The Arsenal Problem
Posted by Joe Bishop | Published on February 16, 2017
In the last few years, Arsenal have slowly started to become less of a football club and more of a haven for mockery and embarrassment, both from other fans and their own. Ever since social media has began to play such a prominent role in the footballing world, Twitter and YouTube have both become places where football fans dwell and share their opinions with people on the internet. Take ArsenalFanTV for example; the YouTube channel created in 2012 has gained heavy traction in recent times for their raw and virtually uncut analysis of Arsenal games. The show has gained a cult following of football fans from around the world who all gather in unison to watch regular interviewees such as ‘Claude’, ‘Ty’, ‘DT’ and ‘Troopz’ give their [usually] explicit views on the performance they just watched. For example, following Arsenal’s heavy 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich last night, Claude was interviewed outside the Allianz Arena and gave his views on the match and the Wenger situation; saying that they only thing Arsenal are competing with Bayern in is that “we [Arsenal] have better toilets”.
ArsenalFanTV has been heavily criticised in the media, with former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville calling the show a “joke” among other strongly negative adjectives. However, shows like these make up a very small part of the Arsenal problem, and people need to consider the bigger picture when criticising such things.
What Is The ‘Arsenal Problem’?
When Ivan Gazidis was appointed as the chief executive of Arsenal Football Club in 2009, he arrived with some very clear and concise views on how the club would fare in the future. In an interview with the BBC in 2012, he said: “As we look to the next two, three years we will have an outstanding platform on which to compete with any club in the world”. This was viewed as a bold statement from the outset but was certainly seen as a positive statement of intent to the Arsenal fans, who in 2012 hadn’t seen their club win a major trophy since 2005. However, in 2017 and with the benefit of hindsight, Gazidis will certainly wish he never made such a bold statement of which the fans of Arsenal can now refer to and be left wondering what could have gone so badly wrong for the club to somehow have regressed since 2012, as in this moment in time it is hard to make a case for Arsenal to feature in even the Top 20 clubs in the world.
The main problem with the board at Arsenal is the reluctance to spend money on quality signings, and when they do finally splash the cash, they tend to heavily overspend on players where they could have sought cheaper alternatives. For example, in 2013 Arsenal were on the pursuit of greatly sought after Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. Their initial bid of £30m + £5m in add-ons was rejected, and Gazidis was informed by Anfield chief executive Ian Ayre that Liverpool would not consider a sum of £40m for Suarez. This did not deter Arsenal from putting in a second bid for the Uruguayan, a bid of £40m and one pound which would activate the release clause in Suarez’ contract and force Liverpool into informing the striker of the interest from Arsenal.
This bid showed the Arsenal board’s complete incompetence and was viewed as embarrassing by many media outlets, increasingly strengthening Arsenal’s reputation of being a joke of a club. When they had the second bid rejected, Wenger informed the media of his interest in Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain, however, the Argentine soon moved to Napoli for a fee of around £30m. Had the board acted faster in pursuing Higuain, their financial supremacy over Napoli would surely have seen the striker heading to North London over Naples, however, the board displayed another example of being completely inept in the transfer market and instead signed flops Emmanuel Frimpong and Yaya Sanogo among other signings which turned out to be terrible investments.
Arsene in or Arsene out? This question has been heavily debated by both fans and pundits over the last few seasons which have been incredibly disappointing in terms of domestic and European campaigns. However, the penny has finally dropped this season, and the people are beginning to unite against Wenger. Some performances have been overwhelmingly bad, take the 3-1 loss to Chelsea at the beginning of the month or the 5-1 loss to Bayern on Wednesday night, and Arsenal fans are beginning to revolt, which has been demonstrated on social media and on the previously mentioned ArsenalFanTV. ‘Arsene out’ banners have already been seen around the Emirates and Arsenal fans are losing respect for the Frenchman after every lack-lustre performance. The problem with Wenger, however, is that he has developed an irrational sense of pride and is plagued by naivety which has seen the club go through an endless cycle which keeps on repeating itself, Arsenal finish fourth —> Arsene keeps his job —> Arsenal start the season well —> they drop off in February —> fans revolt —> they win the FA Cup —> Arsenal finish fourth and repeat the previous cycle.
Wenger and the board have continuously settled for mediocre league finishes and mild cup successes, and Wenger’s inability to realise that he is forcing the club into oblivion has resulted in mediocrity being the norm at the once highly respected football club. The smart thing that Wenger should have done is to have resigned following the 2014-15 season, he would have been remembered as someone who led the club to great successes, but he chose to stay on at the club, and with every damning defeat his reputation and legacy are becoming increasingly tarnished. However, the board will never sack Wenger, someone who has done so much for the club in the past, the manager who masterminded the invincibles season of 2003-04. So until Arsene swallows his pride and realises that his resignation would be beneficiary to both him and the club, Arsenal Football Club will continue to rot in mediocrity and disappointment.
Perhaps a smaller part of the Arsenal problem are the fans themselves. In my opinion, there are three types of Arsenal fan. The first type is the realist; realists know that Wenger’s time is up, however they don’t hound the board and the manager with abuse, instead they attempt to patiently endure this bad spell in hope of a better future for their club.
The second is the reactionary; these types of fans make up a lot of what is wrong with modern football. They worship Wenger when the club is doing well, usually in August-December, then as soon as the losses start to increase and the standard of football starts to decrease, they’re out for Wenger’s head and are using every expletive in the book to describe their manager. These fans are what I’d call armchair supporters, they sit at home watching Arsenal on the TV and hound the club with abuse on social media whenever they concede a goal. Obviously, that was a generalisation as some reactionaries are bound to attend Arsenal games and show their anger in the stadium as opposed to home and on their computers, but I’d like to bet you that a large number of these fans dwell in the comfort of their living room, shouting obscenities at their TV screen.
The third and final type of Arsenal fan is the optimist; these fans tend to view Arsene Wenger as their Lord and saviour; they bring up the past in order to find something to praise Wenger about and will be forever talking about how they can always turn things around and how the club just needs to stick with the Frenchman as manager. The optimists are a dying breed in recent years as it has got to the point where even the biggest Wenger lovers have began to turn against him, however, there are still a select few who believe in him and the board and always have hope of a dramatic turnaround.