For most of us Arsenal is a big part of our identity and as such the identity of Arsenal is a big part of who we are. But what happens when a big part of that identity is torn away? For those who have followed the team for ages this may not be a big thing. They’ve seen it before, it’s nothing new but for a large part of the Arsenal faithful it could be an earth shattering change the like of which they have never seen at the club. This is about them, this is about Gen Wen.
Arsenal fans these days are seemingly divided in all sorts of sub-groups, definitions, cults and opinions. One thing that divides us more than anything is our opinion of the manager but this will not be a piece arguing for his staying or going, his greatness or faults. No, this is about his legacy and his impact on the concept of what Arsenal is for so many of us.
Among all the controversial divisions there is one where there is no right or wrong, where the side you are on is not a matter of choice but an indisputable fact. Either you didn’t start supporting Arsenal, be it by age or accessibility, until around 1996 and after or you’ve supported Arsenal longer than that. The date may seem trivial or random but the side you are on will likely have a huge impact on your view of the future of this club. If you are on the latter side you have seen several iterations of Arsenal, different styles, different eras and different identities. If you are on the former side you most likely have only experienced one Arsenal. You can only be on one side, either you’ve supported a non-Wenger Arsenal or you haven’t.
In 1996 Arsene Wenger started managing Arsenal and he immediately placed his mark on the team and English football as a whole. For all those who had supported the club for a while at that point he changed what Arsenal was to some extent, his style of management was different and the style of play employed by his team was significantly different. But for the rest of us this is the only Arsenal we have ever known. All our great memories related to Arsenal contain Arsene Wenger as the manager of the club. Some of us want to keep him, some of us want him gone, none of us have experienced a non-Wenger Arsenal first hand.
It is not hard to imagine that the therefore that the day he leaves the club will be one of traumatic change for many of us. So tightly is the man woven in with the identity of this club that it is hard to imagine it without him. Unless you were around to see Rioch, Graham, Howe or maybe even Neill, then your relationship with Arsenal is something different than ours, not reliant on who the manager is or what style of football is played. But for so many of us Wenger has been the manager of Arsenal our whole football following lives making him almost synonymous with the club.
So when rumors starts flying around that he will not renew his contract it scares us even though not all of us will admit it. Whether we want to keep him or not it is still a bit scary. Not necessarily because we think Arsenal will struggle without him, we are probably as divided on that as any group of Arsenal fans. No, it scares us because it threatens a huge part of what Arsenal is to us. It is a bit like moving away from home for the first time, you know you will make it without your parents but it is still scary because it is a huge paradigm shift in who you are and what your life is like. This is how we feel about Arsene Wenger leaving Arsenal, it will completely redefine what Arsenal are to us and by extension a big part of who we are. Because while it certainly isn’t Arsene FC it is at the very least Arsènal FC to a lot of us.
Thanks to Martin Palmér our guest today who you can follow @Swegoon
A Swedish Gooner who discovered the club at the age of 9 when Freddie Ljungberg was bought. He spends his days managing software development projects for various media companies and his evenings watching football from across the world. He has a blog in Swedish on the official Swedish supporters club, Arsenal Sweden. Being robbed by his parents of seeing Highbury in the summer of 2003, something they still aren’t forgiven for, he finally saw his first live home game in December 2014. He has not seen the team lose live with 2 win and a draw.