Trouble at the top
Firstly, it’s been a long time since I have written anything about The Arsenal, so many thanks to the guys at Gunners Town for at least entertaining the idea. While some people are happy to create those huge threads on twitter, I am much happier putting pen to paper, as it were, so find myself sitting at my computer this morning, for the first time in ages, seeing if I can make some sense of the mess that it is our football club.
Sadly, it is not just the club that is a mess but also some strands of the fanbase too. This piece is as much a response to that as it is to what is happening at the The Emirates and behind the scenes.
One of the most immediate responses to the absolute drubbing we received at Anfield, and then our subsequently strange behaviour in the latter stages of the transfer window, has been the inevitable re-emergence of the protest accounts and the dissenting voices, and I see talk of various planned protests at forthcoming fixtures.
As a displaced Gooner these days who rarely gets to the stadium, and one at the behest of the NHS and my lovely shift patterns, I honestly don’t feel that I should even attempt to tell those who spend good money on tickets what they should or shouldn’t do on a matchday, but I do reserve the right to voice my opinion on these protests, especially if they claim to be protesting in the name of all Arsenal fans.
Yesterday I saw one brand new Arsenal protest account on Twitter proclaim that, and I quote, a “high % of our fanbase are now w***ers” (without the asterix), and call just two of the fans who disagreed with them “a cretin” and “an imbecile”. As I tweeted at the time, this is not how to organise a protest!
It’s just a couple of examples, but sadly this behaviour is also reflected by one of the most established of the protest accounts, the one that ‘organised’ everything last season, which also usually deflects any opposing views or support for the manager with abuse or what I can only assume the user / users consider to be humour.
It is childish and embarrassing in my opinion, and little wonder that our fanbase is currently so divided.
Now, let me get something straight. I do believe our football club needs change as soon as possible, lest we should find ourselves cut adrift from the upper echelons of the Premier League, and (cards on the table) as much as I respect Arsène Wenger I do think it is time for a new man to take the helm.
Just for the record though, I don’t believe that he is retarded or suffering from dementia (why do people think they can say things like this?), is fundamentally greedy or indeed a pathological liar; accusations made by numerous protestors and detractors and ones that show little appreciation for what is happening at Arsenal and even less respect for another human being. Does that really make me a cretin or an imbecile, or a w***er?
But, returning to the need for change, I don’t think banners and marches are going to cut it here, we’ve seen enough of that already, but I do know that abusing other Gooners simply for taking alternative views can only dilute the strength of any argument against the club, and yes, I know the protesters get grief too, but whatever happened to discussing things sensibly and, if necessary, agreeing to disagree? Surely the onus is on the protesters to harvest as much support as possible, not abuse and alienate everyone they disagree with?
Perhaps most importantly though, I believe that protests against the manager should cease. Whether we like it or not, he signed a new contract for two years and surely won’t be leaving until next summer at the earliest, that is even if he breaks the habit of a lifetime and fails to honour a contract.
As I said earlier, it is not for me to try and tell people whether they can protest or not. However if there is going to be any protest action I feel it should now be very focused and targeted at the owner. I genuinely believe that while Stan Kroenke owns Arsenal Football Club and, as David Ornstein this morning, “he will not be injecting a penny of his own wealth to assist the quest”, has told us that whoever manages the team is in reality of very little consequence. You think Eddie Howe would be coping with all this turbulence? Or that Allegri would even consider coming along for the ride? Not a chance……
I don’t view Arsenal any differently to any other business or organisation. Whilst we all know that Arsène wields great influence at the club having been there for more than two decades, it is now quite clear that our progress, or lack of it in terms of challenging for the biggest prizes of all, is being hamstrung by those at the very top, and that is where we find Stan Kroenke and the board.
They were complicit in offering the manager a new contract, having done nothing to try and secure a suitable replacement, and they are complicit as he manages now, seemingly with one hand tied behind his back, in a financial sense at least.
Maybe he should have walked in the summer, or before, or maybe he stayed because there was no one to replace him? Perhaps he signed because he genuinely believes that winning the FA Cup is not the most we can achieve? Who knows? None of us do, but sign he did.
Let me reiterate, I do think Arsène’s day is done, but who would want to come and work for Stan Kroenke at such a poorly run football club now? No, things have to change at the very top or I do feel we may end up slipping even further behind. Surely if Stan goes, then our new owner also looks to start afresh with a new manager, which would undoubtedly be best for everyone. If Wenger goes we probably just make an awful decision with regards to a new manager, and so it goes on.
This is why I am unsure that marches and plastic banners will make any real difference. Walkouts might, as this would be most impactful if enough people supported them but I actually doubt they will.
Come match day, most people just want to watch Arsenal and support the team. Regardless of everything that is happening we, as fans, want our team to win every match, and doing anything that might lessen the chances of that happening is, for most people, completely abhorrent.
So, message to the protester organisers, don’t give people grief for not wanting to wave banners, march around the stadium or stop cheering for the team. If you must protest, think of something different and try to get people to unite behind the Kroenke Out cause, instead of abusing them and telling them they are mugs if they don’t support your actions on a match day.
In reality, of course the only way change will really happen at The Emirates is from behind the scenes. Arsenal is the sixth richest club in the world according to Forbes and persuading the owner to sell, and then actually buying the club, will be a huge undertaking.
I am not saying sit on your hands if you really feel that you must do something, but we need a strong basis for a white knight to ride in make Kroenke an offer he cannot refuse, not online bickering and sheets of A4 paper saying ‘Akers Out’. It’s like trying to buy £3bn worth of football club by having a whip-round in the pub. Maybe one or more of our former players could do more to keep the pressure on, as I am sure they won’t be silenced by Mesut’s recent words of wisdom, and nor should they be.
There are far more questions than answers here, I know that, and I for one don’t claim to have them all to hand. I will probably also be accused of hypocrisy – as I can see the troubles at the club and yet am saying that we should stop all the ‘Wenger Out’ malarkey.
It just so happens that I think it is divisive, embarrassing and misses the point. Most of all, I just cannot stand seeing our fans being torn apart and told by other fans what they should and shouldn’t think.
It is up to each of us to make their own personal choice and for me it’s time to unite the fanbase and work together to get Kroenke Out, but I will continue to support the team every time they step on to pitch with that crest on their chests.
Thanks for reading.
Come on you Gunners.
Many thanks to Gareth Stringer for this heartfelt guest post and you can respond on Twitter @Gareth_Stringer or in the comments.