The league starts in 3 weeks and all fans are feeling like kids on Christmas Eve. We all can’t wait to open our presents to see what Santa has brought us. All fans except those who are pessimistic because their clubs’ managements haven’t bought the players that they (the fans) believe are needed to guarantee success. I have a habit of lurking on blogs and Internet forums of teams in the Premier league. I like to know what fans of other teams are feeling about the impending season in contrast with fans of Arsenal FC. To be clear, this is not an academic research, so please take this with a pinch of salt. Also, my point here is strictly about attitudes being displayed on the Internet; it is not about the behaviour of all fans in the real world.
I notice that fans of the smaller teams are cautiously optimistic. They are mostly just looking forward to a good season with the hope that they may just nick one of the domestic cups while finishing as highly as possible. Sunderland fans are very upbeat in particular. It appears the bigger the team, the higher the expectations and this is natural but no set of fans are as despondent as Arsenal’s. No set of fans, including those who barely escaped relegation last season, are as pessimistic as Arsenal fans. And I wonder why. I am not talking about jitters here; I mean actual crap your pants apprehension. And again, I ask: why? What has the Arsenal management done so wrong to trigger this feeling of hopelessness? Arsenal is arguably the best run football club in Britain with a world class stadium; well behaved and committed players (2012/13 Fairplay winners); one of the best managers in the world and a solid financial future. Why are gooners so insecure about the future? Actually, gooners are not really pessimistic about the long term security of their club; they just mostly believe that they are not going to compete in the coming season.
Of the last top 5 finishers, Chelsea and Man city fans are really giddy and full of anticipation, Chelsea fans more so. Manchester United fans are not overly confident but they are not crapping their pants either. Tottenham fans, as usual, are confident that they are getting top 4 this season. The current whipping club and object of mockery of ALL fans is Arsenal. The mockery, however, is always led by the Arsenal fans!
Every football fan with a keyboard and Internet access has an opinion on Arsenal and it is usually negative. It is always about not winning any trophy in 8 years. And they all have the exact same solution: splash the cash on 3 to 4 world class players! You know, like Wigan and Swansea did! We also know that Borrusia Dortmund assembled their ECL final reaching team spending hundreds of millions of pounds. Jokes, irony and sarcasm apart, most gooners are being influenced by this negativity more than anything else. A commenter who claimed to be a Cambridge educated lawyer once told me on this site that he is affected by the taunts of rival fans about the club not winning any trophy in 8 years. Please let that sink in.
We have too many fans who have outsourced their thinking about their team to the media, rival fans and other gooners instead of thinking for themselves. Of course we also have the almighty glory hunters who started following the team around 1998 and are now lashing out because their friends know that they have been bragging about Arsenal’s success while the trophies were flowing, so switching allegiance now is going to bring them more ridicule than Arsenal’s lack of trophies.
As I have asked a couple of times earlier, why are Arsenal fans so negative/pessimistic about their team? What is wrong with the team that got the highest points in the second half of last season and have now gone 15 matches unbeaten? What is so depressing about the EPL team with the best pre-season performances so far? Why are gooners so ashamed of the team with the highest stability in terms of player turnover and the 2nd best defence of last season? What is so bad about a team that is being managed by a veteran of 16 consecutive ECL qualifications including a final, 3 EPL titles including an unbeaten run, 4 FA cups, 2 doubles, and 8 years of top 4 qualifications just after building a new stadium?
The answer: No trophy in 8 years.
You are going to see loads of verbose rebuttals and counter-arguments in the comments section but this is what the whole ‘chicken-littling’ is all about. There are 4 major reasons, in my opinion, why we have not won any trophy in 8 years. I shall enumerate them below and give my 2 cents on each in ascending order of importance.
4. Emergence of sugar daddies to our rival clubs: This requires no explanations except, of course; the unearned funds have skewed the market causing Arsenal to lose out in crazy bids on desired players. Our ability to compete has reduced not just because we cannot buy expensive players but because our nouveau riche rivals can afford to and have been hoarding them!
3. The new stadium: even without the emergence of sugar daddies, we would still have struggled due to our diminished spending power as we pay off the costs of the stadium. That we have consistently been close to the top in the last 8 years is a great testament to the managerial acumen of Arsene Wenger, you know, that clueless has-been and tightwad. There have been lots of debates about the stadium but I doubt that anyone will argue that paying for it has limited our spending power. Gary Neville said it best on the last day of the season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjPVZwhddG4
2. Player Departure: This is probably the biggest reason why Arsenal haven’t won any trophy in 8 years. This is also the one area where the club has been criticised most unfairly. News flash: the slave trade is over so you cannot make anyone work for you against their will. Flamini refused to renew his contract before it ran out and then Wenger is blamed for it; but the same critics have forgotten how much stick they gave the guy when he was still finding his feet and how Wenger was accused of favouring a fellow Frenchman! Ditto for Alexandre Song. Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor left for money!. Arsene Wenger stood by RvP as he typically played for a third or half a season for 6 years due to various injuries, often from playing for Holland. But as soon as his brittle legs finally solidified, he realised that he needs to win trophies – the fucking asshole! Maybe he would have won trophies if he had been playing for the full seasons that the club was paying him for! Apart from Cesc Fabregas, whose case I understand and who gave his best for the team while with us, all the others left us for selfish reasons while spitting in the face of the man who had faith in and stood by them when the same people who are now mourning their departure were calling for their heads.
In each of these cases, the club had a difficult decision to make and I believe that they made the most logical ones and not the emotional propositions of the fans. I think the logic behind collecting £24million for 1 year contract of a very injury prone 29 year old is impeccable. Man United took a big gamble and it paid off. I say good for them but does any gooner seriously believes that we would have won the EPL or ECL if we had kept him? Any other trophy is not worth £24million! We might have won some trophies if we had been able to keep our players together but unfortunately these are individuals with their own desires and the freedom to pursue them that are guaranteed by law.
1. Luck! : The number one reason why we haven’t won any trophy in 8 years is because we have been unlucky. In the last 8 years, Portsmouth and Wigan have won the FA cup; Birmingham City and Swansea have won the league cup; we have played in Champions’ league final, 2 League cup finals and have come pretty close to winning the EPL in 07/08. I don’t blame luck for all our woes but look at the 2011 league cup final against Birmingham city and look at Wigan’s FA cup final against Man city last year; which of the first 3 problems that I have enumerated did Man city have? How come they lost to Wigan? We have beaten Birmingham City 3-0 in each of the two EPL fixtures in 2010/11 season. They were so poor that eventually they got relegated (just like Wigan) but they manage to beat us due to an unfortunate goal. If you still don’t believe in luck, check out the 1999 ECL final again!
Now we can look at the whole picture in our critiques of Arsenal or we can just limit our grouse to lack of “3 to 4 world class signings” but repetition of this widespread cliché is not going to bring any trophy, it will only annoy those who have chosen to look at the whole picture.
Despite being a proud and vocal AKB, I know of a few legitimate faults of Arsene Wenger which is why I am always amused by the one and only fault that his detractors cling to: refusal to splash the cash. It is such a petty and simplistic argument. You can attack the man for his tactical decisions, his substitution timing and his annoying complaints to the 4th officials instead of communicating with his players. These are legitimate critiques; splash the cash is not!
Back to the despondence of gooners about the new season: 8 years is a short time in the life of a football club. Long term survival and well being of the club trumps short term glory and this is why I will continue to support the management and the board because they have set Arsenal on the path to competing for decades to come. I have no idea how the 2013/14 season is going to pan out but I am eagerly looking forward to the ‘roller-coaster’ ride! I hope that we win every trophy from the Emirates cup to the Champions’ league but it will not be the end of the world if we win nothing. With luck on our side, I believe that we’ll win something this season. However, as long as we continue to compete, yes compete, while playing decent and fair football; and with our finances in order, I will continue to be a proud gooner. I am not supporting Arsenal for the players that we might sign or the trophies that we might win; I am supporting Arsenal for the values of the club and as long as those values are maintained, I will always be a proud gooner!
Bring on 2013/14 season!
Cross posted at Untold Arsenal