I am about to commit Arsenal blogging suicide.
I am about to write a column comparing AKBs and WOBs with Brexit and Donald Trump. On purpose.
You know how every article ever written will always offend someone? Well, this one might offend everyone. Or no-one. Or 52% of you, if recent polls are anything to go by. Oh boy. Should I stop now? Oh God.
The thing is though, there is quite a lot that is similar in regards to the recent electoral results in the UK and America, and Arsenal’s long-running hand-wringing over whether to keep Arsene Wenger in employment, or ‘Wexit’, if we were to take the current trend of adding ‘xit’ to a word to suggest a departure from something, instead of, you know, USING AN ACTUAL WORD. Sigh.
There are a veritable smorgasbord of potential reasons as to why you may have voted for or against either Brexit or Donald Trump, and this column is in no way going to suggest that you may or may not have voted incorrectly. All I will say, is that in both elections there was a stark choice being offered: either you wanted to keep things as they are, or you wanted a complete overhaul of how your country operated.
In Britain, you either wanted to stay in the EU, or not. In the United States, you either wanted the candidate with 30 years of experience of working in Washington, and everything that such a CV entails, or you wanted someone with no ties to Washington whatsoever, and what that entails. There was no middle ground in either case. None.
The results of both elections were surprising at first, but easily understandable as time wore on. There are plenty of folks at the moment who believe that the last few years of fiscal consolidation that was conducted by governments dealing with the banking crisis in 2008 and housing crisis in 2011 did them no good whatsoever, that everyone who was at fault for the above events has gotten away with it, and that they’re worse off than ever because of it.
They felt that they have been lied to for a decade, that promises were made and not fulfilled, and that the same group of ‘elites’ and ‘experts’ who had been in charge for all this time needed to be shown that enough was enough.
Sound familiar? A group of people who believe that they’ve been lied to by those in charge, that the entity who have taken their hard-earned money have not reciprocated by spending money when given the chance, and that change is needed as soon as possible to restore the good times of old? Is that not, at least in abridged form, the ‘Wenger Out!’ argument?
It sure sounds like it. A lot of fans have had enough with the board, enough with Wenger, enough with the lack of league success since 2004, and they want change to happen. It’s not a complicated position to hold. They don’t like what they’re seeing and they want to do something about it.
So why didn’t change happen at Arsenal? It happened at Westminster and Washington because people were given the chance to voice their displeasure, and it’s not like Arsenal fans haven’t voiced their displeasure over the last few years. It wasn’t red hats with slogans like it was for Trump, or buses with promises written on them for the Leave EU campaign, but those banners being held up by Arsenal fans at away games were just as effective in getting the message across.
Can it be as simple as that whilst the Leave campaign gave a direct, contrasting option to staying in the EU, and that Trump himself was a direct, contrasting option to anyone that came from a traditional, political background, there was a lack of such an option at Arsenal?
When Wenger was under most pressure to succeed, at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, who was the obvious replacement? Carlo Ancelotti was at Real Madrid, Pep Guardiola was at Bayern, Jose Mourinho was back at Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp was in the middle of his best times at Dortmund, Antonio Conte was winning trebles with Juventus, etc, etc. There were plenty of reasons to want to sack Wenger, but no compelling replacement was on hand to be the catalyst for sacking him.
If any of the above managers, with the possible exception of Mourinho, were available during the summer of 2013, then the clamour for his removal would have been far, far more powerful than they were at the time, strong as they were already. But they weren’t. There was no obvious, standout candidate that could convince those who were wavering on whether to keep Wenger, to change their mind. There was no clear alternative. No definitive Plan B.
That’s why the chants after the 3-1 loss to Aston Villa on the opening day of the 13/14 season were not for Wenger’s removal, but for money to be spent. Everyone knew that Arsenal needed more players, but not everyone knew if the incumbent manager was the wrong person to spend it.
By the time a plausible alternative became available, that being Klopp in May 2015, Arsenal had just retained the F.A Cup. The moment had gone. Any momentum behind sacking Wenger had stalled to the point that most of those who wanted him sacked were now prepared to at least give him some more time to try and arrest their league title drought.
Donald Trump came along at the perfect time to capitalise on a public feeling of disillusionment in the American political machine. Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson picked the ideal moment to play on many people’s fear of losing their national identity in an increasingly global culture in order to further their own careers. It may turn out to be more down to fortune than fate, that Arsene Wenger never heard from someone else promising to make Arsenal great again.