The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

On the bright side, it turned into a fine game by the end.

There’s probably going to be a lot more to say about this game in the next few days as we wait to find out if Wenger’s facing a touchline ban and for any other fallout, but my overwhelming impression just after is that there’s actually a lot to be encouraged about in this one. In terms of quality of play, there was absolutely no difference between the two sides, and when you face the defending champions on their own grounds without your second-best player, that’s a very good sign. A foot lower on Van Persie’s free kick and this probably goes down as a very famous victory; at the Emirates with Fabregas on and Diaby off, this is 3 points. That’s a far more even state of affairs than prevailed at the end of last season, and it’s a mark of the progress which appears to be taking place and how close this Arsenal team remains to greatness. That said, there are two obvious and major negatives to take away, and they should be noted:

– There’s a school of thought- see Myles Palmer- which sees Arsenal right now as a battleground between mature professionals and Arsene’s urchins. Expect to see a great deal of comment along those lines upcoming, because this game fit that narrative as closely as any could. A lead won through a really brilliant individual play from Andrey Arshavin; a lead gifted to the opposition through one of the most ridiculous own-goals you’ll see from Abou Diaby. The contrast is glaring enough so that even if you don’t buy the narrative wholly (which I don’t), there’s a temptation to concede that there’s the germ of truth in it. I like Diaby in general; I thought it was impressive the way he rebounded from the own goal to create a chance shortly thereafter, and he seems like a generally decent sort of guy. But he’s now in his 5th season with Arsenal (has it really been that long?) and he’s still a guy who looks brilliant twice a year and can’t be counted on the rest of the time. I wish him the best, but after this season if things don’t improve it’s probably best for everyone for him to be moved on to somewhere in the upper reaches of the French league.

– Emmanuel Eboue has had one of those weeks which encapsulates his entire Arsenal career. He’s played very well of late and been an important and useful part of the team, but when things were most desperate and someone needed to create something today at 2-1 down, he took one of the worst and shabbiest dives I’ve seen in quite a while, and was justly booked for it. Beyond the impact it did or did not have on the individual game, at a time when Arsenal are trying to defend on principle the insane witchhunting of Eduardo, for one of his teammates to execute such a blatant act of cheating in such a high-profile game was madness. It was selfish, and it demonstrates that at the end of the day Eboue has all the talent needed to play for Arsenal, and none of the class. He’s the only player I’m embarrassed to watch on the team.

Still, this game was nothing like the brutal beatings Arsenal suffered towards the end of last season. There’s much to take away that was positive, and the fact remains that with Arshavin in the side Arsenal can beat anyone, anywhere, at any time; one loss shouldn’t be too discouraging. The season is long, and I still believe that if if there’s some depth brought in before the closing of the window that the title can be won this year. Arsenal looked the better side for most of the game and nearly won away at Old Trafford; meanwhile United’s offense continues to sputter when they’re not being gifted things and Liverpool are losing games they shouldn’t and having to come from behind against Bolton. Chelsea look awesome for the moment but there’s very many games still to be played for them, time enough to become leg-weary and tune out the manager the way they did last year with largely the same group of players. This result is disappointing, but it’s disappointing only because the team and the fans know that Arsenal could just as easily have run away with this.

August 29, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Got Legs and Running

Wenger on Edu being charged by UEFA.

Bit over the top? Yeah, maybe, but the spirit is entirely correct- Eduardo clearly dived, but his dive was no different than a thousand other dives before and likely to be the same as another 20 dives still to come in this year’s competition. There’s zero precedent for suspending a player over this, and so far as I know there’s not even a relevant rule which allows for suspension over what’s a simple yellow card offense if detected. This whole “case” is a tower of hypocrisy built on a foundation of xenophobia and media hysteria, three things which each pose as much or more of a danger to football than a single dive in a single game which had absolutely no effect whatsoever on the final result. A rational and intelligent governing body would use this incident as a chance to retrain referees, or hire additional assistants simply to track and watch for potential dives, or bring in video review and rules changes for retroactive punishment; UEFA instead appears to have decided that there’s no need to improve things for the future when a bit of ad hoc mob justice will do nicely for the moment.

Frankly, I think they have a lot more to be embarrassed about right now than Eduardo does.

August 28, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , | Leave a comment

Champions League Draw

A few thoughts on a few groups:

Arsenal-AZ Alkmaar-Olympiakos-Standard Liege

Among the weakest of all possible groups for Arsenal here-even the travel won’t be too bad, and Olympiakos and Liege both simply aren’t serious competition at this level. Alkmaar may be Dutch champions, but that means less now than ever before and the year before that they finished 11th; this will be their first ever CL competition. Frankly, Arsenal couldn’t have done much better and will probably romp through this group so easily that they’ll be resting players and sending urchins like Wilshere and Ramsey out before long. That could mean a great deal given the restricted squad size and perpetual injury issues at Arsenal- and there’s a chance that if the board recognize this for the near-guarantee of making the knockout stages that it is, that there may be more willingness to spend and address those issues.


Munich-Juventus-Bordeaux-Maccabi Haifa

I have watched enough Munich this season to say with comfort that they are by no means guaranteed passage out of this one. Their defense is utterly shabby for such a big-name club, Rensing in goal is the German David James (on his better days), and this latest version has already shown a worrying ability to perform not just down to but below the level of their opposition with a loss to newly-promoted Mainz. Basically, for a regional behemoth, they kinda suck- and if they’re the major scalp taken at this stage I won’t be shocked at all given the quality of the theoretical #3 team here.

Sevilla-Stuttgart-Rangers-Uniera Urziceni

But really though- how long has it been since one of the groups was THIS crap? Sevilla are pretty decent but could easily have come third in several other groups, Stuttgart…they’re just not that good at this level. Like not at all, and they’re now without former go-to forward Mario Gomez. Rangers are useless in the CL and largely always have been. Urinary University or whoever that is from Romania are just another unknown Romanian side like the FC Trimspa crew Stuttgart beat to get here. They’ll try to pick someone off in their creepy vampire-haunted home grounds and lose everywhere else. Frankly it’s a bit shocking that two teams are going to come out of this group, and all that really does is ensure that a couple of major clubs will get a bit lucky in the next round as well.

VfL Wolfsburg-Manchester United-CSKA Moscow-Besiktas

United SHOULD get through here pretty easily…but. Wolfsburg actually are a VERY good side with a solid defense, fine goalkeeping and a multi-faceted and skilled attack which I suspect can be effective against just about anyone. There’s a lot of travel and some tough away fixtures here for United, and early in the season their attack doesn’t look to have entirely figured out how to thrive without Ronaldo and Tevez. If a few bounces go against them away and they can’t break down a few defenses at home, there’s an outside chance of a shock here.


Barcelona-Inter-Dynamo Kiev-FC Rubin Kazan

Only two teams can go through here, but the games between them should be a great deal of fun.

Milan-Madrid-Marseilles-FC Zurich

Same as the above, although there’s always a chance of Marseilles picking one of the teams above them off and snaking though, especially if Madrid take too much time to assimilate all their new pieces or Milan find it tough going without Kaka. Kaka returning to Milan as well should spice up that meeting.

All in all, a very interesting draw, and a good one from an Arsenal fan’s perspective (or a neutral’s).

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Other Soccer, The Arsenal | , | Leave a comment

What the Fuck?

I’m not in a spot where I can watch the Arsenal-Celtic game at the moment, but I’m reading two MBMs to keep up. So far both have bewailed an apparently totally egregious Eduardo dive for a penalty, and now following a second goal Eboue has been booked for excessive celebration for pulling his shirt off. Simultaneously, a Celtic player is booked for a reckless challenge, and another had previously been pulled off at the half due to being a potential danger over anger at the dive. There’s still 30+ minutes left in this. Are Arsenal TRYING to start a bench-clearer? Why are you diving and behaving in an unsportsmanlike fashion in a home game when you’re already 2, 3 or 4 up in the tie?

EDIT:

Ok, now I’ve seen the play, and it’s as bad as described. Eduardo does not have a history of this so there’s no point in going over the top on him, but the fact of the matter is he cheated, at home, 2-0 up in the tie, against a vastly inferior side. That is, simply, horseshit; but it’s the kind of horseshit you have to expect from professionals these days. What really bothers me is that he’s going to get away with it: with the lack of video replay and/or officials who have the ability to discern and the balls to card for diving, cheating essentially pays in football at the moment. Indeed you could make a solid case that it’s tacitly encouraged by the manifest refusal to get serious about enforcing rules and penalties regarding it. At the moment the only real regulation is the assurance that other professionals will cheat in exactly the same way, so the next time Wayne Rooney or Robbie Keane or Steve Gerrard suddenly takes flight against Arsenal, here’s a play to keep in mind before anyone begins moaning about the tragedy of it all.

Can you imagine if United or Chelsea had done something like this in the beatings they administered to Arsenal last season? We’d have never heard the end of it among the cries for Drogba or Ronaldo to be deported. Eddie will get away with less criticism because he seems like such a nice guy, but the fact that even such a generally gentlemanly player as him thought this was a smart thing to do that he could get away with- correctly so- says it all, really. Frankly, until a manager pulls his team off the pitch in response to this type of thing nothing will change I suspect.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , , | Leave a comment

European Super League

Wenger says it’s coming.

This is one of those instances where I think Arsene Wenger is absolutely 100% correct, and still out in front of the rest of the sport. His point about the financials of the game is one of the two major reasons for the likelihood of a Super League, and the reality of clubs being run on a world-wide basis for profit maximization by increasingly sophisticated executives (men like, say, Ivan Gazidis were not a major part of this sport 20 years ago) points very strongly in that direction. Additionally, assuming such a league were set up as an outgrowth of the Champions League- and thus in conjunction with currently existing league structures- it could also do a great deal to remedy the issue of stratification currently affecting almost all of the major national leagues. There’s always been dominant clubs; but now in Spain, England and Italy it’s a remarkable and shocking occurrence when one of the 2 or 3 really huge clubs per country win something. A super league with a relegation/promotion mechanism gives a chance for clubs below that level to be successful on a national basis with the future hope of international success, and would result in vastly more competitive- and thus interesting- national league play.

The really notable part is how few arguments there are against the concept. It would be a major revenue producer for huge clubs, probably also a revenue-producer for other clubs, it would represent a logical development of the league structure into an era of easier travel, international media coverage and clubs with world-wide support, and it would also create a top-level league with a remarkably high quality of play. With due respect to those smaller sides, I’d rather watch Real Madrid and Manchester United play each other twice a year than watch them beat up on Sunderland or Almeria in one-sided games with little drama; I would also be a lot more interested in Sunderland vs., say, Everton if it had English title implications. It’s hard to see who the losers would be except maybe FIFA and those who want to see international play as the primary expression of the game. To put the objections into perspective, take a look at this from Le Grove which misses the mark on a variety of levels. Players would be no more tired than American sports professionals who travel 3,000 miles from California to New York for games, and part of the point of a Super League would be to put all the huge-spending teams in competition with each other, thus neutralizing their spending from a competitive standpoint to the greatest degree possible. If anyone knows of a better argument against the idea I’d love to see it, but most of the ones I’ve run across have been at about that level.

August 18, 2009 Posted by | Other Soccer, The Arsenal | , , | Leave a comment

Everton 1-6 Arsenal

I’m not going to spoil this with close analysis; I’ve done a lot of that recently and there’s 37 more league games plus cups to do more of it. This was just FUN. It’s the most fun I’ve had watching this team in forever, and it’s a reminder of how well Wenger’s vision of attacking football can work when it’s playing at its best. A fantastic job by every mother’s son in the red and white today, and a special notice for Vermaelen- superior on his debut- and Alex Song, who played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him have at the defensive midfielder role. I have no complaints and much respect for the players who came out roaring, trying to make the manager’s call to win the title this year a reality. Well done boys! Here’s hoping this sets a tone for the season to come. Condolences as well to David Moyes and Everton- they really are better than that scoreline indicates, and I still back them to finish high in the table this year.

More reflections on the season’s start on Sunday- I’m watching 7 games this weekend, 3 of which are still to come.

August 15, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , , | Leave a comment

Look

I could write 2000 words easily as a preview of this season for Arsenal and God knows I’ve written far more than that just over the summer, but let’s face facts: there’s just not a lot more to be said. There’s time yet for one more player to come in (or not) who might seriously change the calculus, but in all likelihood the squad for this year and the spirit and ethos of the team are set and unchanging except for some few of the names on the shirt-backs, as they have been for several years now. Almost everyone who follows this team, even those who merely glance at it from afar, sees the same things: in attack, majestic and among the best in the world; in midfield, unreadable and varying wildly depending on health and positional assignments; in defense, disorganized and undermanned; in goal, solid and largely dependable. On paper this team is a title challenger and on the field they’re injury-riddled and lacking in confidence, simultaneously more and less than the sum of their parts. Very little has changed in the last several years for all the talk that it has.

Wenger has been quoted today as stating that “The team we have now gets there, and by that I mean it wins the championship”, and of course he may be right. Two out of three of the other serious title challengers are a great deal weaker on paper having lost players who they proved unable to replace, and while some might say the same of Arsenal the fact is that Cristiano Ronaldo or Xavi Alonso are each worth five Adebayors at minimum. Arsenal have arguably the best player in the entire league now in Andrey Arshavin, one of the few players able to steal points and games entirely on the basis of his own unique genius, and the value of such a player is very difficult to overstate. We may yet find that over 38 games the foibles and flaws of this team aren’t fatal when a player of his caliber is present to make up for them. Arshavin, present last year, never allows Tottenham to escape from attacking pressure to come back in the 4-4 game, never allows Stoke or Hull to spend large chunks of those humiliating losses waiting to counterattack and feeling wholly unthreatened by patterned and predictable Arsenal possession, never allows the team to look as listless as they did in the early loss to Fulham. If the question is “can this Arsenal team win the league?” then the answer is: Yes.

And yet, and yet, and yet. This team relies on one or two players far more than is healthy, and if Arshavin or Fabregas miss any serious time the blow may be fatal. The question remains as to how far the manager even trusts Arshavin following the FA cup semi-final debacle from last year, an issue thrown into high relief by the manifest failure of the various cogs and wheels in Wenger’s proud machine to function without the spirit of an Arshavin to drive them. This team has never yet proven able to succeed in the clutch against top opposition; the last truly great and historic game played by Arsenal, the 2006 Champions League final, featured only three players who will be present in the squad on Saturday, five if you count the unused substitutes from that game. In the years since the memories are of Birmingham and Rosicky’s knees and Eboue booed off at home, not of big games or big victories. To expect this club to win at the highest level this year is to expect them collectively and for the most part individually to do something which they have never done before. And that’s possible; but the odds are long.

I don’t think it makes any real sense to bother guessing a league position specifically for Arsenal this year. There’s too many variables at play from the inevitable injuries still to happen to transfer dealings in this window or the next to whether the young players will develop like Alex Song or devolve like Abou Diaby. I would guess, at this point, that the percentages chances for various finishes are about 15% 1st, 15% 2nd, 30% 3rd, 35% 4th, and 5% fifth. Past performance is always the best guide to future performance, and the reality is that this team, assembled mostly of these players, has never finished higher than 3rd in the current era and three years in four has finished 4th. When little has changed, then… little has changed. The same great strengths and same weaknesses are still there. The attacking football is still often brilliant, the defensive lapses are still often glaring. 3 defensive midfielders left the club two years ago and have never been replaced. The only thing different is Arshavin; and therein lies the real interest this year, both on the pitch and off it.

The transfer for Arshavin represented something new in the way this team was designed. Last year, prior to his arrival, the odds were greater than they’d been since the 05-06 season that Arsenal would finish outside the top 4; it’s impossible to say for certain what motivated the purchase of the Russian, but it’s also hard to imagine that the desperation to avoid that fate and the financial implications thereof was not a major part of it. And so, for the first and so far only time since the initiation of the youth policy, Wenger went out and bought a superstar in the prime of his career: a 27 year old dynamo whose value was not in what he might become, or what he might be resold for, or how he fit into a carefully designed blueprint- but in what he did, on his own, on the pitch, right now. Arshavin has been described as a Wenger player and so he is in some ways- small, quick, technical, attack-minded. And yet the transfer to get him was not just an exception to but the negation of the policy which Wenger has chosen and claimed for years to have followed at the club, the purchase for big money of proven quality in order to save the home-grown youngsters from disaster. I don’t happen to buy into the idea that Arshavin was forced on Wenger by Gazidis or anyone else; I DO buy into the idea that Arshavin was forced onto Wenger by Wenger himself. Last year forced the manager to look, finally, at his team and what they really were away from the training ground and in competition. More than anything else I think that’s the crucial and under-discussed importance of Arshavin: he’s the first and perhaps only crack in the story of Wenger’s Arsenal youth policy.

This year will likely determine how far that crack spreads. Last year Wenger fought against it; he pulled Arshavin from that cup semi-final and trusted his policy, and lost. This year he still seems determined to do so, and so it’s two players out and one in at the Emirates and a lot of talk about a 17 year old. Maybe that’s where it ends: maybe Wenger’s Arsenal + Arshavin for a full year is good enough to win it all; maybe it’s not, and the manager, having cracked once, is determined not to do so again and so all the quotes about needing to prove something and judge me after the season will be recycled next year. Either one of those outcomes ensure status quo at the club, one more or less happily, the other not. But it’s the other possibility which intrigues me- that this may be the year when, in the end, everyone who cares about this club has to look, really look, at what’s going on. Because there are a lot of games being played and a lot of lies being told right now, and sooner or later these things must come to a head.

Who runs Arsenal? Who owns it? Hill-Wood, Lady Nina, Usmanov and Kroenke, games-players all. A resolution there is brewing. Diaby, Denilson, Song, Rosicky, Eboue, Silvestre, Nasri, Djourou, Senderos if he sticks around; shown up for what they are by the brilliance and maturity of Arshavin as undependable, undeveloped or simply dross, how many of them will follow Song’s lead and begin to show themselves capable of developing into serious parts of a contending team? Is there even half a season of football left in Rosicky? Does Nasri have an actual position or the ability to show more than on-and-off flashes of brilliance? Is Denilson anything other than a walking argument against taking current stats seriously? And how long can such questions be asked until the answer is: bring us some players who don’t come with these questions. Bring us some men who know their business. Bring us a Patrick Vieira, a Thierry Henry, a Robert Pires, a Tony Adams; bring us the players who used to make this club great, or bring us a manager and an owner who can. Every year this team is riddled with injuries, and the talk is of bad luck and ill fortune; maybe this is the year when fans and decision makers alike look at that phenomenon and take it seriously, plan for it and correct for it in the team and stop using it as the weakest of all possible excuses. It’s the first game of the season tomorrow and already 5 or 6 squad members including 2 certain starters are out injured, some for months. How long can such things persist before someone looks? For two years now the club has been without a serious defensive midfielder and now they’re attempting to play like Barcelona, without the defensive anchor and ball-winner on which that style partly depends. How long can this pass without notice? Another transfer window seems destined to pass by with more stars sold and incomes exceeding expenditures, an essentially unique pattern of business among top level clubs. How long can this go on before the questions about it are asked directly and not just whispered about?

Most importantly, is this the year when everyone who cares about this club looks at the recent history, the statements and attacks and defenses of the policies enacted, and addresses them with a serious grasp of perspective? Nothing else could be as great a boon to the club as that, because so much of what’s gone wrong with Arsenal right now is based on a total lack thereof. Wenger tells the lie that no one has any patience with him, and no one with influence looks at it long enough to say: wait a minute. You’ve had 4 years with a free hand and little criticism, marches in the streets and banners hung in support of you, and the sternest rebuke you’ve faced directly is some pointed questions at a meeting. Some fans tell the lie that Wenger is stupid or that the club is a complete disaster, and because the fan base is so fragmented there’s often few of the rational ones there to say: wait a minute. The club’s long term potential remains incredibly strong, and the fact is that whether his current policies are correct or defensible or not, Wenger is one of the great managers of his era and deserves better than to be called a cunt or an idiot as he so often is on some sites. At the deeper level, there’s all too often a tendency to be caught up in the next game (or the last) and believe that a good win cures a long-term flaw, or a bad finish tars a sound policy. You lose the ability to step back and look at the long game: the need to establish a track record over the span of years, to notice the changes in the sport, the evolution of individual players and leagues and the sport as a whole.

So here’s the bottom line as I see it: this season marks five years since Arsenal’s last trophy, and at Arsenal winning is the measure of success. Five years is long enough to judge a President or a Prime Minister; it’s long enough to judge a policy and a football manager. If Arsenal win something this year that is not a blanket vindication of the policy any more than not winning something 2 or 3 years ago was a blanket condemnation of it, because what matters is the capacity to win or at least contend over time and the ability to field a team with the attributes and attitudes of a champion. If Wenger’s great experiment wins the league, or the Champions League, or even the FA cup this year then he’s proven that it has a chance to work- not that it’s the best policy, not that it can succeed consistently, not that it’s sustainable- but that it has a chance to. That buys him time, another season to do things his way. But if the end result is failure again for a 5th straight season then this thing is over. It will become impossible to hold onto players like Arshavin or Fabregas; it will be difficult for the new owners, whoever they may be, to continue justifying uncritical support of a failed policy and a manager no longer meeting his own standards of success. Most importantly perhaps, it may even become impossible for Wenger to fool himself any longer, to ignore the gulf in class between Arshavin and Denilson, between Arsenal 6 years ago and Arsenal today. In the end he may have to look, really look, at the reality of things.

More than the league or any given trophy, that’s what’s at stake this year.

2269 words; what can you do.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , | Leave a comment

Barca Bid for Fabregas?

So says the Sun, giving a specific set of figures and the suggestion of a formal bid which makes this concrete enough to bother noticing.

Look, it’s the Sun; God only knows how true this is if it’s any part of true at all. I honestly think there’s an essentially 0% chance that Fabregas is sold in this window given that there’s no time to replace him and without him the team is probably going to finish 5th or 6th. If anything comes of this I suspect it will be one of those Cronaldo-to-Madrid, we’ll-sell-you-in-a-year semi-official agreements which would allow Arsenal a space to find a replacement- if that’s the intention- and still give Joan LaPorta* a chance to flaunt his new signing in advance of the Barca presidential elections. Will that happen? I’d put the odds at 60-40 against, but if it does happen I doubt we’ll hear much from the Arsenal end anyway, so it likely won’t even come out until late in the season. If it comes out before then or becomes common knowledge, it could be a huge distraction. All that said this is likely 100% horseshit.

*Note: total fuckin’ asshole.

August 13, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , , | Leave a comment

S. S. Inevitable

…and Arsenal draw Celtic for qualifying, like you do. Sean will no doubt be by to explain the meaning of this in more depth as he’s a Celtic supporter as well, but for my 2 cents it’s coulda been better, coulda been worse. Parkhead is the sort of place where young fragile teams can implode, but Arsenal are vastly more talented and one win in Russia, no matter how nice, fails to convince me that the Hoops can survive European travel. Arsenal really should win this, and let’s all be thankful that we dodged Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , | Leave a comment

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.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | , , | Leave a comment