Another visit to Old Trafford, another shambolic performance.
I don’t bother with anger anymore. If a decade of resignation has taught me anything, it is that while the situation at Arsenal is helplessly rigid, emotion simply isn’t worth it. Pessimism has been a faithful ally of mine over the years; I’d recommend it to any Arsenal fan looking to embrace lost hope. Pessimism is comforting even at the worst of times.
As a fan, anger can only take you to the point at which you seriously consider support for particularly players, the board and, crucially, the manager. Though I made up my mind on Arsene Wenger five years ago, after the sale of three key players in one window without adequate replacements, I can’t bring myself to express any intense passion against him after watching Arsenal fail because I realise that the situation is a vicious cycle of arrogance, hopelessness and naivety.
Because Arsenal’s problem, that is their innate inability to recapture major silverware (no disrespect to the FA Cup, but the top tier teams do now privately consider it a consolation prize) under Wenger, is one which cannot be unpicked or solved without a major revamp of club principles, activity and attitude. And it starts from the very top of the club.
My own mind has been made up over Arsene Wenger for almost five years now, but rarely do I revisit it in person or through social media because it is an argument that I am tired of having. Division in the fan base, for the most part, is unhelpful and counter-productive. I think Arsenal need to embark upon a search for a new manager, regardless of the club’s more recent FA Cup successes.
But Arsenal won’t look for a new manager, will they? Who would dare pursue such a campaign? Who at Arsenal Football Club would dare point the finger at Wenger, lay down rigorous ultimatums and demand results? Pressure at the club’s summit is non-existent. And why? Because turnover is good, and as long as turnover is good, Gazidis and Kroenke are able, quite wrongly, to deflect quite a lot of blame.
Piers Morgan’s Twitter summary (just after full-time at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon) of Stan Kroenke was stunningly accurate when he noted that ‘Kroenke lives in LA, never goes to games and couldn’t care less so long as [Arsenal] finish in the top four’. It is a sad and damning verdict of a club with so much footballing potential.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger need a cultural wake-up call. Players (many of whom winners on the international scene) need to have imposed upon them an attitudinal shift, from the very top to the very bottom of the club. Until such a lackadaisical approach to success is ousted, failure to claim the game’s two major prizes will only linger on ever longer.
Stan Kroenke’s absence, not just from games, but from club life and fan interaction in general, is particularly emblematic of a club in desperate need of a killer mentality. One would have thought that the owner of one of the world’s largest and most successful brands would at least attempt to adopt a far more hands-on approach to overseeing club progress.
Such a void at Arsenal’s peak has caused nothing but a vast breakdown in authority. It has positioned Arsene Wenger in such a way that he is no longer accountable to anybody but himself. His role at the club has changed from manager under the guidance of David Dein (my, do Arsenal miss him), to manager and caretaker director.
The lack of an authoritative figure overlooking and pressuring Arsene Wenger has ensured that success is no longer compulsory at Arsenal; rather it is optional. Almost twelve years have passed since the Premier League trophy was held by Arsene, and I cannot help but think that Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho would not have been afforded such a long, fruitless period of time in charge of their respective clubs.
Stan Kroenke has, over recent years, repeatedly reiterated his claim that he did not become Arsenal’s major shareholder in order to win trophies. For Silent Stan, adding to his already impressive franchise is about nothing more than professional and economic vanity. He isn’t interested in validating his purchase through silverware so much as he is in the health of his bank balance.
Arsenal’s bolstered commercial standing, through hefty sponsorship deals and a shiny new stadium, has been welcome from a financial perspective, but if results on the pitch do not reflect alleged success in the boardroom, then fans are not getting their money’s worth, and the morale of the fanbase is left completely depleted. Fly Emirates is a nice little furnishing for our strip, and The Emirates may look lovely from the perspective of the BT Sport helicopter crew, but the reality is that the club’s intense commercialisation has merely papered over quite noticeable footballing cracks.
And this is what I mean by an attitudinal shift. Arsenal’s management, players and staff have come to accept second best. We have, as a club, become too comfortable with the obligatory Champions League places, that we seem too timid to really push on. With nobody to hold to account, and no sharp changes in management or ownership on the horizon, fans are left to witness the effects of a vicious, repetitive cycle; one in which there seems to be no way out.
It’s time for a major culture shock at Arsenal, and Stan Kroenke must be central to it. If LA is too warm and cosy to leave, then perhaps it is time for an Usmanov takeover. Something needs to change amongst the spine of Arsenal Football Club, and since I do not propose or support a player exodus, it is absolutely time for a fresh face to come in and take the reigns. Something revolutionary needs to happen at The Emirates.