As we head into the weekend that could well represent the watershed for Wenger and Arsenal in 2016/17 and beyond, we are delighted to present a lovely and quite unusual piece from ‘The Arsenal Circular’, Graham Perry. Tomorrow our beloved Gunners will walk out at Wembley in an FA Cup Semi Final with so much more perhaps than a place in the final at stake. Wenger’s future and that of many of his players are arguably on the line and the Arsenal v Man City betting odds are not in their favour.
Arsenal’s chances however, must improve with the total backing of the ‘in stadium’ support and this article demonstrates how avid supporters with entirely different perspectives can debate with respect.
Over to Graham with, as you will read, a little help from another GT columnist, Victor Thompson – It makes for a compelling and thought provoking read……
Over the years I have corresponded with – but never met – an Arsenal Fan, Victor Thompson. We have always got on well even though we have different views about AW. Here follows a piece by Victor and a response by me. This exchange shows that you can have quite different views about AW and yet never descend into insult, rudeness, vulgarity or personal contempt
I disagree with Victor and Victor disagrees with me. But we have a very healthy respect for each other which means that never for a moment have we been anything other than warm, pleasant and respectful to each other
“Hi Graham,I have recently been corresponding with Bam whom you may have noted on twitter. I also correspond with Alex Beguzin and some other Wenger supporters. If you read Alex`s articles on Gunnerstown, you will have noted that he has moved from being an avid Arsenal fan to moving slowly to a troubled but loyal supporter. Now he is still a committed Arsenal supporter to one who wants Arsenal out.
I watched the Crystal Palace match in despair and I saw all the faults which have become a hallmark of our performances. The players knew that they were better than their opponents and they started by passing the ball around between their defenders as if to show that they could pass better than Palace and that it would engender them with confidence. As we know now, Allardyce had prepared them for just that and he said in his post match interview that Bellerin and Monreal would play as wingers and when they attacked Mustafi and Gabriel would be left exposed. That is exactly what happened and in the first 7 minutes Townsend scored a goal when a panicky defence failed to clear the ball out of the goal mouth. Hennessy in Goal aimed long balls to Benteke and they had a further two reasonable attempts at goal whereas we did not get a decent shot in for the entire half.
It looked as if our players had succumbed to panic and accepted that they were second best, Walcott later said that they knew from the outset, that “Palace wanted it more than we did”. Comments which his manager of course disagreed with!
The result was that Palace grew in confidence and our players lost what little they had. In fairness to the fans although the Palace fans out sung and out chanted them, they did make themselves heard and got behind the team. The goal shattered must of that support and the vocals were quieter at first but when the abject humiliation continued it became a mumbling of discontent, increasing an increasing roar of anger and frustration. I agree with you that it does not help the players to jeer and shout at them, but in reality, they pay good money to watch their team put in a performance worthy of the shirt and had they been doing that recently, we would not have been in the position we are in now.
The malaise which is debilitating this club has been boiling for at least 5 years when the players we were used to, gradually left and were replaced by poor imitations. Wenger was able to continue with reasonable performances which kept us as a top 4 club even during austerity years when we were building our stadium. As long as the team responded to the challenge the fans did not complain. However the tipping point was when Gazidis announced that the days of Arsenal being a selling club were over and Wenger said that we could compete with the elite clubs. The fans took them at their word but we did not improve. We have benefited in the last 2 years from the implosion of Chelsea, City, and Utd. all at the same time but due to an remarkable collapse by Spurs in the last two matches last year we managed to finish 2nd, which was one better than the previous year. Despite those achievements, there were many disappointments and inexplicable defeats to the likes of Swansea and Watford, and of course, we still could not beat Chelsea, Utd or City.
This year, we began with our 2 world class players, Ozil and Sanchez, together with the addition of Xhaka who was one of the stars of the Euros. Elneny had made a satisfactory debut last year, so there was every reason to be optimistic. With the further addition of Mustafi, as a last minute acquisition, Wenger told us that this was the best squad he had had since the Invincibles.
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Were we ever to be so disappointed? The beautiful football which had been Wenger`s trademark has long since deserted us and we have developed a style of slow, slow, quick quick slow, forwards and backwards, at a speed hardly above waking speed. That was another feature, Allardyce had told his team to expect and it is something which every club in the league knows about now. We cannot defend and we cannot penetrate packed defences, the first because our full backs are absent and our midfield is engaged in the tippy tap football described above. The second because when we get to the 20 yard line, we play backwards and sideways and the other team is able to muster its defence.
In other words, the team has no plan, no shape, no tactics, no cohesion and no leader, on or off the pitch. The great teams we had included players who needed no coaching, Adams, Keown, Dixon, Sylva, Henry Bergkamp etc, could have played off the cuff with a style which made it look as if each wonderful move had been rehearsed and choreographed in advance. Vieira and Petit could even foul or bully opponents and make it look classy. Any one of them would have been a good captain but nowadays, Koscelny is in that role, reluctantly because there was no one else. Walcott is our fall back now. That is why there is no cohesion on the field and nobody to rouse the team when they are under the cosh. There is no natural leader and that is a weakness that Wenger has not addressed for at least 8 years.
If you throw 999 pieces of a jigsaw onto the table, you can never complete it unless you have the one missing piece. Wenger is “The Proffesseur” whose task it is to find the missing piece. For 8 years it has eluded him and whilst he does not see the weaknesses that other people do,amongst both the fans and the media. He is blinded by arrogance and stubbornness. If you wanted proof of that, then look no further than Sam Allardyce`s post match interview statement. He dismantled Wenger`s style and laid it out on the table in a succinct analysis of how to set up his team to beat Wenger. All his players had to do was follow the plan.
Graham, I consider you to be the perfect example of a decent loyal fan of Wenger`s and a man whose writings I enjoy. I was more interested in writing to you than I would have been to a fellow non-believer because I genuinely cannot understand how Wenger can still command loyalty from someone like you. The reasons I have set out above for my dissolution with Wenger are all empirical and they do not need any forensic investigation. One need only look to Wenger as the source.
Thank you for your email of 11 April.
Often when declaring myself for Wenger I have not failed to record a sample of negatives.
I repeat them again
AAAA. Was he lucky in that he inherited George Graham’s back four and their mentality. Yes he was but deserves credit for lengthening their careers
BBBB. Persisting with poor signings – not over looking the good signings – Senderos, Denilson, Bendtner, Squillaci, Silvestre, Almunia. Balanced by Toure, Silvinho, Gallas, Fabregas, Arshavin (for a while) Ox, Theo and later Sanchez, Ozil – Jury still out on Xhaka and Mustaphi
CCCC Predictable substitutions. Not necessarily wrong – each player knows he has 70 minutes
DDDD Predictable format. 4 at the back for too long? Possibly
EEEE Lack of character, variety of temperaments in the dressing room. Can’t defend this one – team too quiet. Too many repeat mistakes
FFFF Players not covering back or going AWOL e.g. this season v Man U when Nacho and Theo switched off – need an Adams to give them a rollicking
GGGG Coaches seemingly too passive lacking communication with AW. Rice and Bould – just looks wrong
HHHH Old man – old ideas – too stubborn. Maybe – maybe not – can’t assume he is stuck in his ways
So given the brief I could go into court and make a plea for change
So why am I not on that side? Why do I want to give AW two more years.
1. Notwithstanding the above I am not convinced he is past it – a lot of speculation and comment by journos and past players with inducements does not impress. It always happens when a team meets roadworks. I know some are convinced that he is yesterdays man but it is a view not a fact
2. Loyalty 1 – AW could have gone for big money at any time – he didn’t – first he was committed to his signature/his promise. A big human quality in days of Allardyce and Redknapp and others who took money and fiddled and fiddled
3. Loyalty 2– he stayed on low salary and shoestring budget when inducements to leave abounded from top clubs
4. Loyalty 3 – he bought into the Arsenal thing – a coach who became a fan
5. Aside from this year, a coach who has never flirted with relegation, even mid table. Always – always – for 20 years in top four. That is why coaches admire him even if fans don’t
6. His treatment by the media makes me stronger in my support.
I cannot quibble with what you say and you can build them up into a case for change.
I am not there – I have my doubts – and last year was to be our year when many of our rivals were misfiring. This year was always going to be difficult with the resurgence of Chelsea, United, Liverpool and the steady progress of THFC
But I am not convinced that he cannot come again – not sentiment but soundly sourced notwithstanding mixed results since New Year.
You make critical comments about the Palace game though for me it was the home game v Watford that hurt most.
I do not agree that there is “no plan, no shape, no tactics”
It is an opinion but I do not believe that Wenger trains and trains without focus or plan or intention.
Sometimes bad results lead to despair and a kind of nihilism.. It is destructive and negativism – prompted by screaming anti-Wenger headlines – takes hold
But remember when almost the whole football world was baying for his blood he went to Boro and a team fighting for their lives and won three points – so maybe we are not fancy dans, maybe there is some character, some plan, some shape, some tactics, some cohesion
Defeat can begat defeat and it is difficult to pull out of a bad run and that is why the Boro performance was so impressive – character especially
I guess they will lose to City and then get another two years. Then opponents of AW will have choices;-
Don’t renew or Maintain two years of animosity with more banners – more Arsenal TV.
I am – as you say – a decent loyal fan. I still like Wenger, respect him even if he has frustrated me.. I also – and here is the sentiment think – am not keen to do what all the other Clubs do and sack him or fail to renew. He is miles away from the murky dealings of Allardyce and Redknapp who the media still love. Football has surrendered – not you – to the rants, the headlines, the disrespect, the mouthy insulters
Something – I am pleased to say – stops me from associating with them – I respect Wenger more than most. Does he respect us? – I do not for a moment think he would stay if – when he looked in the mirror – he saw failure or himself as yesterdays man.
Of course I yearn for the day when he succeeds – it may come – it may not – we will see but I will continue to go towards the sound of gunfire – I am a Gunner after all
Victor – I thank you for the respect you have shown me – you are a good man and I am pleased that we maintain a warm and friendly dialogue
All the best
My name is Graham Perry and I have been a lifelong Arsenal supporter since 1952 when I saw the ten men in red shirts hold out heroically until the 84th minute at Wembley.
The Arsenal thing was confirmed by a meeting with Alex James during Easter 1953. As with most of us it is a family thing with my father always waxing eloquent about the Chapman years.
I am married with four children and five grandchildren. I have been a solicitor in a legal aid practice and have just stepped down after 13 years as an Immigration Judge.
Arsenal is in the blood. The goals and the excitement matter but so does the Community thing and sharing Arsenal with friends and family over so many years.
Want nothing more than to see Wenger hold aloft the Premier League Trophy again.