It’s not about Alexis Sánchez staying or going.
It’s not about Mesut Özil signing a new contract or walking out on a free.
It’s not about Jack Wilshere being out of contract and Calum Chambers getting a new deal.
It’s not about offering Danny Welbeck a 2-years extension and see him hesitating.
It’s about not being able to rally behind the team and the Club anymore, as supporters, and I blame Arsène Wenger for this.
Not the board, not the players – only Arsène Wenger.
Each and every thing currently going on at the Arsenal immediately becomes a big issue and splits the fan-base, regardless of its real impact on the Club’s fortune.
Every action, every statement, every single word is source of vitriolic debates and generates every sort of accusations among the supporters.
There was a time, not long ago, when any player – and I mean any, even the likes of Robert Pirès, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fàbregas or Robin van Persie – could go and we would still unite behind the cannon and those who were still at the Club; we would keep the faith in our players and our manager to pick themselves up and make us proud again.
There was a time when we would still get some pride from playing our brand of breath-taking football, despite not winning any trophy – or getting even close to it; we would still believe and support our players and our manager.
Big players were regularly leaving every summer but we would still be the Arsenal and we were damn proud of it.
We were ridiculed by the national media and mocked pretty much everywhere in Europe but we knew our Club was all about playing beautiful football and developing young players; we were not in contention for the biggest prizes as we were told that we were building for the future, we were giving ourselves the tools to fight with the European giants.
We felt like there was a masterplan behind every decision taken within the Club, a clear direction and we, supporters, were proud of what the Arsenal was, although frustrated by the lack of trophies and the sight of our best players – the ones we nurtured with such care – moving on to win major honours at our fiercest rivals.
It was meant to be a phase, the price to pay to climb back to the top.
It’s been hard to take but we handled that delicate transition in a brilliant way, actually: we stayed in the mix, we made a lot of money from selling our best players and regularly replaced with young, exciting and cheap prospects – which we would eventually sell for big money, and so on.
Although a couple of them were sold for much less of their real value, the majority of our star-players were sold for decent fees and didn’t really improve the Clubs they joined or, worse, they ruined their careers.
The likes of Clichy, Adebayor, Nasri, Song, Hleb, Fàbregas and Vermaelen basically stagnated – or went backwards – since their time at the Arsenal, proving to be irrelevant to their Clubs’ fortunes.
They collected a lot of medals but didn’t really contribute to any of those, eventually becoming marginal figures in the process.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t so painful to swallow.
The only game-changer among them has been Robin van Persie, whose amazing performances allowed Manchester United to overcome their neighbours and win an unlikely title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season; his sale didn’t go down very well but, back at the time, we were still on our beloved Club’s side and slate the Dutchman for his infamous statement.
As a man of football in a Club that distanced itself from the game as much as one can imagine, he shouldn’t have allowed this to happen.
His deep knowledge of football, his unquestionable love for the Club and his attachment to vital principles such as loyalty and integrity should have pushed him towards the exit door a few years ago, when it appeared clear that the Club was not going where he should have.
He let us and himself down when he failed to take us to the next level, once the debts paid and more revenue generated; whether it was for his own incompetence to strengthen the team appropriately or because of the board’s reluctance to make the necessary fund available, he should have gone.
We saw the 2014 FA Cup as the start of a new era, the first of a long series of rewards for our bravery and loyalty during the post-Highbury days – while it proved to be the pinnacle.
Personally, I strongly doubt he suddenly lost his innate talent to spot bright talents and maximize their performances; after all, there was a time when Emmanuel Eboué was terrorising the mighty Real Madrid and Gael Clichy was nominated best left-back in the league.
I do believe, instead, that he was somehow protecting the board from exposing themselves for what they really are, a bunch of half-successful businessmen with zero football expertise – and it is an unforgivable mistake, to my eyes.
By doing that, he put himself in a comfort zone that doesn’t belong to a successful sportsman, then slowly descended into complaisance and stagnation.
Since no-one is questioning him from within the Club and he’s been allowed to decide himself whether he wants to stay at the helm or not, he seems to have lost the drive that made him one of the most innovating and successful managers in the Premier League.
A person of his intelligence and integrity should have smelled the danger of self-indulgence and fiercely refused it.
He should have abandoned a board of incompetent white collars and walk away, ideally after lifting the FA Cup in 2014; directors would have found themselves at the centre of the stage, with some big decisions to make and we would have finally discovered what they’re all made of.
I’m not saying they would have failed, our board perhaps needs this kind of shock to finally show up and do what they’re meant to be doing – run a football Club.
They might have hired a top manager and we might be here to comment on a Premier League title or the first Champions League triumph in the Club’s history, who knows.
Or, we might be here commenting how close the relegation battle suddenly looks and how long it would take to rebuild the Club.
I never really bought into the “careful with what you wish for” drama, I would support the Arsenal regardless.
Instead, Arsène Wenger stayed on and genuinely thought he could keep us afloat but he ended up exposed in all his fragilities and vilified more than he actually deserves.
Since he recently spoke of his role as “a drug, an addiction”, I fear he’s allowed himself to a stage where he’s afraid of what life would be, if he quits.
As we stand today, the Club is failing in every single function but the board and the manager seem unfazed.
The fact that our football has become increasingly boring, that we’re spending big but selling cheap, that the gap with those Clubs aiming for the top prizes in England and in Europe is widening, that our youth teams aren’t exactly covering themselves in glory, that we’re allowing our best players (and most valuable assets) to run their contracts down and that the supporters are drifting away from the team do not seem to make any difference.
We’re bad at playing football.
We’re bad at getting lucrative commercial deals.
We’re bad at increasing our assets’ value.
We’re bad at spending money.
We’re bad at spotting talents before they become over-expensive, over-paid stars.
We’re bad at filling our stadium’s seats.
What are we – as a whole Club – good at, these days?
I genuinely ask myself the question because even winning trophies is becoming a problem.
We brought home three FA Cup in five seasons and supporters are still fighting over the relevance of these trophies; we’ve fallen so low that we’re unable to celebrate a cup final win without questioning the manager.
Arsène Wenger has become so divisive among fans that such a fantastic achievement is a source of problems.
We should be proud of the way we won these cups and push back all the nonsense about winning them easy; no-one should even remotely think of questioning or attempt to diminish our recent achievements, because we’ve kicked Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea’s asses along the way to the Wembley triumphs.
Instead, some supporters are actually biting into the easy-to-win-it-against-Hull City/Aston Villa crap.
Arsène Wenger is being blamed for everything wrong and doesn’t get any credit for anything good, which is completely unfair.
The board gets very little criticism, mainly because no-one really rates them or care enough.
The Arsenal today is in a very bad position and we cannot count on our directors to sort things out, therefore Arsène Wenger should prove again his love for the Club, intelligence, selfishness and care by walking out; he would get abuse and sarcastic laughs in return, which he obviously doesn’t deserve, but would do the right thing and will eventually be proved right by the history books.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.