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

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.

26 Responses to “I hadn’t appreciated the length of Wenger’s shadow”

  1. Beardy says:

    I personally found it quite sad that he didn’t walk round the pitch with the players. My assumption at the time was that he didn’t want to run the risk of being a focal point for abuse. Regardless of your opinion about him, I don’t think that’s healthy.

  2. Johnno says:

    Very good article. I`m also one of those fans who simply cannot bring himself to shout or sing Wenger out. I do think that a change is probably the right call and not just for The Arsenal either. I actually think Wenger would benefit from it as well. I am in absolutely no doubt that he is still one of the top 5 or 6 managers in the world and I`m sure he`ll build a great side and have success wherever he goes but I cant help but feel that things have gone a little bit stale. The Kroenke chants today were just embarrassing in my opinion. People who dont want to slag off the manager or team and are using any old excuse to let off some steam. There is zero merit to their complaints in my opinion. Its no wonder the rest of the country laugh at us, our fanbase reminds me of the spuds in the 80`s. Sadly the team are beginning to resemble them as well. Maybe I`m also becoming a soft spoilt brat as well. I remember a time when qualifying for Europe and getting to an FA Cup Final would have been seen as a great season. Ive seen a lot of shit Arsenal teams in my life and this isnt one of them. The old saying of be careful what you wish for is well overused but it does have a lot of merit and in 10 years time we might look back at the last 4 years (3 FA Cups hopefully) with great fondness. Anyway, cheers for a good read mate.

  3. Steve says:

    Your point about points totals doesn’t stand up because it doesn’t take into account how much the game has changed over the years.

    The top 6 clubs are now so much wealthier than the other 14 teams in the league, that they are amassing bigger points totals than before. When we won the league in 1998 with 78 points, the gap between the top 6 and the rest was far smaller, therefore the league was more competitive. Only Man Utd had serious money. Fast forward 20 years later and the top 6 (including Arsenal) now regularly benefit from massive TV money and massive financial rewards for competing in Europe, and have vastly superior resources to the rest of the league. So 75 points, with our huge resources as one of the ‘elite 6′, isn’t all that impressive when put into context.

    Plus, when you consider we have the 4th highest wage bill in the league, have the 3rd highest net transfer spend over the past 5 years and are the 7th wealthiest club in Europe, we are underachieving no matter how many points we got 19 years ago.

  4. Goodplaya says:

    Steve – point (!) taken re 19 years ago but look back at the last few years. We were 2nd last year with 70 and in recent years significantly lower points totals than 75 have been enough to qualify.

  5. 5am says:

    I know and appreciate that feeling-especially as I’ve called for a long time to see him to go. However, given his influence, along with the a number of positives and even success over the years, there’s also a feeling of sadness given the respect he should still hold regardless.

    Watching his last press conference tonight really brought that home and if I were a betting man there’s quite a few things in there which suggested he might at this stage want to walk.

    Perhaps something might depend on the board and Gazidis making a statement of intent, together with some agreed structural changes to put forward a convincing strategy where loyalty this time is shown to Wenger, whilst he doesn’t rest on any laurels about managing to turn things round -not that in the cold light of day with what goodplaya has pointed to over the level of points and being in the FA cup would suggest that it’s actually not been the worst of seasons… even if it does mean Europa league, which we’d have more of a chance of winning! :-)

  6. King Henry says:

    Europa League – our level.

  7. N7 says:

    Very well put ‘playa, and a post I’m sure will resonate with many fans. Nobody wants to be bratty or ungrateful towards someone who has done so much for the club.

  8. N7 says:

    Very well put ‘playa, and a post I’m sure will resonate with many fans. Nobody wants to be bratty or ungrateful towards someone who has done so much for the club.

  9. slc gunner says:

    Even though I have voted with the Wenger Out group on this blog, I cannot imagine actually chanting those words in the stadium. As a tv viewer most of the time, I have not have to make that choice, but can understand the predicament.
    As for Kroenke, while he is the proverbial absentee landlord, I think it’s wrong to blame him entirely. Yes, he’s not liked and his teams in the US have rarely won titles. But Arsene did spend more money last summer than at any time in the past, so the purse strings are not as tight as they once were. Even Arsene admitted that it is his team (coaching staff) and not Kroenke that is to blame for the season.
    In truth, the season has been the same as the last 3-4 years, it’s really just an odd coincidence that we ended up out of the CL spots. 75 points is close to our average for the past 6-7 years, if not a little above. The problem is that we haven’t improved, even after spending more money than ever.

  10. Elvis says:

    A lot of sentiment for a man who loves the club and is loyal to it. The heart is ruling the head, perhaps understandably.

    But, never mind Chelsea, we are a long way behind Tottenham this season. We cannot just point at the limitless cash of oligarchs. Spurs are nothing like as rich as Arsenal; two years of CL money against 20, a much smaller stadium and smaller fan base buying merchandising – yet they are well ahead of us right now. This is a huge failure for Arsene to have let Spurs slowly and inexorably overtake us on his watch.

    As King Henry says, Europa League is our true level; second tier, second best. We are embarrassed every year in the last 16 of the CL but the EL is a trophy we can challenge for.

    To get back to where we were there needs to be a new, hungrier, more ruthless board, an owner who actually cares and a manager who sets the pace tactically, is ahead of the game in the transfer market and builds his team up from the defence.

    I hope he steps down gracefully after the FA cup final which is 80% likely to end in defeat. If in the unlikely event we win it, he will stay though.

  11. MDP says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Elvis and his penultimate paragraph. Sorry Johnno but the fans that sang ‘Stan Kroenke get out of our club’ had it bang on. Stan is an embarrassment and a burden to Arsenal Football club, where is he? This club needs a new owner that actually cares about Arsenal and can drive us forward with the same vision and ambition that set about the move to the Emirates in the first place. We’ve sat in a powerful place amongst some of the richest clubs just lately and we’re throwing it all away.

    I once looked at Chelsea with disdain for how they set about buying themselves to glory under Roman Abramovich but now I see an owner that is deeply engrained into the fabric of a football club and is there week in and week out cheering them on. I feel dirty saying that but in comparison to Stan Kroenke what do we have? An owner sat back in the shadows using our great club as a cash cow for his own gain.

    It goes without saying that the legend and best manager we’ve ever had in Arsene Wenger will be remembered for all his incredible achievements and love and commitment to Arsenal Football Club whatever happens in the coming weeks. Sadly the owners and board have hung him out to dry whilst his flaws have been badly exposed. Once again I return to Elvis in agreement that a more tactically astute manager, who builds from the bottom up simply bringing with them fresh ideas should be next on the agenda however difficult that maybe and however long it takes.

  12. Delve 348 says:

    Utterly predictable. As soon as Mikel Arteta leaves the club, we drop out of the top four. It was basically his leadership and class that were keeping us there for the last five years.

  13. PD says:

    Goodplaya, amazed it’s taken you so long to realise the split in the fanbase is more complex than it looks. I do not know a single Gooner who thinks he should stay on but I also do not know a single one who isn’t dreading the day he is gone. It’s been that way for a while.

    Johnno, some of the other fans that laugh at Gooners may think we’re spoilt brats…but I would wager more of them laugh because of the constant excuses some make for Arsene : injuries, refs….and all the others…that’s certainly my experience.

    I wouldn’t have thought it possible but I’m still amazed by some of the stuff said by Gooners lately :
    - how can people possibly take a view on whether Arsene should stay or go, based on the results on Sunday/the Cup Final. You want him to stay or go, stand by your opinions people ffs.
    - anyone (& there are a few) who thinks the last few weeks results are proof we can push on and win the league next season is an idiot.
    - Hearing Arsene moan about teams being on holiday while his team get a run of results based on playing teams in exactly that position is just embarrassing. (has anyone ever seen Stoke put in less effort against Arsenal ? I certainly haven’t)
    - the same people who thought going from 4th to 3rd to 2nd while our points dropped was proof of progress are now adamant that dropping to 5th while our points go up to 75 is also progress. Go figure.
    - Wanting Arsene to stay on & be given €200m to spend this summer as a last hurrah after watching his actions in the transfer market the last few seasons ? Scary.

    Round & round we go in Arsenal Groundhog Day. It’s hard for anyone to say anything new at this stage. There is nothing interesting about Arsenal these days. The arguments don’t change, Arsene’s comments don’t change, Kroenke doesn’t care, we’re still in a position where our best players are probably going to leave….Boring Boring Arsenal.

    Just one last thing : Arsene’s comments about the horrible atmosphere the players had to deal with….on home results alone, we would have finished 3rd. On away results alone, 6th. Given our away support is always magnificent, I think you’re way off the mark there Arsene.

  14. Johnno says:

    Re. MDP. No bother, youre entitled to your opinion but since Kroenke walked through the door our net spend has gone up massively, our wage bill has increased massively and our turnover has done the same. I think only Man City and Man Utd have spent more than us in the last 5 years. As for him being in the shadows, that is true but that has always been The Arsenal way. Hill Wood liked to make the odd controversial comment but our Board have by and large always kept quiet and left the manager to manage. It is also true that he is absent more often than not. I`d prefer him to be a little closer to his investment and to attend more games but for every Abramovich there is a Mike Ashley or Simon Jordan. I remember Ashley turning up at The Emirates in the Away end drinking pints down in one. It hasnt made him any more popular with newcastle fans though. At the end of the day, people are rightfully judged on results. Kroenke has backed the manager and Wenger admitted as much after Sundays game. There is plenty of money available for Arsene to spend but he doesnt seem to want to spend it. Maybe the fans who were singing for Kroenke to leave are just frustrated that he hasnt sacked Wenger yet. And that gets back to the central point of this article, ie, fans who cant bring themselves to shout for Wenger to go so instead have turned their attention to an easier/softer target.

  15. Johnno says:

    Re. PD. No mate, I think youre are wrong. Most football fans think Wenger is a great manager who has done a great job and would swap places with Arsenal fans everyday of the week. You musnt confuse piss taking with reality. They laugh at us because we have become a bunch of entitled cunts. They are right to laugh at us. I used to laugh at the Yids in the 80`s for much the same thing. I cringe watching Arsenal fan TV and listening to radio phone ins because I know the rest of the country love it. Soft, spoilt, entitled and fickle, thats what we have become.

  16. MDP says:

    Agreed that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That’s one of the things I love about football, differing opinions.

    I see the Wenger managerial debate and the Kroenke debate as related but two different things. We question Wenger on the job he does as a football manager. We question Stan Kroenke on the job he does as an owner. Different things.

    I don’t think the improved financial situation has anything to do with Kroenke. The new stadium wasn’t his vision and lucrative sponsorship and TV deals are part of the modern game. That’s where Wenger can stand proud as it is he that raised our profile and status to a point that made the more lucrative deals possible.

    Yes, the Arsenal hierarchy of the past, the Hill Woods, David Dein, Ken Friar etc did sit back to some extent but even as a kid I knew exactly who they were and had a sense of what Arsenal meant to them. You hear someone like Peter Hill Wood, Ken Friar or David Dein interviewed and their passion is as deep as ours. I used Abramovich as an example not because I have much respect for the man but I think he is more comparable to Kroenke in the fact he has not grown up with his club running through his veins. Yet, as a more modern type of owner he seems to get it right what ever you’re stance is on sugar daddy clubs. I recognise the dangers of going down that road but we’re already in it up to our necks with Stan.

    It’s well documented the control that Wenger has over footballing matters without appearing to be accountable. This level of freedom seems unprecedented at any other club that I’m aware of. This alone seems so unhealthy. We all want to see managers given the time and respect they need but in any organisation you need to be open to criticism and ensuring that the best interests of the organisation are being met. No single person should be bigger than the club. This for one has always been a huge concern. On top of that when the shit was really going down this season and talk of the managers contract and next season was really hitting the fan the owner and the CEO were silent. Arsenal have just been left floating with Wenger the only one left to deflect the questions from the media. I can’t condone the actions of some fans but I’m hardly surprised it’s come to in fighting when the club is in such a shambles at the top. An owner/leader should be standing up at times like this and steadying the ship. This is the cause of all the embarrassment for me. Spurs fans are laughing because they see that we are crumbling at the core of the club and they know exactly what that feels like. I’m sorry but I’m not alone in this and this is an entirely different debate to should Wenger stay or go and probably more important. It’s not a deflection from the manager debate but it’s a very real problem that threatens the future of Arsenal Football Club.

    Some fans may appear like spoilt brats in their behaviour but that’s a direct result of the confusion from the very top of the clubs. A large percentage (a sweeping majority I’d say) of the fan base including myself don’t see success as a divine right. Instead we recognise the shear hard work an effort put in over the last 20 years to keep Arsenal ahead of the game. To steal a march on some of our rivals like Spurs or Liverpool. Wenger gave us teams and the high profile to match that vision hence the fact his input will never be tarnished or forgotten. We rubbed shoulders and didn’t look out of place with the footballing elite like United, Barca, Madrid or Bayern for the best part of a decade. Thanks to the incredible work by Wenger and the predecessor’s of Kroenke and Gazidis we’ve got this incredible opportunity to step up to the next level. The foundations are all there. Not a divine right but our club has earned this opportunity. Sadly we’re throwing it away right now and stagnating. If it all passes us by and we still expect to be amongst the elite then we can be called spoilt.

    We need an owner that can finish what was started and protect the legacy of those that went before. We need a ruthless, ever present who truly gives a shit and faces up to what’s needed and understands the importance of the past.

  17. PD says:

    Never watched Arsenal fantv & not listened to a radio phone-in for at least 15 years. You think they’re representative of most Gooners ? Come on, that’s just daft…..from what I remember of phone-ins every person who rings in sounds ridiculous : regardless of what club they support.

    From where I stand, most football fans (non-Arsenal) think Arsene WAS a great manager, not is. Among my friends & work colleagues there is very much a ‘why doesn’t he just go’ attitude. They all think he’s finished & can’t understand why he still thinks he can turn it around and why the club still support him. What’s amazed me is the level of sympathy for him : even people who never had time for him recognise his greatness and think it sad he can’t see his time has gone.

    ‘Soft, spoilt, entitled and fickle’….maybe you’re right that’s what Arsenal fans have become…..but to suggest the rest of the country laugh at us because of it ? Not for me…because if that’s what Arsenal fans have become then so have all football fans. This is just the way modern football is, or indeed modern life is. Arsenal are no more or less affected than any other club imo.

  18. PD says:

    Cup final day…..come on u Gunners! Let’s have a Ray Parlour moment from someone please.

    (I’m desperately hoping the Cech being dropped rumours aren’t true cos if they are, my enthusiasm will be crushed)

  19. Elvis says:

    We’d be underdogs at full strength. As it is we’re wheeling out a defence that would struggle to keep Sunderland from knocking in a few. Time for a miracle.

  20. Elvis says:

    I believe in miracles!

  21. slc gunner says:

    A beautiful day. Wouldn’t be Arsenal if we didn’t have to suffer for it a little.

  22. King Henry says:

    Peter Osgood, Sean Locke, Fat Frank Lampard, John Terry, John Major, Gianfranco Zola, David Mellor, Jeremy Vine, Roman Abramovich, Diego Costa, Richard Attenborough, Didier Drogba, Gordon Ramsey, Ashley Cole, Sebastian Coe… your boys took one hell of a beating today.

  23. PD says:

    Wow. I’ve quoted Amy Lawrence here many times with her quote re: how the team selection isn’t as important as the attitude. Exactly as today was : Arsene’s goalkeeping decision was a joke but the team were so great we can overlook it.
    Seems a shame to pick out an individual but I have to : in the circumstances the BFG gave one of the greatest individual performances you will ever see. Extraordinary. Well done big man.

    She wore, she wore…..

  24. Delve 348 says:

    A captain’s performance from the Captain. Immense.

    John Terry looked totally gutted at the end. Sweet.

  25. PD says:

    It really was Delve. Having set the captaincy bar so low for the last few years I’m amazed you could tell the difference!!!

  26. says:

    This information is very essential, thanks a lot for sharing! I am so excited to be supplied with such a significant article.

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