2008/2009 Season Reviews – The Realist Part 3

In the final part of The Realist’s epic review of last season, the great man talks about the manager and how he sees the future of the club, both in the coming season and beyond…

Let me begin by saying that I trust Arséne Wenger far more than I do his detractors. Whilst I respect the right of others to hold their views, I have sat through a lot of negativity since we last won a trophy.  I think that gives me the right to express one or two views of my own.  This is not intended as a personal comment on anyone, as those who hold a different view from mine pay good money to watch what I watch, and I am sure we all want the same thing.  This is just my perspective on a relatively silver free period of our history.

The trouble with football management is its seeming simplicity.  If a football supporter loses a relative on an operating table, he does not take the scalpel out of the surgeon’s hand and tell him he will do the next operation.  If the building he is standing in collapses he does not take the pencil away from the architect and tell the poor professional that he has had his chance.  For some reason, supporters seem to think they can do a better job than the greatest manager Arsenal have ever had.  The comparatively small number of people who are able to manage a football team at the level we have been privileged to attain tends to render this point specious.  For Mr Wenger to listen to this nonsense is for him to allow himself to be condescended to by his inferiors.

I thought Mr Wenger showed great dignity when face by those morons who turned up at the shareholders’ meeting to tell him his players were rubbish.  I myself gave up many years ago defending Arsenal Football Club against it’s so called supporters.  You cannot take away anybody’s right to be as negative and depressing as they want to be.  There is an old expression that says when you point a finger at somebody, three of your fingers are pointing back at you (I have just taken my hands off the keyboard to see what my three fingers are saying about me).  What these alleged supporters say when they trash the club says as much about them as it does about Arsenal.  This spiteful immature fury at not getting what you want would be scarcely tolerable in a five year old.

If one looks at the literal meaning of the word support, there are an increasing number of people who attend matches at the Emirates Stadium who just don’t come within the scope of the definition any more, if they ever did.

One of the recurring themes throughout this season’s whinge fest has been the amount of money the players get paid.  I have often felt that the resentment these attendees feel, when coupled with the amount of money they have to pay to get in is a bit of a red herring.  They would of course get the same money if they could get 60,000 people to sit in the freezing cold to watch them work, or get a broadcaster to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to film their contribution to the economy.  They implicitly know that they won’t, and sitting in the stands slagging off players and the manager becomes a subconscious revenge against those who have better working conditions than they do.

I think I do a reasonably good job of disguising the irritation I feel for these people, but I do have one hope for them.  When we do win another trophy, I trust they will have the decency not to celebrate it, as it is not really their victory.  In terms of the faith needed to support the team, they have not planted a single seed but they always seem to be around at harvest time.

It seems that Mr Wenger will stick to his guns when it comes to developing talent from within.  The signing of Arshavin would suggest that he is also willing to invest in proven talent should the opportunity arise.  With Real Madrid spending £130M in a week I am not sure what crumbs of talent will fall from the billionaire’s table.  There is certainly a need to strengthen areas of the team, and it would be good to see another couple of twenty somethings bringing experience to the side.

We have signed Vermaelen from Ajax which is good news, but I think we may need one more central defender.  Gallas is getting old and Toure is getting out of contract.  It is slightly unusual to find that two central defenders are reaching the end of their spell at the club at the same time.  But we have shown ourselves to be slightly accident prone in this area, and a changing of the guard might be just the thing.

I think Diaby, Denilson and Song have improved this season, and I would love to see them move up the pecking order in the upcoming term.  Diaby’s goals against Fenerbahce, Aston Villa and Newcastle were fantastic, and I hope he is encouraged to make more runs into the box next season.  The other two have shown signs of improvement in filling the Flamini role, and it would be great to see them become the finished article at this club.  There remains the Lucanesque mystery of Rosicky, who may never be seen again.  He has not played a game since January 2008.  It is remarkable that Eduardo could have his leg snapped in two and come back faster than Rosicky could with some strange strain that has eluded the best of medical experts.

Up front I expect another good season from Van Persie.  Bendtner is showing signs of improvement and has to a certain extent lived down that awful League Cup game he played against Burnley.  It would also be good to see Walcott playing a more striking role.  By this I mean playing more as a striker, not that I want him to be impressive, although this would also be welcome.  He certainly wants to, and has publicly expressed a desire to play there with Bendtner.  If Wiltshire can break into the team this season, and if Rosicky can make a comeback, this will free up Walcott and Arshavin to play more centrally with Nasri as a further alternative.

What happens behind the scenes might well be as important as anything done at the training ground.  Two very tough and determined men are within touching distance of the magical 30% of the club’s shares needed to launch a formal takeover bid.  With Lady Nina Bracewell Smith no longer tied to the lock down agreement, that particular family may decide the financial fate of the club.

But I am a football fan and not a finance expert.  I will support the eleven men wearing the cannon no matter who they are or where they finish.  I think we will win more games than we will lose, and it is likely that we will finish in the top four again.  The challenge of Manchester City will be the most interesting, with Aston Villa and Everton in there as well.  We also have the usual eight weeks of grief to endure before Tottenham once more realise that the glory years are not quite back at the Lane just yet.

In conclusion, there is room for optimism in the season to come.  We may well be a bit short in terms of challenging for the number one spot, but all good things to those who wait.  I hope the supporters will be more understanding that success at Arsenal will be far more a process than a transaction.  I don’t like going into work on a Monday to have to listen to United or Chelsea fans any more than the next man, but things will not happen any faster in our current circumstances.

Winners focus on what they can do to improve a situation.  Losers concentrate on who they can blame for what has gone wrong.  There is nothing wrong with supporting a team that doesn’t win trophies, but to walk through the turnstile with the mind of a loser is most shameful and vile.  And a bit of a waste of money.

Keep the faith etc. etc.

So there we have it – 3 fans, 3 different opinions. I suppose the fact these 3 Arsenal supportes happen to sit almost next to each other for every single home game and have done for many years pretty much sums up why so many people enjoy being a football supporter. Everyone has their own opinion, no-one is right, no-one is wrong and there’s nothing any of them can do about what happens on the pitch. Actually, now I’ve said it like that, it sounds like being football fan is a terrible thing.

Roll on next season!