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I hadn’t appreciated the length of Wenger’s shadow

ARSENAL 3 EVERTON 1
From Goodplaya at the Emirates

What a tangle of emotions and thoughts I experience when I look at Arsenal at the moment. I feel in my heart and in my head that this season has not been good enough and that change at managerial level would be welcome. And yet, there are a couple of things that must be acknowledged as we absorb the reality of finishing outside the Champions League places.

Point one is that we are, clearly the best team in Premier League history to finish outside the top 4. No team has ever done so with 75 points. Quite a lot fewer usually suffices. And point two is in a similar vein: look back at the league tables of the past 20 years and you’ll see Arsenal have very regularly finished with fewer (and in some cases quite a lot fewer) points than this year. As it happens we’ve also won the league in 1989 with 76 points and in 1998 with 78 points.

None of this is to excuse or wish away our failings or to suggest we deserved anything other than what we got. It’s just that amidst the inevitable deluge of criticism, it should be noted.

Today was fascinating. Stan Kroenke was the subject of loud and continuous chanting requesting he get out of our club. And yet, you couldn’t help feeling that it suited everyone just fine. Fans of greatly differing stripes when it comes to the future of Arsene Wenger could unite in dislike of Kroenke – there was no danger of fan-on-fan fighting while he was sung about. Arsene himself wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t happy to see the attention deflected onto someone else. And as for Kroenke himself, one assumes he doesn’t give a monkeys what anyone sings and is only too happy to act as a lightening rod for whatever discontent might be otherwise aimed at a manager it would appear he still backs.

On a related note, I feel I have learned something this season about the Arsenal fan base and in particular among those who attend the games, that I hadn’t previously realised. I now realise that when the debate about Arsene’s future first really bubbled up a few years ago I took an overly simplistic view. In my head, I thought the fan base could essentially be split into two camps: those who thought it was time he went and those who actively felt he remained the best choice as manager and therefore strongly felt he should stay.

What I don’t think I realised is that there are a great many people who pretty much regardless of results will simply never, ever overtly call for Arsene to go. I don’t think I had appreciated that their loyalty to him, their respect for what he did for the club is such that they could never turn their back on him. The irony of this realisation is that I am one of those people. Yes, I’ll acknowledge on here and in conversation with people that I think change is wise. But, honestly, I think I’d sooner he stayed for the next 10 years than me sing “Wenger out”. That is no criticism of those that do. Indeed, I am actually glad there are people prepared to say that and perhaps precipitate change. But the reality is, I and many, many others just aren’t.

And so I heard hardly a word against the manager today and yet not a word or a song in favour either. He didn’t even join the lap of whatever we’re meant to call it post game. It’s extraordinary. I think were he to go there would be very few protests. And yet the majority will probably never, ever call for it, such is the shadow he casts over the club.

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