Photo Source: Independent.co.uk/Getty
By Graham Gillespie
I am an Arsenal fan, but the last thing I have wanted to do recently is talk about Arsenal. I generally enjoy talking about sport. I present a bloody sports radio show for god’s sake, but whenever the discussion turns to the club I watch the most and support the most fervently across any sport I have nothing to say. Why? Because what can be said about Arsenal that is new?
The thing that I feel makes Arsenal so difficult to write or talk about is the monotonous predictability of their seasons. They’re going to finish somewhere between second and fourth having flamed out of the title race by March, be knocked out of the Champions League in February and maybe have decent run in the FA Cup. Don’t get me wrong plenty of other teams would love to have that level of consistentcy but at Arsenal the repetitious nature of their campaigns has brought out some unsavoury anger amongst some sections of fans. Now as the Gunners were embarrassingly knocked out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage for the seventh consecutive year losing to Bayern Munich 10-2 on Tuesday things may well become even more toxic.
There is a division within the Arsenal support, however it is no longer defined by where you stand in the classic Wenger in/Wenger out debate as I think most fans have now reached a consensus that it now may be time for the most successful manager in the club’s history to leave his post. The 2014 FA Cup win and the euphoria of Aaron Ramsey’s winning goal felt like a genuine turning point for the club. It appeared to signal a new era of success with the stadium being nearly paid off and the club making big money signings in Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez. However with only one FA Cup since then, Wenger and his side have failed to be competitive for the major trophies and while the fans are still indebted to the service he has given to the club, few would still believe he is right man going forward for the job.
Instead the schism in the stands now is between the over the top, reactionary, scowling anger exemplified by Arsenal Fan TV and those, who whilst they might be frustrated, are not resorting to calling a club legend a “fucking fraud”. Of course Fans, especially those who pay such exorbitant prices for their season tickets, are entitled to air their criticisms but surely there must be a more respectful approach to voicing these opinions.
It’s also important to note that much of the Arsenal support’s grievances are not just directed at the manager. As evidenced by the protests that took place before the Bayern Munich game, the Arsenal board, led by chief executive Ivan Gazidis, also are not popular around Holloway Road at the moment. There is a perceived detachment between the board and the fans. Even if Wenger does leave, there is an awareness that Arsenal’s on field problems may persist as many don’t trust the board to find a suitable replacement and perhaps more importantly to implement the right structures such as having a director of football to facilitate a smooth transition. Arsenal’s club motto is “Victoria Concordia Cresit” which means “victory through harmony” but at this present moment all the. the various facets of the club are far from in harmony.
So just a brief warning, the next time you ask me “what do make of Arsenal?” I’m probably not going to answer.