In The Red Corner…
The polarisation of views about Arsenal this season erupted yesterday as Arsène responded to criticism of his squad. His brutal response has been taken as a cue by the media to engage in more stories of civil war at the club.
The Daily Mirror has run the ‘written press’ press conference, where Arsène elaborated on his earlier comments. Focus has turned on the dismissal of his critics because they do not know about, and have never been involved in, a professional football club.
Interestingly, the comments about supporters have been seized upon and replicated across various media outlets.
The opening barbs were missed, where Wenger criticised ‘superficial judgement‘ and rounded on journalists, telling them,
Do not hide behind what the supporters think, tell me what you think. You do not know what the supporters think because what people write is only 5 per cent of what they see on the internet. There are 95 per cent others.
Dismissing supporter criticism is always a dangerous game but with the team in second place and by comparison to previous seasons showing an improvement, Wenger must feel at times that there are Manchester United supporters masquerading as their Arsenal counterparts. Certainly the online reaction lends itself to that view.
The defence is routinely criticised. The defensive record this seasons stands comparison to all of the top four so where is the basis for statements that authoritatively tell us they are worse? There is none other than the claimants perception.
Dismissing supporters was always going to be an emotive subject and this morning’s response elsewhere shows the depth of hurt at that cutting comment.
Apparently this signals that Wenger refuses to broker anybody with an alternative view to his own. There is, of course, no such evidence. Which is, of course, taken as proof because everyone is too scared to speak out. Which it, of course, is not.
The manager should be held to account for his decisions and the results. He is but some of the support believe he should be accountable to them personally, their views apparently worth more than those who disagree with them.
Problematically, their judgement is as suspect as the rest of us yet their benchmarks are more rigid.
Wenger believes that success at the moment is not on silverware. He holds qualifying for the Champions League as more important that winning the FA Cup. Actually, so do I.
When I was young, the League Cup and the FA Cup were magical, the trophies meant something. Now, the money generated by Premier and Champions League has rendered both trophies less meaningful. Arsenal should have won the Carling Cup and we would have celebrated but nothing like winning the title or Champions League. Anyone who claims otherwise is deluding themselves.
There is philosophical difference emerging. On the one hand, you have those who judge everything by the amount of money spent on players and silverware in the cabinet. That is a view that has become more prevalent as the money generated by, and invested into, football today.
Wenger – and the Board – fundamentally disagree with it. The new stadium has been built and the squad has come via a mix of signings and youthful promotion. Arsène stated his belief,
Of course, we’ve had a change in policy to sign younger players. It’s important for football that there’s another way then to just come in, put money on the table and buy a star. I feel it’s very important for football.
With that much of a difference in beliefs, peace will always be fragile when it breaks out.
As supporters we have the right to make our views known. We have a right to argue amongst ourselves. We have a right to let the club know how we feel. We have an obligation to do so civilly, without abusing employees going about their work. Yet football players and supporters regularly avoid that obligation.
The anger felt by some within the club surfaced after that. Speaking in The Daily Star, Peter Hill-Wood observed,
I simply cannot believe he will react to these stupid comments from these silly people. They are supposed to be supporters, but, in fact, they do quite a lot of damage. We have set the bar high and everybody expects us to achieve that every year, but it simply isn’t possible.
[The AST] are in danger of us becoming less friendly with them. We haven’t yet, but I am just saying we could become less friendly.