. Like most Arsenal fans, I hadn’t enjoyed myself much at Highbury for a good season and a half; even the double winning cup year had provided very little in the way of excitement. The goals had dried up, the Championship apparently conceded before the end of August, and everyone, apart from the manager, felt the need for a striker and at least one, possibly two or three, new mid-fielders. Maybe I did want to see someone else take over, someone to build a new team, one that did something other than grind the opposition down week after week.
The defeat against Bolton in the FA Cup intensified the air of depression. A boring winning team is one thing; a boring losing team is quite another. I booed, and I was glad I booed, too, despite an article the next day in the evening standard accusing me and my fellow booers of unforgivable fickleness. (Journalists, eh? They watch a team a half-a-dozen times a season and then tell you what you should be thinking.)
A few weeks later I travelled to Copenhagen for the Cup-Winners-Cup Final. After the win, and the gut bursting performance, I sang “Gorgie Graham is Magic, he wears a Magic hat” over and over again, and I meant every word of it, every time”

FTK: I am rather less forgiving I’m afraid PGL. I understand the pain of seeing our side down after eleven minutes of the first half, but up until the slip from Keiran Gibbs, Arsenal were playing good football. There seemed little to fear until the wheel came off. I wrote the following in my blog.

My Revenge On Ben Foster

“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.”

If these fans had given 100% during the season, if every time clubs came to the Emirates, they were met by a wall of noise, If every time we went a goal behind, these fans became the twelfth man urging our players to scale the mountain of self doubt and pull a victory out of defeat, then I would see their point. I felt that at a time when the Club were being humiliated on the field, the breaking story was of fans leaving their seats in droves. I waved my flag and sang my heart out. There in Orange Quadrant upper tier, there were a few of us who REFUSED to betray the cause. Supporters in good times and bad times. The only difference is that these new fans who were given the pick of the best seats in the Emirates over longstanding season ticket holders from Highbury by virtue of their financial means have never experienced the lows and cannot deal with it. I have more sympathy for the fans that been there during the bad old days, but felt the disappointment of having their hopes and expectations destroyed by a failure of the team to fight. Some key players in the team gave up, capitulated miserably and frankly I wonder how they can look themselves in the mirror. I refuse to call those newbie fans Gooners anymore. I hope that many of them do not renew their tickets next season.
I would rather see the Emirates half full of passionate fans than the turgid pathetic excuse for support that I have had to witness week in week out. If we are going to get that kind of fan into the stadium, Arsenal Football club will have to stop pandering to the spoilt rich and famous. That was the pathetic experiment that Maximus and others should have been complaining about. You need to go to the away games to realise that we do have passionate fans. The real fans are probably reading this blog wishing that they could get to games. To even have the chance of singing those songs. Perhaps the most blatant interference by the arrogant elite in the club on Tuesday came when many fans had come in early and created an atmosphere reminiscent of the old days. When the fans sang the songs of the players and the players applauded back in recognition. It made my heart warm, only to turn to anger as the PA destroyed this real atmosphere with stage managed musak of the “Wonder of You” and the obnoxious childish calling out of players names. I left that behind in primary school… It is time for Arsene to get back to his footballing basics and for the fans to become real fans again.

“It’s easy to say that we need a bit of experience but I am convinced that we have the quality and we’ll continue to develop. If you look at the average age of the team it is still very young. To reach that level deserves a lot of credit but tonight we were caught by a team who has the art to kill and take advantage of mistakes. I believe Cristiano Ronaldo today gave us a tough time.”

PGL: During my sleepless Tuesday night I realised something, there is a new Thierry Henry playing in the Premiership, he’s called Ronaldo. A player who can produce the incredible, terrorises defenders and plays the game at a level the rest of professional football can only admire. Don’t get me wrong I hate the Greasy Tumbler but he is United’s Henry, the best player in the league and when he’s on his game he’s unstoppable.
The ‘young team’ tag must depart next season. Next season we must simply be a team and IMO Arshavin and one more experienced player will make that happen.
FTK: Don’t worry mate, Ronaldo will be off to Real Madrid in the summer, and then there will be a reckoning for Manchester United as the debts finally hit home. Unless they are taken over by arabs, the mancs have two seasons left before financial armageddon, and I for one can’t wait. It is wishing ill on our rivals, because I have failed to see much beautiful football from the side acknowledged as the best team on the planet. They have a wonderful defense and a hungry midfield, but without the likes of Rooney and Tevez and Vidic, believe me they would not be the potent force that they are. Van de Saar has been lucky this season that no-one has exposed his weaknesses. I was more angered by the Arsene’s pre match quotes than anything else. That to me was so untypical of the man. It signalled that he had failed to convince his players to believe in themselves. Coming out and saying in such overstated terms about the manner in which we were going to beat Man United, probably added to the disappointment of the genuine fans in the stadium on Tuesday.
PGL: Nicklas Bendtner. You actually appeared to care when you came on. You worked harder in twenty minutes than others did in 180. Yes you got caught with your strides down, but it was clear that the defeat hurt you. Hats and pants off to the Dane!
FTK: The Arsenal Board for placing 60 thousand flags in the stadium which for seven glorious minutes transformed the Emirates into the dream that I have always held for this stadium. Noise and support displaying passion, how I was deceived… It was merely an hallucination! Thanks again any way those in the club for trying to help generate an atmosphere.
PGL: Myles Palmer. I’m sick and tired of the Wenger bashing. We get it, you think he should go. Might increase the sales of your book if he does? Maybe you can re-release it with an extra chapter called ‘how I helped to bring down our best ever manager’? Maybe you honestly think AW leaving would be for the best thing… for your bank balance.
I will never visit your site again.
FTK: David Beckham for cheering Ronaldo’s goal, Evra of Man United for claiming that 11 men played against 11 children, Myles Palmer for his blatant attempt to profit from our unhappiness, and finally those fans who left early, who couldn’t even give support to the lost youth on the field. This lack of support was almost like booing the team. The Friday Fi nger has never been gestured quite so vigorously in so many different directions.
PGL: It’s hard to feel thankful about anything this week so I’m going to thank all readers of TGIF for allowing me to work out my issues in the writing of this blog. Cheers folks. Keep the faith and as my bro says ‘sing your hearts out. Fu*k them.’
FTK: To Arsene Wenger for not doing a Kevin Keegan and walking away from this club when the going got tough earlier in the season. He stayed and secured fourth place in the face of some of the most disrespectful horrible criticism I have ever read. Be very careful what you wish for you anti-Wenger faction, because it could have been very much worse.
Yes and also thanks to all of those disappointed Gooners who STILL believe, and are willing to see that this season was an aberration on many fronts. KEEP THE FAITH! We will achieve VICTORY THROUGH HARMONY, and unity of support, not through division.
ARSENAL ‘TIL I DIE, what does that really mean to you all? You may be down now, but dry the tears and push your chests out proudly, lets start next season on a roll. Probably the last season that we will have with Arsene Wenger at the helm.

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