Among all the manure that has hit Arsenal this season: departure of our best player, goal-scorer and captain to one of our arch-rivals; knockouts from both domestic cups by lower divisions teams; probable exit from the Champions League in first knockout stage; a lot of poor performances in Premiership, ridden with individual errors; horrible first halves of the games; and lack of points in big matches – the conflict between so-called AKBs and so-called AAAs (both labels are idiotic) probably takes top spot on the stupidity list.
Both sides – with good reason frustrated by lack of trophies – point fingers at someone.
For so-called AKBs, Arsene Wenger and whole management of Arsenal are just victims of the market-quake created by Roman Abramovich in 2003; and continued by oil-money-driven clubs like Manchester City, Malaga and Paris Saint-Germain, or members of post-communist Russian oligarchs that make clubs like Anzhi and Zenit European powerhouses (more on financial level than in terms of being comparable to Barcelona or Real Madrid; clubs who enjoy duopoly in Spain, thanks to both special TV-rights status and the lenient policy that Spain have regarding clubs who have huge tax debts).
Arsene Wenger, according to this side, deserves endless trust and would like him to remain Arsenal manager forever. If there is anyone to blame, it’s fans spoiled by greatest successes in Wenger-era: three Premierships, four FA Cups, four Community/Charity Shields, reaching the Champions League final, and flowing and eye-catching football. In McCarthyism fashion, these ‘spoiled’ fans are labelled as Anti-Arsenal Arsenal; spoiled brats who are ruining Arsenal from inside, by either making blogs, and other kinds of internet-comments, full of criticism towards Wenger; or by booing and showing disappointment in any way possible at the Emirates, or in away games. The AKBs also believe the self-sustainability model is the right one, even if that means we are not winning trophies.
For so-called AAAs, Arsene Wenger and the whole management of Arsenal are victims of their own incompetence and lack of footballing ambitions.
Arsenal – in every possible way – have been suffering due to insatiable desire to make profit, even if that means selling best players and, therefore, forfeiting against rivals who either sign those players, or world-class players from other clubs. There are members of that group who think that missing out on Champions’ League would actually be a blessing in disguise, as Wenger and the Board would lose the ability to build another Potemkin village for eyes of the fans, by showing Champions League qualification as a trophy.
The most extreme ones claim Wenger was just lucky to inherit George Graham’s defence, Bruce Rioch’s Bergkamp, and to sign three huge French talents in Vieira, Pires and Henry thanks to David Dein’s support. If Stan Kroenke would give up on Arsenal in favour of, say Alisher Usmanov – officially the richest man in Russia – we would make an immediate come-back to the top. While Kroenke and Gazidis are money-thirsty crossovers of hyenas and vultures, Wenger is their accomplice because he signed a pact with the Devil.
While I was writing a comment in response to one of the articles at Untold Arsenal which basically included the sentence above, it suddenly hit me what the real reason is behind the whole conflict: lack of consensus what exactly a pact with the Devil means.
For so-called AKBs, the real pact with the Devil would be abandoning the path of self-sustainability in favour of a rich oil-money/Russian-oligarchs owner, who would consider Arsenal as his favourite toy and probably sign a lot of world-class players who would MAYBE give us short-term success. And then, when our rich owner decides he had enough of his toy, we might be much closer to Portsmouth or, in best case, Malaga; clubs who are struggling after the honeymoons with their rich sugar-daddies ended.
For so-called AAAs, keeping the current status quo is equally regarded as a pact with the Devil. Arsene Wenger either watches the back of the Board, or fails to impose any kind of request regarding transfer policy. Wenger – who is one of the best paid managers in the world, which is in collision with his declared socialistic-wage-structure-policy, accepts the current state, as long as he earns more than seven million pounds per year. The Board get what they want; sales of the best players bring in a lot of money, while Wenger usually manages to find cheaper replacements that are good enough to qualify for the Champions’ League; and, subsequently, the lucrative revenues that come along with Champions League qualification. Wenger has a very secure and well-paid position to perform his experiments with young and/or unproven players.
To the certain level, both sides have their point.
Pro-Wenger fans are right when they point out that Arsene Wenger transformed Arsenal into consistent force, and that he has been more or less a victim of his own success. I would add that the chronology of the events didn’t do him any favour as well: had he spent, say, eight years without trophy before winning the double in the ninth season, reaching Champions’ League final in the tenth, winning another double in eleventh, two consecutive FA Cups in 12th and 13th, having Les Invincibles season in 14th with two Community Shields won in 15th and 16th season, Gooners would be fulfilled with optimism just like fans of FAnchester United have been with Alex Ferguson since 1990, despite fruitless years at the start of Ferguson’s United career.
They are also right when they point out at the examples of Malaga or Portsmouth: rich owners sometimes don’t put their money where their mouths are. It’s hard to disagree with conclusion that our switch from Highbury to Emirates would probably have fewer consequences on our financial competitiveness, had Roman Abramovich decided to have a different hobby in 2003.
The thing is, he didn’t. He decided to splash billions on Chelsea and changed the face of the market in an irreversible way. And here comes the part when anti-Wenger fans have their point.
Arsene Wenger failed to adapt to new conditions. Instead of doing that, he has opted for going with same actions year after year expecting a different/better outcome. Whether he has been forced to do that by Kroenke, Gazidis et al, or he has been doing that by his own free will doesn’t change the fact he didn’t do anything (or at least enough) to fix things that are obviously broken. If large part of conceded goals every season come from set-pieces due to poor positioning or lack of muscles and good ugliness in defence (raise your hands if you pictured Martin Keown), then we should have done something by now.
If our key players get long-term injuries more than players of any other team in England, than we should question our training sessions, medical team, and fitness coaches. If we constantly concede goals from our opponents’ best players, then perhaps playing our own game without giving a rat’s ass for what opponents are going to do, isn’t exactly the smartest thing to do. Instead of making same mistakes every year, Wenger should have made a few ultimatums to the Board even if it means he might get fired.
Unfortunately, it seems that the real Devil is neither Stan Kroenke nor Alisher Usmanov. It’s worse than that. The real Devil is Arsene Wenger’s vanity; the Devil that doesn’t allow him to see his mistakes, not to mention fixing them (I wrote a text about what we should and should not blame Wenger about three months ago: http://allarsenal.com/guestposts/wenger-analysis-what-we-cancannot-blame-wenger-for/ ).
Every time questions regarding Wenger’s actions pop up, Wenger’s Vanity attacks back; mostly mentioning his achievements from the past, or accusing fans of unrealistic ambitions, even if Wenger himself was the one that nurtured those ambitions (the best example: Arsene Wenger called this season’s squad “the best he has ever assembled”, only to warn fans over “unrealistic expectations” a few months later).
How to conclude this? It is easy. AKBs’ motto is: “We want Wenger for life.” AAAs’ motto is: “We want our Arsenal back.”
Let’s find the way in the middle: I want our Arsene Wenger back from the jaws of his own vanity.
I want our Arsene Wenger back: a man capable of making champions AND winning trophies; a man capable of making brave and smart decisions. Admitting mistakes, and fixing them in the summer transfer window, would be the bravest and smartest possible decision.
Written by: Admir.
Admir also writes for the website http://www.allarsenal.com and is based in Bosnia and Herzegovina.