Why are Arsenal fans so mad?
Last week, a few days after Arsenal lost their opening game of the season to West Ham, I had a brief Twitter exchange with a Gooner. He came to my attention with his claim that over 50% of the fanbase wanted Arsène Wenger out of the club.
To me, that claim was clearly ridiculous and for a few reasons. My main objection to his point was that he was talking as if he had spoken to every Arsenal on the planet, or at least in England. Now, he might well have done, but it didn’t seem likely to me. The fact is that there can be no way of measuring exactly how every one of us out there thinks Arsène is doing his job.
The AST Survey
However, there is the Arsenal Supporters Trust survey and whilst I would be wary of reading too much into its results, the survey does at least represent a broad cross section of supporter’s views. It is also one of the only measures available to someone who wants to find out how Arsenal fans feel, short of going on Twitter and asking (never a particularly great idea, especially after you’ve just lost to West Ham).
Luckily, for us, the survey results were published two weeks ago. Whilst 2% of the 664 respondents disagreed with the notion that Arsène is the right man to lead the club, a fairly overwhelming 84% did agree with it.
Further, despite the fact that Arsenal were never really in a title race they had led for much of the previous season, 88% of respondents felt, as I did, that the 14/15 season represented progress from the one before. I suppose it’s easy to see why.
Having made the falsest of starts to last season, 2015 was a hugely encouraging year for Arsenal. Of course it was, we saw in the team an increased focus on defence, better performances when travelling to our top 4 rivals and a better league position. Did I mention that we also retained the FA Cup? No?
Well, I have now, and we did it with our best final performance in living memory.
No surprise, then, that for the AST members, everything looks rosy. That being said, these results were of course published before the West Ham defeat.
Seriously though, I write this article two years to the day since the AST put out a statement underlining the fact that they felt Ivan Gazidis’s talk of a new contract for the man from Alsace was ‘inappropriate‘. The context to this statement was, of course, that with two weeks left of the transfer window, Arsenal had yet to make any serious additions* to a squad which had come perilously close to letting Spurs overtake them for the first time since I was doing my A-Levels.
Of course, the Arsenal board then went and spent £42m on a genius called Mesut Özil and that signing changed everything. It changed the way Arsenal fans thought of the board and the manager, it changed the way opposition fans thought of Arsenal and ultimately the signing of Özil helped to return Spurs to their status of being rivals only in a geographic sense. A gap of one point in 2013 had become, a much more comfortable, 12 points by the end of last season.
More importantly, it provided the team with a bona fide star. Would Alexis Sanchez have made the journey from Barcelona to Heathrow’s arrivals terminal had Özil not come the year before? We can never know but, in the same way that Bergkamp’s presence surely facilitated Vieira, Overmars and Henry’s, it can only have helped. I’m not sure Alexis would have come to play with Gervinho, for example.
What’s the point of all this? Well, I guess my point is that, really, you’d have to be spectacularly hard of heart, or just reeeeeeeeeeeeeally hacked off to think that Arsenal need a change of manager right now. Of course losing to West Ham wasn’t much fun, but it was just one game and shouldn’t detract from the great strides Arsenal have made over this calendar year.
If you are really that hacked off, just two competitive matches and less than three months after Arsenal retained the FA Cup, might I politely suggest that you find another team? Or perhaps even another sport? If you’re finding it difficult now, how will you feel when Arsenal somehow contrive to take no points whatsoever from upcoming games at Chelsea, Leicester and at home to Manchester United? Personally, I’ll probably write another article saying the manager should go.
Speaking of Chelsea and United, I have just read that Chelsea have agreed a deal with Barcelona for Pedro, previously assumed bound for Manchester. Shades of Shaun Wright-Phillips perhaps, or even our own Aaron Ramsey…
Cheer up London, it’s not that bad
It may be that Arsenal are, in fact, not going to sign anyone. However, if they are indeed in negotiations with star or starlet, wouldn’t you prefer them to announce it once the deal is complete? The desperation of some people to receive news, any news, on transfers just seems bizarre to me. I’d happily not hear a peep out of Arsenal all summer, every summer if it means landing every possible transfer targets.
Get on with your life, enjoy the fact that football’s back and let’s worry about the state of Arsenal’s squad on September 2nd.
A note to finish on, someone mentioned to me last week that Manchester United’s post Ferguson struggles hinted at dark times ahead for the Arsenal. It’s obvious that, whenever Arsène does decide to call it a day, his successor will have rather large shoes to fill.
However, it strikes me that a key difference will almost certainly be the state of the squad Arsène leaves behind. Oh, we all know Fergie landed one last league title before riding off into the sunset, but look at the team that won that title. Dutch Judas had his last season as a proper, injury free, footballer, the defence was about to fall apart and… well, Fergie is Fergie.
On the other hand, whether Arsène goes at the end of his contract, or perhaps stays on a little bit longer, we have a squad now with a great mix of youth, experience and quality. Gabriel is waiting in the wings, alongside Calum Chambers, to depose Mertesacker at the back, whilst our midfield cup, with the exception of the defensive midfield position- truly runneth over. Our attacking options are probably as good as at any time since the last time we won the league, though a feeling does remain (particularly after watching our wastefulness at Palace) that a really clinical striker might just tip the balance our way.
I guess another way of looking at it might be to compare what Arsène had when he arrived to what he is likely to leave. He really has transformed the playing side of things, but that is almost certainly another article for another time.
*Okay, we signed Mathieu Flamini, I said “serious additions”.
If you haven’t already done so, do check out this week’s Daily Cannon podcast, featuring Matthew Wade, Helen Trantum and myself. It’s the best thing you’ll hear all week. Really.