I’ve blogged about prejudice, racism, politics and the refugees. Now it’s time to take it down a notch and discuss a topic I am no less passionate about, but is (dare I admit it) less grave!
As anyone with any experience of social media knows, Arsenal fans simply rule. We outnumber pretty much everyone (@Arsenal has 6.6 million followers whereas some other random club’s official account, @spursofficial has a fewer than 1.3m followers).
Last night, we gloriously qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League for the gazillionth year in a row, and we sit nicely just off the top of he Premier League.
But not all is rosy in the red red garden that is North London. Many Gooners are less than 100% satisfied and have been expressing their feelings across social media.
Now I get that we have the most expensive season tickets. I get that we haven’t won the League for 11 years. I get that we haven’t properly challenged for the Champions League since 2006. And I get that our squad, while exciting and the best we’ve had for some time, is frustratingly injury-prone and probably one or two players shy of being truly world-beating.
These are all valid criticisms. I even get that some people feel it is time for Arsene Wenger to step down. He’s been Arsenal manager for 20 years now, and people (with their short, little spans of attention*) get bored.
But what I don’t get, and what I don’t accept, is the vitriol and personal abuse Wenger gets from some quarters. Accusations that he “hasn’t got a clue”, is “only interested in lining his own pockets”, is “a hopeless wanker”, that he “doesn’t give a shit” and so on.
I stand proudly and firmly against all of that.
First, I lose all respect for people who are certain that they know better than a man who has won two doubles, more FA Cups than anyone else in the history of football, had a massive hand in the building of one of the finest training facilities and stadiums in the world and built and guided a team of Invincibles.
Disagree? Fine. Express an opinion? Absolutely. But when “AFCdick” (apologies if that’s you – it’s meant to be a random name) with his 5 years’ experience of playing FIFA calls Wenger a dick because he hasn’t signed Benzema? No. Just no.
Second, the allegation that he doesn’t care is so plainly wrong it is hardly worth disputing. It is well documented that he has been offered very lucrative deals at “top top” clubs (if I may borrow the phrase, Monsieur W) at various times, but he has turned them all down to see it through in North London.
He has overseen a radical change that has brought Arsenal from a patchy, often mid-table club that even finished below Sp*rs as often as not into a modern, well-financed, exciting club who play in a fantastic new stadium, sign truly world class players, regularly win trophies (yes I know about the gap, but when you average them out) and have qualified for the Champions League EVERY SINGLE (full) SEASON of his 20-year tenure.
Now I know that 4th place isn’t a trophy etc etc, but that is a phenomenal achievement. Just look to Liverpool to see what happens when you miss out for just one season.
And evenly the media’s miracle man Jose Moaning Myrtle Mourinho and the bottomless pit of filthy lucre that is Chelsea are discovering that it’s not easy to be so consistent for so long.
Thierry Henry, a man who knows a thing or two about The Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, has been quoted as saying that “nobody loves Arsenal more than Arsene” and I believe him.
To be honest, Wenger does bring some of this criticism on himself. He is clearly a very stubborn man and he has stuck rigidly to his policy of never discussing transfers or team matters or criticising his players in public, so us mere fans are left to guess.
When people say he only aims for 4th place, I believe they are talking nonsense. Likewise when they say he didn’t try to enhance the squad over the summer (has £10 million ever been better spent than on Petr Cech?).
But I don’t know because he doesn’t say. Or if he does, nobody believes him. I just hope that when he does eventually retire, he sets the record straight with a warts and all autobiography.
I leave you with this thought. The people castigating Wenger for “failing” to sign Ottomandi or Martial this year are the very same eejits who said we simply HAD to sign Chris Samba (remember him? Nope. Me neither) and Brede Hangeland.
* You can call me (Laben)Al