The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

The Manager Keeps Talking

And talking and talking and talking

I don’t have a problem with him taking shots at fans as such; fans take shots at him and he’s got every right to respond. I do take issue with him having absolutely no idea what fan concerns actually are, and consequently arguing with the caricature of people critical of his decisions he has in his mind. Every fan has their own concerns so I won’t speak for others, but a major one of mine is: very little which is said by club representatives can be trusted these days. A week ago Wenger wanted all his business done by opening day; now it’s the 26th-31st. I understand that plans change, but why tell stories in the press about both days? To put pressure on potential business partners? I thought Arsenal didn’t negotiate in public, a stance which between these comments and the public wittering over Chamakh’s price seems to have fallen by the wayside….

The major issue here is that the club and the people who run it are selling the future and asking fans to trust them. 5 years ago that was reasonable, because they had accrued a great deal of gravitas and auctoritas through a long track record of success, and were rightly viewed within and without as one of the most straight-dealing clubs in the sport. The trust they asked for was trust they’d earned. 5 years later the board is substantially different, there’s constant contradiction between what’s said by one person and what’s said by another or what’s said by the same person week to week, the stories and claims don’t match up with the actions, and the results have fallen away. Finishing 4th isn’t a disaster; finishing 5th wouldn’t be a disaster. Finishing 4th 3 years in 4 and 3rd the other while saying next year is going to be different every year though few meaningful improvements are made, allowing obvious issues to fester, and telling increasingly incredible stories that are contradicted by events is a disaster, because it erodes the trust of people who care about the club and it’s ruined what was once one of the strongest institutional reputations in the industry. The proof is in events; it took years for Wenger to be criticized to his face and years for there to be a substantial portion of fans with grave concerns, and it will likely take years more before they outnumber the “Arsene Knows” contingent.

But that process is now in motion- not because of any one game or any one year or any one transfer or any one anything at all, but because the club and the manager have demanded trust and sold credibility for time, and now the bill is coming due with little to show. When trust is offered from fans to club, it is offered in expectation that those in charge know what’s best and that their methods will eventually bear fruit; right now that trust, if these comments are taken at face value, is being used to begin to prepare fans for the possibility of finishing 5th or 6th. I think fans would accept even that, if they knew why it was happening; but when there’s a real risk of entering a second consecutive season with no decent defensive midfielder after 3 were allowed to leave the club in one year, when there’s enormous surpluses from transfers which aren’t reinvested into the team, when our captain is quoted to the effect that this is “a difficult time”, questions begin to be asked- not from the idiots who think that one 4th place finish is disaster (who seem to be difficult to actually find in the wild), but from people like Arseblog, etc. who are among the staunchest supporters of current management.

And incidentally, if you’re looking to cool down fan interest and celebration of Jack Wilshere, as Wenger claims to want to, comparing him to a player who made his league debut at 16, was sold for over 25 million pounds to Manchester United at 18, won his first club honors in less time than Arsenal’s current drought and has since played regularly for one of the top 5 clubs in the world is not the way to do it. For him to make that comparison, and then complain about how hard it is to hold down expectations in England, either reveals a finely developed sense of humor or total lack of comprehension of how his words sound. Or maybe he’s angling to make 25 million.

Possibly the hardest thing about following this club is the way every offseason follows this pattern. Personally, I don’t need my teams to win to keep me interested; in the 20 years or so I’ve followed the Knicks and Nets and Rangers they’ve won a grand total of 1 title sixteen years ago among the three of them, and have frequently been execrable. I love them still, the incompetent bastards. But I do think it’s fair to want a team or a club to play straight with you, to not continually bullshit you in public and to give best effort. If Arsenal gave their best effort and finished 8th, then so be it; but if they go into another season with a giant pile of money and no defensive midfielder despite losing two midfielders to injury in preseason already, it’s almost impossible to take the club seriously if they tell you they’re really trying to win first and foremost. Other agendas seem to be at work. There’s three weeks to change this; Arsene’s talking about a forward who’s too expensive. So it goes.

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August 7, 2009 - Posted by | The Arsenal | , ,

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