Let’s assume that you want Arsene Wenger to leave Arsenal this summer.
It seems a fair assumption, given the ever increasing tide of opinion crashing down against the manager’s shores at the present time.
Let’s also assume that you want Arsenal to win trophies, since that’s what it’s all about – in theory at least.
So then, it’s something of a catch 22 to ponder.
Would you rather Arsenal win the FA Cup but Wenger stays, or we lose the final and he leaves?
The answer for many, of course, is that they’d like to win the FA Cup Final and send Arsene off in a blaze of glory – change is needed, and the manager is the most obvious common denominator during this period of growing fan frustration.
But let’s say for the moment, as I saw on twitter earlier this week, that having your cake and eating it isn’t an option.
Let’s say you have to choose one or the other?
It’s certainly an interesting problem
To win the FA Cup very much satisfies the short term here-and-now demand for success, and in a year where it’s now confirmed we will finish behind Spurs for the first time in 21 years we could really do with a pot to parade, even if Jack won’t be around to lead the ribald singing.
There’s certainly an irony to the idea that even if we collect less points than our rivals over a league season, we could still finish with more silverware to show for it. “THE GAME IS ABOUT GLORY” according to the boards emblazoned around White Hart Lane after all; glory that’s in short supply as you travel away from N5 up the Seven Sisters Road…
But while a trophy would give us the ultimate immediate response to the postponement of St. Totteringham’s Day, every Arsenal fan recognises the need for change.
It doesn’t even stem from the perception of failure, although there are of course groups within the fanbase who think we are perpetually failing. It’s more a question of failing in the exact same way year on year, predictably enough that it turns us into something of a laughing stock.
If we acknowledge that this change is required for the long term health and/or success of the club, then making that change and allowing us to move forward is also a priority.
Short term is long term
For what it’s worth, I would personally never turn down a trophy for a managerial fix. The buzz you get when, for example, Aaron Ramsey hits an extra time winner to lift the cup; that’s unequalled in football.
It’s irrevocably better than the joy you can get from any other single match.
Over time, no one will remember how many years we went between our 2005 and 2014 FA Cup successes. All that matters is the number of times our name is engraved on the silver band around the base of the cup.
That short term success becomes your long term success.
Forward thinking is important, crucial even, for the sustained success of a club. That still doesn’t prevent the best laid plans being derailed.
We built the Emirates thinking it would take us to the next level. We knew there was a possibility that we would struggle to win trophies for a while, but that was acceptable in the context of where we’d be when we came out the other side.
As it was, we came close to winning the Champions League in 2006, and were contenders in the Premier League for extended periods too on a couple of occasions.
Equally, the benefits of the new stadium rendered only a fraction of expectations, because Premier League financing changed in the interim. Oil money and mega TV deals meant that the long term strategy had been chosen against a different future.
These days, new stadium builds are ten a penny, with the level of sacrifice to fund a new home substantially reduced as a result of the new money swilling through the division.
You cannot choose the present and the future
There are arguments to be made for focusing on short term success or long term health at the expense of the other, for sure.
The part that amuses me is that the same fans who whinged on about the stadium move and consequent trophy drought because it was all about the “long term” at the expense of the “short term”, are the very same fans who are now saying the manager has to go for the good of the club in the “long term”.
I say “amuses”. I really mean “irritates”.
Most people either want to prioritise instant but short-lived success – the Jose Mourinho approach where your star burns brightly for a few years and then burns out – or you want more sustainable success, where perhaps you don’t get the same short sharp bursts of glory, but over the course you maybe get more of it.
I’m sure Portsmouth fans would have preferred to stay in the Premier League than win the FA Cup and get relegated down to League Two.
There’s only one exception.
The success of our 2003-04 vintage was brilliant, and relatively short-lived, given the speed at which the team broke up. However, the achievement was so unique that it was worth it. [P38 W26 D12 L0] is a sequence of numbers is burned into my brain more indelibly than my own PIN number.
No matter how bad things get, we’re still able to say: “Yes, but have you gone a whole season unbeaten? Thought not…”
More than anything, though, I cannot get behind any sentiment which requires Arsenal to lose a game.
Of course it would be better for us to win the FA Cup and then see Wenger walk away. But I cannot envisage a world in which I would want us to lose any game, let alone a cup final, to ditch our most successful and longest serving manager.
No, if there are any losers who would choose to lose the FA Cup Final and get rid of Arsene, I would invite you to sod off, and leave us be.
Luckily, we don’t have to choose.