As I sit writing this, Twitter is in full meltdown. The toxicity between fans either for or against Arsene Wenger is at an all-time high.
I don’t want to see Arsene tarnishing his legacy, but that’s what it’s come to. I wanted him to go out in glory winning the FA Cup either in 2014 or 2015. But he is a proud and stubborn man and won’t concede that his best days are behind him.
One thing I cannot abide though is fans abusing him. After all, this man has given us some of the greatest moments in Arsenal’s history. For the first 10 years of his reign he gave us nothing but trophy after trophy.
Two Doubles in 1997-1998 and 2001-02. Another FA Cup in 2002-03. The invincible title winning season in 2003-04. Yet another FA Cup in 2004-05 and we came within 13 minutes of winning the Champions League in 2005-06.
It wasn’t just the fact we won all that silverware, but also the style in which we did it. His sides were irresistible, moving the ball in the blink of an eye, from one end of the pitch to the other and putting it in the back of the net with deadly precision.
The world class players we had frightened the life out of the opposition, before they even got on the pitch. We’d sweep teams aside in 20 minutes flat. Who could forget players like Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and all the other star studded players we had.
All the top clubs came a calling, trying to tempt Arsene into becoming their next manager. But Arsene chose to stay loyal to us and to honour his contracts. He was also brilliant in the transfer market as well.He also maintained our position at the top table of the champions League when he didn’t have the money that the Board promised would be ring fenced, when we were building the new stadium
It’s for all those reasons I cannot abide fans abusing him. Calling him a French C••• etc. he doesn’t deserve that. He deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
I think the biggest factor in when things started to go wrong for Arsene was when David Dein was drummed out of the club in April 2007. This of course was because of a vendetta between David Dein and Danny Fiszman. The two of them were once good friends and it was in fact Dein who got Fiszman onto the Arsenal Board.
The vendetta between them went deeper than just Dein unilaterally going to Stan Kroenke. But I honestly don’t know the full circumstances of their falling out. However Dein leaving left a massive void at the club and was a big personal loss to Arsene Wenger.
Whatever people say about Dein, who had his faults, the same as anybody else, he was brilliant at his job. He handled all the transfer negotiations, including the fees and the wages. As well as the existing players contracts. He also had the best contacts book in the business and knew all the major agents and club presidents.
This allowed Arsene to concentrate on what he did best. Identifying transfer targets, coaching the players and picking the side. Once Dein left, this all changed. Arsene started calling the shots on wages and transfer fees. He started to gain more and more power at Arsenal. He also became distrustful of relinquishing any of that power.
Dein and Fiszman were the two major players on the Arsenal Board and when Fiszman died in April 2011 Arsene it seems began to become a law unto himself.
There was a massive power struggle to gain control of the club between the two billionaires. American, Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov from Uzbekistan. Fiszman sold his and most of the other director’s shares, over to Kroenke, two days before his death, in an effort to block Usmanov and prevent Dein returning to the club. You have to question whether this was putting his personal feud with Dein ahead of the good of the club.
Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith also sold her shares to Kroenke, giving him control of the club. Whether Fiszman and Co., had been given assurances that Kroenke would commit to spending money on the squad, we’ll probably never know. But what we do know is that Lady Nina has since said she made a mistake selling to Kroenke.
I think that Danny and the Board backed the wrong horse. In my opinion Stan has done nothing for Arsenal Football Club. He has no interest in football or indeed Arsenal. He is only interested in the balance sheet and couldn’t care less if Arsenal never win the Premier League or Champions League.
Dein and Fiszman were the ones that drove the club forward. The rest of the Board are just puppets for Kroenke. Sir Chips Keswick, our current puppet Chairman said “We back Arsene when he has a plan. We stay quiet when he doesn’t” meaning Arsene doesn’t answer to anyone. Arsene even choose Ivan Gazidis as his CEO!
All these events have allowed Arsene to run the club as he sees fit, with no pressure from anybody at Highbury House. This is without question therefore a very unhealthy situation at the club, where Arsene is never challenged on anything he does, or does not do.
Last summer he refused to buy any outfield players. Saying there was nobody available who could improve the squad. Despite the fact that every other club in the top five divisions in Europe managed to sign at least one outfield player! He also allowed the transfer window to close knowing that Danny Welbeck and arguably Jack Wilshere had a long term injuries. This amounts to negligence and there was no Dein or Fiszman to challenge this decision.
This season we haven’t progressed, in fact we’ve gone backwards. The football, once so scintillating to watch has become tedious. The build-up is slow and easy to defend against and there is no real width. We’ve become very narrow and end up trying to play eye of the needle balls, through the centre which invariably sees our attacks break down.
Despite Arsene constantly telling us the team has great mental strength and commitment. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. The team are weak, fragile and show little character, with just a handful of decent performances all season.
The spine of the side needs replacing with top quality talent. We need a domineering centre back to partner Kos, a strong powerful defensive midfielder and most of all, a top of the range striker. We have been crying out for all three for years and Arsene and the Board have neglected to rectify this.
It was partly because of a lack of investment and ambition by Arsene and the club, why star players like Van Persie Fabregas and Nasri chose to leave the club. We became a glorified feeder club for Manchester City and it was on Wenger and Kroenke’s watch that they allowed this to happen.
I now fear this pattern will be repeated with the likes of Sanchez and Ozil looking for pastures new. The club is in turmoil, the football has become stale and predictable. The club is sitting on £200m in the bank, which is rapidly depreciating because two years ago £50m would buy you two quality players now it’s only one.
The prices will get steeper with the £8b being pumped into the PL, on the back of the new TV deals. The Chinese are also spending money like it’s going out of fashion, which will further inflate transfer fees and wages. It also seems to me that Arsene is always a year or two behind on player valuations and wages, meaning a lot of possible deals never get over the line.
FFP is almost obsolete due to some of the rich and powerful clubs threatening legal action against UEFA. So Arsenal need to change their business model. It’s remarkable what Leicester have achieved this season and is a breath of fresh air to see the big boys don’t always win but I doubt this will happen again.
This season was a glorious chance for Arsenal to win the PL with Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd all struggling but Wenger and the squad have spectacularly blown it. While I accept they can’t guarantee the PL. I resent the fact that our assets are in the bank and not on the pitch. It’s criminal that a club like Arsenal, who have paid record fees in the past, on players like David Jack, Alan Ball and Malcolm Macdonald, are not punching their weight in the transfer market and not using the full resources at their disposal. We pay huge ticket prices and TV subscriptions and deserve to see a lot more of the money we generate spent on the team.
Now I feel that Arsene is in decline. Much as I’d love him to prove me and all his other critics wrong, I don’t think he will. His methods once so far ahead of the game now look dated and he’s been overtaken by other coaches. Where once he had the French market to himself, other clubs like Man City, Chelsea and notably Leicester are casting their net far and wide, stockpiling promising young talent.
It also hurts that Spurs look like they will finish above us this season. No Saint Totteringham’s Day this year! The club needs a fresh face at the helm. A manager that can take us back to where we once were. – Please note I am not saying where we belong
Unfortunately I don’t trust Stan or the Board to appoint the right person for the job. There is nobody on the Board with any real football knowledge. I also think we not only need a new manager. We need a director of football to do the job that David Dein did, all those years ago as well.
Neither of these things are likely to happen. Nobody on the Board has the courage to tell Arsene to step down and Stan is quite happy seeing the money keep rolling in. Arsene will see out the final year of his contract at the very least. After all, he always honours his contracts. In the meantime the civil war between the faction sin the Arsenal fan-base will continue to worsen.
The challenge will more difficult than ever next season. Man City have Pep and will spend heavily, as will Chelsea with Conte taking the reins. Klopp will strengthen Liverpool. Jose Mourinho may yet become the next manager of Man Utd. Spurs will be stronger and so too will West Ham moving into the Olympic stadium giving them more financial clout. Of course how can I discount the champions elect Leicester as well?
As for this season I can’t wait for it to end. It’s been an absolute shambles. I’m afraid the buck stops with Arsene Wenger.
The Majority shareholder and the Board have also failed to deliver, when they sold us the dream that we’d be able to compete for all the trophies and keep our best players when we moved to the new stadium. I’ve never felt as despondent as and Arsenal fan as I feel right now.
As always thanks for reading
Gary Lawrence – Follow me @garythegooner56