I had a barbeque/garden party recently to mark an important milestone in my family. I had my friends and extended family over for the celebration and as anyone who knows my circle can take a certain bet on, the men at the party ended the day with football talk. The women always do their best to ensure that footy doesn’t come up, whenever we have social get-together, till late in the evening or at least after all important activities of the day have been concluded. When we start football talk, that’s all we’d do till it’d be time for everyone to depart for their homes! If you think that we have heated debates here at Untold Arsenal, you need to see me and my friends & family slug it out 🙂
As you might have experienced in your own social settings, whenever there is a footy debate with an Arsenal fan involved, the topic would sooner or later become Arsenal’s trophylessness and the cure for it. This occasion was not different. It was actually pretty reflective of the larger footy fandom! We had supporters of the major teams and of course, the patient and the impatient wings of the Arsenal family.
I wouldn’t say AKBs and AAAs because none of the Gooners that I know holds the sort of views expressed by the AAA. Most of us patient ones are AKBs though. The impatient ones don’t hate Arsene (a key characteristic of the AAA) but if his departure would guarantee a trophy, they would happily kick him out. Many of them actually suggest this solution but with AW being given another role in the club rather than shown the door.
There was so much concern trolling from our rival fans about the ‘sad’ state of Arsenal football club. That once great football club that used to either win the league or come a very close second; win FA cups and doubles; go a whole season unbeaten etc. That has now become a shadow of its old magnificent self. How sad? Are you Arsenal fan going to just sit still and accept this?
I see why some Gooners get influenced by this type of talk although I expect them to have more fortitude and show better understanding of the true fortunes of their own club rather than receive lectures from people whose knowledge and intention on the subject matter are at best questionable.
Is it just me or do Man United fans tend to lecture other fans about how a club should be run? My Man United supporting friend lectured us on how Arsenal can do it. Sadly, his ‘insight’ is the same as I have heard every other ‘expert’ proffer on how Arsenal can win trophies. Yes, it was to “splash the cash”! But he said it with such certainty and sense of superiority that one would mistake him for SAF himself if not for his skin palette and accent! Man United fans can be very annoying.
So the question was soon asked of us patient Gooners by everybody else: how can any sane fan not be frustrated after 8 years without a trophy? My short answer was: because football is only a game and being a fan is not that high on my life priorities, so if things are not going according to plans for the club that I support, I have very little grounds to be frustrated. I have a life that I’m actually in control of outside football.
Okay, maybe not so short 🙂
The more nuanced answer:
While it is true that Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in 8 years, it has made giant progress as a football club. Silverwares are great and for a European club, none is greater than the Champions’ League trophy. Nottingham Forests won this trophy twice but are not in any position to vie for it in probably decades to come. Trophies are great but being in a position of strength to always compete is greater. You have to be in it to win it. Brazil went through 24 years without getting into the final of the world cup and then reached 3 consecutive finals winning twice.
Arsenal, pre Arsene Wenger and the Emirates stadium, was just another club in the upper half of the English premier league. Yes, we won trophies every now and then but so did clubs like Leeds United and Aston Villa. The arrival of Arsene Wenger gave us an unusual trophy rush that was not symptomatic of Arsenal’s pedigree. This will sound crazy to the circa 1998 fans but there is a reason why Arsene Wenger has remained our most successful manager even after going through 8 trophyless years. The 1997 to 1995 era was golden for the club but we’ve been there before. We have always had spurts of successful years that are then followed by droughts. Sometimes it is because we had a benevolent chairman while at others, we had a superb manager. Our success had never been because of our size or because of our earning power.
During another spurt of successful years and armed with a highly efficient and thoroughly dependable manager, the board decided to make Arsenal one of the biggest football clubs in the world by building a world class stadium that would immediately increase our earnings by roughly 50%. I have no official source for this but I have read in several places (with no one disputing) that AW was a key part of why the banks loaned us the funds for the stadium construction. Qualifying for ECL was also key to the negotiations. Arsene Wenger has been steadfast in his loyalty to the club and has helped to make Arsenal competitive during the repayment period by always getting the team into ECL. The loan is now almost paid up.
Arsenal is now one of the 5 biggest clubs in the world by revenue or by market value. That is without winning any trophy for almost a decade! The club is definitely moving in the right direction. We are getting bigger as an entity and because of our size and financial strength; the likelihood of falling into bad times is now remote.
This is a huge deal and one that intelligent pundits understand.
Unlike our previous periods of trophy drought, however, this one is different. We have a great stadium to show for it. Plus in the same period, we have appeared in an ECL final (our first and only), we have been in two League cup finals and have come very close to an EPL title. It is not like we are languishing at the bottom of half of the league or barely qualifying for Europa cup. It hurts us all, especially us AKBs (contrary to popular belief), that the team has remained trophyless for so long but lack of silverware is not synonymous with regression for a football club. While Everton haven’t won anything in 18 years, does it mean that they are beneath Portsmouth, Swansea and Wigan who have?
Today, we are told to “splash the cash” the cash, you know, the one that we have painstakingly accumulated, on “3 to 4 marquee signings” so that we can win trophies; although no one can guarantee that we’d indeed win any trophies with this prescription. It is a conjecture that while not inaccurate, has got its potency from mindless repetition rather than empirical or indisputable evidence. Manchester City won nothing last season while Swansea and Wigan did. I know I am also repetitive on this but the only way to deal with a repetitive claim is to repetitively debunk it.
Lest it be misconstrued from this piece, I am in no way against “marquee” signings, I just defer to the judgement of the people who have led Arsenal to its current position of strength on when and how to sign such players.
I am not frustrated as a fan of a club that has not won any trophy in 8 years because I see the progress that my club has made in a much more important area: future financial stability, strength and resilience. With our new found squad stability and going by the team’s pre-season performances, I am also optimistic about this season as I have written before.
I am not frustrated as a fan of a football club that has not won any trophy in 8 years because if all else fails, I take succour in my health, my career and my family & friends. Yes, the latter will give me “hell” in banter due to my team’s empty trophy cabinet but they fill my life with what I need to avoid frustration: true companionship!
Bring on the 2013/14 season!
Well argued, well written. I can see ours is a common cause.