‘I love my club but I don’t like it’, or something of that notion, is what a few bloggers here on BK said a few weeks ago. I think we can all sympathise with this notion to at least some extent. It is becoming harder and harder to identify with our beloved club and I reckon the main reason for this is a lack of vision and deterioration of our values. And that we live in dangerous times for football clubs, further exasperated by the colossal impact of Covid-19, you don’t need me to tell you. The club cannot afford to sit around and do nothing.
Arsene’s initial success of winning, beautiful football – playing football the Arsenal Way – has been superseded by other clubs – by first copying us successfully, and then building further on this and outpacing us with both money AND vision. Liverpool and Man City play football that is not too dissimilar to Arsenal’s version of total football between 1996-2006, but, for various reasons, Arsenal did not build further on its earlier successes; and in the process we have not only lost our connection to the top (four) but also our relatively recent acquired reputation of a club with a strong vision and values, and quality, entertaining football to boot. Gazidis picked the wrong coach and then departed himself, just six months after the biggest managerial appointment in over 20 years at Arsenal.
Some will argue that our vision and values were lost after Arsene finally departed but I think it goes deeper than that. Some, if not many, blame the owners fully for this but I reckon they are only partly to blame. The essence for me is that a successful club, in terms of having loyal supporters who not only love their club but also really like it, makes its supporters feel at home based around a vision for the future and values that will optimise the quality of football, both in terms of winning silverware but also a brand of football that delights the heart and gains the respect of all Arsenal – as well as many non-Arsenal – fans.
There is real hope that Arteta will be successful and so gain time and support from the BoD to return Arsenal to its former glory and reputation. This will go a long way in making the supports like the club again, but something else is needed. We need to attract and then bind players to the club we can all associate with. Wenger may have replaced British players with often cheaper and better foreign players, but those who came from European and African soils would love the club and stay loyal in most cases.
Over the last few years we have seen players come and go as they, and the club, please. We have become a stepping-stone club rather then a place to stay put and shoot roots. We have let genuine shirt-lovers like Giroud, Koscielny en Monreal go and have replaced them with new, and exciting, players who could be sold again in the (near) future, possibly with a juicy profit. Those French and Spanish players seemed to understand what it meant to wear the shirt and we fans felt that they were fighting for us. We could associate with them.
Auba does his best to connect with the club and I like Leno, Torreira and Xhaka too. There are a few others who have the potential to become stalwart Gunners but all of the players mentioned in the previous sentence could also be sold in just a few months. I have no doubt that Arteta’s vision and strategic plans will move us upwards and onwards, but in order to lay a strong foundation and get the supporters really back he will need to establish a core of intrinsically motivated, shirt-loving Gunners who will make Ashburton Grove their home of football. He cannot do it alone; the BoD need to support him all the way.