An open letter to #AFC fans: why you should keep the hope and look at the bigger picture

Dear Fellow Gunners,

In the last few weeks we have fallen further behind in the League, lost limply to Nottm Forest in the FA Cup, struggled through to the next round of the Europa League and been beaten soundly by Man City in the League Cup Final – a bad run interspersed with some wins against lesser teams in the Premier.

For some fans, the results have been vindication of a long held belief that Wenger needs to go. Some say it provocatively and unpleasantly and others say it sympathetically and decently. For other fans, the results have been painful as they point to a decline which likely requires managerial surgery and the eventual departure of a much revered manager who in his early years took Arsenal to the pinnacle of English football.

Some people do stay too long in power – Thatcher had to be hounded out by her own party because she made such a mess of the Poll Tax. Blair was manipulated out by Brown who went on to become one of the most unsuccessful PM’s of all time. Two things happen when people remain at the top for two long: first, they can become stale and safe and, second, they inspire envy and jealousy and become the focus of discontent. I often recall that metaphor of Hugh McIlvaney who said that the media welcomes the new messiah while playing in their pockets with the nails for his eventual crucifixion.

Did he stay in power for too long?

At the end of the day it comes down to success which itself becomes a drug. You give success and your followers love the excitement and the celebration and want more and then even more. Success raises expectations and when those expectations are unfulfilled the fans turn. Other managers come to the fore. Other teams secure big financial backing and hopes and expectation of more success are dashed. Fans feel misled, even cheated. They look to the future and want to enjoy bragging rights but the magic mix is not there and things fall away – you cease to be in the top two; you sell stars to finance the stadium move and then have difficulty in maintaining the same special quality of player excellence. Ordinary players replace stars. Stars arrive and fall short. The club loses momentum; the players lose confidence; results fall away and the atmosphere becomes polluted.

Van Persie, despite AFC tolerance of repeated long lay-offs, went for money whatever he might say. He had one wonderful season at Old T and won Ferguson his last title. Oxlade-C was different. He wanted away. He rejected more money at Chelsea and went instead to Liverpool where he is coming good. Some will say that is down to the better man-management skills of Klopp. AFC fans mock the Ox but he will come good in the World Cup. Big money has been spent on uncertain players – Xhaka particularly seems to be unable to learn from his mistakes or raise his game but Chambers and Holding, too, have been treading water. Lacazette is another who has fallen short. But this kind of post-mortem is inevitable when things go wrong and setbacks mount. We all contribute our views – we should be modest because none of us have a coaching badge, or have managerial responsibility, or have had to spend £40m on a player or told a star that he is on the bench. As Benitez has said – “Pundits give opinions. Managers make decisions”. But the way the game is played and reported and discussed encourages us to believe we have valid views and opinions but in reality we know so little.

Rafa on point

Football also produces monsters in bad behavior – “fans” who yell obscenities and act in such a comprehensive disrespectful manner especially to someone like Wenger who has brought such success to AFC. Their contempt for him increases my contempt for them. Yes we have fallen away but the three FA Cups in four years was an immense achievement – when did THFC last win the Title/Cup – ditto Liverpool FC.  It does not mask our failings in the League and in Europe but AFC did what every other soccer club wanted to do – and not just once but three times and by beating every top club on the way – City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea and THFC. But of course none of them were “interested”. They weren’t “trying”. Really?

So we need balance – the under-achievement needs to be seen against the achievement and seen without vitriol but with respect.

Some fans are dominated by the negatives and talk up failure and nudge towards contempt even hatred. Others see the whole picture – see AFC over a span of years that has seen success and failure. Those of us who witnessed Cup defeats by Third Division clubs Norwich City in 1954; by Northampton Town in 1958 and by Peterborough in 1965 and the barren years in League and Cup from 1953 to 1969 including successive League Cup Final defeats in 1968 and 1969, know how to appreciate Anderlecht in 1970, the Double in 1971 and further titles and Cups under George Graham and Arsene Wenger.

We have sadness and regrets and failures. We have joy and celebration and successes too. It does not make us tolerant of mistakes and setbacks – you always want to win, have to win – but we appreciate the life long commitment that Arsenal creates. When the good times come we fear they may not last. When the bad times come we know they will not last. We see the whole picture and understand what it means to support Arsenal. We end up loving Arsenal. It is part of our lives and our years are so often defined by a win (Rocastle at WHL 1987 in League Cup Semi-F), a defeat (Nayim from the Half Way line 1995), a Cup (Parma 1994), a Title (Anfield 1989), a goal (Charlie G at Wembley 1971), a penalty (Storey at Hillsborough in 1971) and the Invincibles  (2004).  We will come again. For sure. In the meantime we revere those who made our name – Chapman, Allison, Whittaker, Mee, Graham and Arsene Wenger.



Tweeting daily @arsenalcircular

P.S.: the ref was wrong, so was Neville and Redknapp and Henry and all the pundits – everyone except Aguero.

He knew it was foul – and he has said it was a foul.

But if you want to hit Wenger on the head you will ignore Aguero’s admission – it gets in the way of the anti AW narative

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2 Responses to An open letter to #AFC fans: why you should keep the hope and look at the bigger picture

  1. Leigh James February 28, 2018 at 8:47 pm #

    I’ve been in a reflective mood since losing against City. I’m guilty of swearing ( via the tv screen ) at AW..the players..ref..linesmen..4th official..the camera men, et al. It’s frustration- born from total belief ( mine, i don’t care what others belief ) that Arsenal are the best team in the PL, and that something,somewhere in the club has fractured. So i’ve decided, after reading a few ‘posts’ ( your one is very morale boosting btw- think *Spartans in 300* ), that from now onwards, i’ll just mutter swear words under my breath, stick to just clenching my jaws and rolling my eyes..and just give the man/men a break. It’ll be difficult, but i’m going to give it a go..only because i love the club, and for the other frustrated fans..if you’re not a Gooner, win or lose..what’s the point of you?

  2. Victor Thompson March 1, 2018 at 2:27 pm #

    There is a well known saying; “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”. I am inextricably drawn to the conclusion that this saying applies to your article Graham, except that there is a twist.
    The exception is that there is one such situation where it occurs in a desert. Many people have been labouring under the heat of the sun as they struggle with the unending sand, when; through the haze they see a shimmering vision of palm trees and water. It is an oasis and the poor traveller is revived and heads for the vision of paradise.

    Unfortunately just as many have done, he has simply seen an illusion and the vision of relief is gone. Your article is such an illusion situated amidst a desert of contrary oppinuated ones. There is no doubt that as an almanac of the good times which we all love to recall it is impressive but that is all they are- recollections. Those of us who enjoy those memories were revelling in the beauty of the moment and the excitement too, with optimism of what was yet to follow.

    For us it is similar to the great Don McClean song, “The day the music died”. which, although we cannot remember the actual day when it happened, we are acutely aware that it has. You mention that we won 3 FA cups in 4 years when otherwise we have had a barren 14 years. We have been promised that we are in touching distance of the Holy Grail of winning the Premiership only for those promises to turn to dust. Some where between 2004 and 20018, the club began to die. We didn`t see it at first but by 2010, we knew it was in terminal decline. Those 3 FA cups were only the dying throes of a once great club.

    The author of the decline has been Arsene Wenger. He says that it is his job to bring success, he lambasted the press when they suggested that it was time to go. He claimed that if he accepted the role of Head Coach with no remit to pick and sign players then his job could be done by analysing statistics showing the attributes of prospective signings. That role could be done by simply pushing buttons and his skills would be of no relevance. This morning he says that it is his job to protect the players from the attacks from the fans and to analyze the failure to win the previous game. It was his job to ensure that they focused better on the next occasion.

    With respect that is not his job. His job is to manage the players, train them and make sure they play to the best of their abilities. He has his finger in every aspect of Arsenal. No one asked him to. He established that position before Kroenke arrived and frankly, he has been good as far as that part of the job involved in making money is concerned, but he has also been in charge of tactics and coaching and he has been hopeless at both. He has no Adams, Keown, Vieira or Petit to bring discipline on the pitch and to defend properly, and since they all left the playing side he has been found out.

    I don`t agree with you that good times will come back again as they always do. There is no evidence to support that. In previous eras, it was possible to come across a new manager and decent players, but times have changed. We have to keep up to stay in contention and we are sixth, 30 points behind City. We don`t have the money to compete head to head with City, United and Chelsea. We are 10 points behind 4th placed Spurs, so we need to get 11 points more than them to qualify in the top 4. The alternative is to win the Euro League but AC MIlan and Athletico Madrid are both in better form than us, so that is unlikely. In short, we are going to spend the rest of the league wasting time and out of the main picture next season.

    No, Graham we really are in the desert and there is no oasis on the horizon while Wenger is guiding us.

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