The more desperate the situation at Arsenal grows, the more former players appear to be speaking up about it but is it really their business anymore?
Some former Arsenal players are more opinionated than others. Maybe I should rephrase that: some former Arsenal players are more publicly opinionated than others.
On one hand, we have Robert Pires, an ex-player who still occasionally trains at London Colney and insists that Arsene Wenger is still the right man for the Arsenal job. He’s clearly still on fantastic terms with not only the manager but the club as a whole.
Then, we have the other extreme. We have Ian Wright no longer being able of holding his tongue on TV, slamming the club, manager and claiming that Jamie Vardy did the right thing by not signing for us.
Of course, there are opinions in between. Patrick Vieira, for example, recently said he admires Wenger for sticking by his principles but followed that up by saying that we need more personalities at the training ground.
The question is, does one ex-player have more of a right to voice their opinion than another?
In the past, I’m been pretty scathing of former players who slate the club. Although, a lot of that was to do with Thierry Henry still coaching the Arsenal u18s while saying how useless we were on Sky Sports at the weekend, some of it was probably to do with not liking to hear the truth.
In my head, if people who are actually supposed to support the club and are in a far better position to judge than I am believe we’re going nowhere fast, what on earth should I think?
For a long time, I was bitter about any criticism a former player threw Arsenal’s way. I was convinced they were doing it for newspaper column inches, attention and money. And while this may have been true to a certain degree, I do think I was being very naive.
I’ve spoken before about how my opinion of Wenger changed after we lost to Swansea at the Emirates last season. It took longer for me than most but that was the game where I really threw my hands up in the air and said: “I’m done!”
Well, as ‘done’ as you can ever be as a football fan.
Since then, and even more so this summer, comments being made by former players that are less than complimentary are no longer just water off a duck’s back. I understand what they’re saying and even agree.
Ian Wright’s comments ahead of our 0-0 Leicester draw got a mixed reception. He spoke about how Calum Chambers should leave because Wenger picked Rob Holding ahead of him and how, if he was Jamie Vardy, he wouldn’t have signed for Arsenal either. Although he attempted to keep a composed, professional demeanor, his body language was stiff and his tip-lipped punditry came across as beyond frustrated.
The thing is, he was saying exactly what most of us are feeling but don’t have the platform to project it. His tweets get so much attention because he has over 1M followers; I dread to think where I would be if I had that many people readying my late-night tweets before I’d had a chance to proof read and/or delete them in the morning.
Whether you agree or vehemently disagree with what Wright says, you can’t deny that he only says it because he feels so passionately about the club.
I will never be one of those people using the #WengerOut hashtag, bringing banners to games or slinging threats on social media.
However, as Matthew said in his column this week, it’s getting harder to defend the manager’s actions and increasingly difficult to understand them. Stuff he’s done before that I’ve not necessarily agreed with, I’ve at least sort of understood. Now, I don’t.
In answer to my initial question of whether it’s okay for ex-players to voice their negative opinions about Arsenal, before I would have said no. I would have said it’s no longer their business and that they should be more ‘professional’.
But it is their business, just as it is ours.
Now, not only do I think they should have a right to voice their opinion, like everybody else, but I find myself agreeing with them.