Dear Fellow Gunners
Three good wins followed by the United defeat and now two draws in matches we would expect to win and then the hard fought win over Newcastle. A friend approached me after the win – quite agressively commenting on my support for Wenger. I did not want to raise the temperature and was sotto voce in response but I did want to enquire whether he felt like that after the strong win over N London rivals. I also wanted to ask him whether he was happy that we beat Burnley at Turf Moor where prior to the AFC fixture they had conceded just four goals or whether he watched us against Huddersfield Town frustrated by our 5-1 win.
There is a point here – the need to see things in the round – take in the whole picture – there is good and not so good. But people tend to fit the results into their views on Wenger. If you feel he is a drag on progress then any setback is maximised and any success is shrugged off. Draws when we are expected to win upset us but fans forget that just four days before drawing with West Ham the same Hammers team had beaten the Champions. So there is always a perspective, a context into which we need to fit the present.
You can take the long view and write off Wenger because he has not challenged for the title since 2004.
You can take a shorter view, allowing for the years when we sold our best players to help fund the stadium construction, and say Wenger has not challenged for the title since we turned the corner and became a buying club with the purchase of Sanchez followed by Ozil.
You can take an even shorter view and say Wenger has not challenged for the title since August 2015 when with the purchase of Cech he professed himself content with his squad at his disposal without the need for further purchases.
There is a case to be made against Wenger – no question.
There is also a defence.
• We have always been in the Champions League – this season apart.
•We have won the FA Cup three years in four and along the way beaten City, United, Chelsea, Liverpool.
•We have built the Emirates and Wenger did bid £92m for Lemar as evidence that we have funds even if we cannot compete with Russian money and Oil money.
But we do not operate within the sober atmosphere of a court hearing with a judge and a jury and court officials to ensure good behaviour.
There is a new element in the game – certainly for those of us who go back to the 1970’s and before.
Social media has injected a new element of instant views – often aggressive – fanned as they are by a media eager for conflict and confrontation.
I am reminded of that wonderful sentence of Hugh McIlvaney’s when he recalled the treatment of George Best by the press – something like
“there stands the media hailing the new messiah while fingering in their pockets with the nails for his eventual crucifixion”
Heroes are there to be taken down.
As one who tweets daily very much on the front foot confronting the regular diet of hate, insult and humiliation (not just football) the mood of public debate has moved very much from reason to no reason – Brexit was an example. Football too.
So the atmosphere is different and opinions are expressed more forcibly. Judgments are instant. Every match is an opportunity to express views – often resentments, animosities and even visceral hate as well. We cling to reason believing that only proper debate and discussion can secure the acceptable outcomes. But reason is in a battle with non-reason.
Back to Wenger and Arsenal. I was reminded of another point by a tweet from an Arsenal fan – he loves coming to a game, travelling with family and friends, the drink before the game with long standing fellow fans and the chance to catch up on their respective lives. And then there is the football. The Arsenal and the opportunity to support the team. He refuses to hate or mock. He is happy when we win and he is upset when we lose.
Others are quiite different – they have had enough of Wenger. They want him out. They enjoy the wins and will celebrate the goals but turn quickly and decisively and aggressively when we draw against Southampton or edge home against Newcastle.
And that is where we are today – if there was an age of innocence some time back it has gone and we support our team in a different atmosphere.
For me – Wenger signed a two year extension. He has never broken a contract even when he was courted with mouth watering sums by every top club in Europe and afar. And we should not break his contract. He may of his own volition decide to leave – I hope he doesn’t.
There are uncertainties – is Ozil about to sign a new contract? Will Alexis leave for City? Has Koscielny suddenly reached the point of decline? Does Xhaka need to be replaced by a stronger presence? At the same time we have important backroom additions following the departures of Rowley and Law. Is Arteta being lined up as a successor or will Puel enjoy a successful period at Leicester and suddenly come into view.
Stability and Change are two ever-present contenders for the moment – not just in football but in life everywhere.
Too much stabiliity and things stagnate. Too much change and things never settle. The balance is all important.
The Board know that and the responsibility lies with them.
Hope we beat the Hammers tonight
All the best for Christmas and the New Year
You can read more on @arsenalcircular