We are all aware of the ever widening chasm between the “Arsene stay” and the “Arsene out” brigade. It has now descended into violent confrontation and I have seen a comment on Twitter where a supporter`s daughter was punched in the face by a “Wenger stay” supporter. The aftermath of the Man City game was a sad spectacle of people of different persuasions fighting each other. I have read that banners were confiscated by stewards pre – match but there were still some unfurled during the game. That apparently was received as a “red rag at a bull” by those opposed to their content, and apparently physical violence was used to persuade the owners of such banners to regret their production.
It is a fact that discontent with the performance of the team this year has generated this fissure between the fans. The responsibility for the dismal performances is primarily aimed at Wenger and Kroenke.
Those who support Wenger would probably have had nothing to say this year despite the massive underachievement of the team had it not been for the fact that so many supporters had had enough of the platitudes spouted by Wenger praising the resolve, the skill, the spirit, the character of this team, when clearly in game after game they clearly lacked most of those characteristics.
Kroenke then says openly that when he acquired the majority shareholding in Arsenal, he was not interested in Titles. He was only interested in profits. Despite that statement, there was no serious discontent because come the new year we were joint top with Leicester and we had a comparatively easier run in to the end of season than most of our rivals. Unfortunately our annual string of injuries kicked in and all of a sudden the decision by Wenger to keep his purse closed during the transfer window became crucial, and it led to a chronic shortage of defensive midfielders and of a decent Centre Half. Still, we were assured that this team had the credentials to compete for the championship. The discontent increased and the comments on social media also multiplied, most of which were hostile to Wenger. Throughout the season, the team surrendered abjectly to inferior teams in important matches and they failed to learn from their mistakes.
Our qualification for the knock-Out stages depended upon a heroic finale when we had to win our last three matches. The success in doing so gave the fans a lift but it was short lived. We lost to Watford in the FA Cup, we were Outclassed by Barcelona again and we lost at home to Swansea. Man Utd`s second string humiliated us and Spurs were marching on relentlessly.
None of this apparently concerned the Arsene disciples but there was now open revolt by those fans who carried banners, contributed to social media, and generally vented their feelings which for many had reached boiling point. Wenger`s response when he was asked to comment on television after the Swansea game was, that he did not listen to the opinion of fans. That was hardly pouring oil on troubled water, but still the Wengerites supported Wenger and condemned the fans. Wenger helped fan the flames by saying that the disappointing results at home were caused by the fans because they created a difficult atmosphere to play in. No concession apparently to the abject performances by the players. In reality the results at home were no worse than those away.
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As I write this article the panel on Sky Sports are considering the situation at present; we are within 2 points of Spurs and we could still finish runners up if we beat Aston Villa and Newcastle beat Spurs. The question they are considering is “why is Wenger getting such abuse when Pochettino is being praised”. Apparently Pochettino was seen at a dinner with Fergie and the alarm bells are ringing that Utd. may be after the man who Fergie says is the “best manager in the Premiership”. Why is Wenger being lambasted when we are probably assured of third place?
Phil Thompson says that the Spurs fans have reason to be scared. They could well lose him.
That makes me actually look at the difference between the attitudes of the respective supporters to their managers. Suppose Pochettino achieves 2nd place and Spurs finish above Arsenal for the first time since 1995. Will he be regarded as a top manager? In the next 10 years, if he succeeds in winning the double and 3 FA Cups not to mention going through an entire season without defeat he will undoubtedly be revered and respected by everyone just as Arsene was. In his second 10 years, his team is renowned for its brand of football and the fans are delighted but the titles dry up. The price of tickets goes up as the performance of the team goes down. He is not worried. His team is fulfilling his goal of finishing in the top 4 every year. Because they are such a good team they meet up with Barcelona, Bayern Munich etc. in the EU Championship on a regular basis and they receive their usual beating.
Spurs suporters will get used to that but then their team will start losing to Monaco, Zagreb, Marseille Besiktas etc. so maybe they aren`t such a good team. The team suffers beatings in the order of 5-0, 8-2 6-2 by their rivals in the Premiership and when it is clear that reinforcements are necessary, the purse stays closed. There are one or two major signings in these ten years but they only serve to keep the team ticking over. Nothing changes and slowly the club`s ambitions are settled on 4th place and possibly one other trophy now and again. That is the position Pochettino will be in 20 years from now and that is when we should compare him to Arsene.
Will his fans still love him? Arsene is now an old warhorse who is being compared to a young up and coming shaker and mover. As a fan, where do you stand? Do you stay loyal to the man who last had glory ten years ago or do you invite him to leave with the love and respect of the fans? Do you really believe that he has it in him to make us champions? If you do think his time is up and you see your beloved club declining, do you take the opportunity that was not here 10 years ago and voice your opinion on social media? When you try that and the manager tells you that he does not listen to your opinion, do you decide to illustrate your feelings at the match by carrying a banner with your message on it?
You have the legal right to protest. It is a right enshrined in law but you do not have the right to personally abuse anyone or to threaten or assault anyone; but neither has the person who does not share your views the right to do that to you.
In this year of Shakespeare`s 500th birthday, what would he have said?
“To be or not to be. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up the pen (or the banner) and by opposing, end them”
A sophisticated, articulate Arsenal Man of Mystery. Aged 70 and a bit.