Is the recent run of good results – THFC apart – a flash in the pan or a portend of good things to come.
Reading social media and you can see that both views are present. Let us look at them.,,,,
The False Dawn approach is born of two attitudes. First, there are fans who look at the record since 2005, who disregard the three FA Cup wins, who feel we have failed repeatedly in the League and CL and who have a fixed view that Wenger needs to go.
This First Group – Wenger Out – plays down the years when we were a selling club and lumps the ten years as evidence of continued failure redeemed inadequately by success in the FA Cup. Many of them are hardened against Wenger. A few are reasonable but more are hard bitten and feel that the Cup wins are delaying the inevitable. The manager has to go. Many have overreached themselves and convinced of their own correctness have gone down the protest route – with banners and chants and selective absences from games. In their view and adopting their language Wenger is “past his sell by date…has nothing to offer…time to go”. Some within this group have become Haters and poured venom on Wenger with foul and abusive language. Some, more restrained, are just Antis
The Second Group sees things differently. They attach importance to their respect even affection for Wenger. They recognise the early Doubles and FA Cup successes. They contend that to stay in the top four while selling the best players, either to cover deficits from stadium building or because the players were offered better deals elsewhere has been a special achievement. They have reservations about last season’s failure and by the seven defeats in twelve matches this season but still want Wenger at the helm.
Whether you are in the First Group or the Second Group, whether you are Wenger Out or Wenger In it is necessary in my view for each of us to ask ourselves questions about the change since the Palace defeat.
Something has happened and it is not just the switch to three at the back following the Palace defeat – important though that is. Too many goals were being conceded. The team were playing without confidence. Defeats by Watford, WBA and Palace in the League and by Bayern Munich in the CL were sapping the spirit of the players. Some fans explained it by saying that the players had given up on Wenger. They were not interested in AFC. They were going through the motions. Reinforced by hatred some fans lost their self-control and engaged in unacceptable language. Other fans saw things differently and concluded that Wenger was not able to provide answers. Younger thrusting coaches had overtaken him. He was too old, out of touch and should go. Additionally some fans saw him as inflexible, intolerant of new ideas and increasingly isolated from the dynamics of modern football. This strong trend was reinforced by well-placed journalists like Henry Winter of the Times and the regulars on Soccer Supplement. The pressure was building.
However, the pressure was also resisted. There were many, like myself who saw things differently. We retained faith and confidence in Wenger. We knew things were not right but refused to call for change. This was not sentiment or nostalgia. We continued to believe in Wenger. We looked at his record – never mid-table, never a fight with relegation – always in the top four. We saw in Bellerin and Holding the commitment of youth and support for Wenger. We disliked the ferocity of the protestors and stood by Wenger.
Now all of this is background. It tells us what happened but the question for every one of us is whether something significant has happened since Palace. Are those who are anti-Wenger and want him out today allowing their frustration – hatred for some – to cloud their judgement? Are they in danger of marginalising the change with that dismissive wave of the hand and the phrase “Same Old, Same Old”? It is always the case that the times of greatest pressure call for cool analysis and not emotional frustration. If you let the past frustrations dominate your present attitudes, you are letting yourselves down. You are also letting Arsenal down.
There is another point – people see a change of opinion as a personal weakness. Ego comes into the equation and people can allow stubbornness to lead to bad judgment to lead to wrong decisions. I know because I ask myself that very question. Am I too egotistical to allow a change of attitude to Wenger? Should I cross from one side to the other? Should I go from Wenger In to Wenger Out?
Let me explain, therefore, why I feel the right decision is for Wenger to stay.
We have played ten matches since Palace and won nine. There is a run of results that requires us to look again. Some will dismiss the run as end of season results to which little significance should be attached. Opponents have switched off. The chase is over. They are thinking of beaches and family and clubs and new cars. They may be right but they may also be wrong – and for this reason, something significant has happened.
The switch to three at the back is a big change. It has given us stability, composure, and confidence. Not overnight and it has taken time and the game at White Hart Lane came too soon for us. However, that result apart we have grown in confidence, determination, and spirit. Each match has seen an advance. The first test was going to Stoke where we have never featured will and we won 4-1. The next test was to win at home to Everton with ten men from the 17th minute. We did with a stirring 3-1 win. Then the Cup Final. Deprived of Koscielny, Gabriel and Mustafi we relied upon Holding, Monreal and Mertesacker against a Chelsea team going for the Double and the history books. In fact, we put on a great performance and won 2-1. Players have responded. Ramsey has been liberated. Ozil has more room. The defence is tight. The goals are coming
As I say above, if you are inflexible and intolerant with a closed mind and not a little prejudice against Wenger you will miss the development, the change, the new thrust.
Of course, I am a happy bunny. I am a strong supporter of a great man. Nevertheless, in life it is not what you hope for but what you see in front of you. Disregard the change and you will find yourself on the wrong side of the development. Things are happening on the training ground, in the dressing room, and on the pitch. We finish the season on a high and the expectations for next season are high. Yes, there are contracts to negotiate, players to leave, and players to arrive and Board division to confront. That is not the point. Something significant has happened. Weigh it up and enjoy Wimbledon and the Open and the Grand Prix because August will soon be with us. So looking forward to next season.