I don’t tend to run many guest columns here, as it’s more of a cymbals-strapped-to-the-knees one-man-band these days. However, after yesterday’s game I read a startlingly brutal assessment of the last few years at Arsenal, and in particular the transfer policy, that was so close to my own thinking I wanted to host it here.
What was most surprising is that the rant (as he calls it) came from Scott Davis, a chap I’ve always considered one of the nicest and most on-message fans around. In fact, I’m fairly sure we’ve disagreed – always politely – about this sort of stuff in the past. So it’s interesting to see such a loyalist seemingly reach a tipping point. In this post Scott collates his thoughts from last night and gives some more context. Take it away, chief…
First and foremost I’d like to point out I’m not one to self-publicise my Twitter account, or impose my views. I see myself as a fan, voicing opinions based on what he witnesses. What I think and feel is by no means what I expect everyone should think and feel. But in the heat of the moment yesterday, before our game had finished actually – in fact, it was even before we’d equalised – something had finally taken its toll on me.
I snapped. I couldn’t help it. The majority of the time I think I’m level-headed about what’s happening at our club. I strive to be realistic, but in the most positive way I can. For me, it’s the right way approach. But equally, it’s important to sit down, evaluate what’s not working, and then address accordingly. If you fail to point out your weaknesses and continue to neglect them, then it’s simply not possible to make any real improvement… and it’s at that point I now believe our club has reached.
Yesterday I unleashed a 48-tweet rant, which even for my standards is some going. But after doing so I shut Twitter off for a few hours and came back to it later in the evening to find a few replies. Some agreed, some didn’t, which I’m perfectly fine with, but I also had several replies from people asking me to write it up properly as a blog so it would make easier reading material.
I’m writing this now five or six hours after the full time whistle blew, and having read what I said in the heat of the moment back, I’m now sceptical over one or two parts, but to be honest, I still believe 95% of it. Which saddens me more than anything. The past few years have worn me down. It’s as if I’ve bottled the 2010/11 end of season collapse, last summer, last Christmas, player sales, this summer gone, and now I feel emotionally drained and tired of it all. To be honest I’ve reached that point where I think change is needed. A dramatic change at that. What exactly, I’m still not sure, because I honestly don’t believe it’s a certain individual’s fault why we’re just not progressing.
The following is the exact word for word 48-tweet rant from yesterday…
Awful. Absolutely awful. Winning goal irrelevant at the end there. Can’t protect a lead. Pointless. Utterly pointless. We’re at that stage we were at the back end of the 11/12 season after the Carling Cup final [Note: I meant 10/11 season] where you couldn’t cheer a goal. It was impossible too because you knew we’d concede. Its back to that now. It just seems worthless using your energy to do so because you now expect to concede every game.
That’s Fulham at home. 3 goals shipped in to Fulham, at home. From a 2-0 lead as well. Honestly, it’s shocking. Unbelievably we look a centre-back short again. As in, we look like we could do with another because the others no longer look up to it. I’m sick & fucking tired of the same old shit, shit mistakes being churned out, year after year after year. We’re a GK short. We’re a CB short. We need a left back. We need a tough tackling midfielder and we’re a striker short as well and we’ve been all of those short for fucking years now there’s something wrong within the club; it’s not just the players. Because it’s completely different personnel than it was 4 years ago, but they continue to make the same glaringly obvious mistakes, it’s getting boring now; victory is now a surprise, irrespective of whom the opposition is.
We needed the likes of Podolski, Giroud & Cazorla on top of the players we had last season. On top of them. Additions. But with the subsequent sales of Van Persie, Song & Theo in January, they will have all turned into replacements. All we’ve done, summer after summer is look to replace when we’ve needed additions on top of what we’ve already had. Sell 1, buy 1. Buy 1, sell 1. We need to start buying 2 before we’re selling 1.
It’s all wrong; the mentality is all wrong & I’ve finally had enough. I try to be as positive & as supportive as I can be, but I can’t find it in me to cheer a goal, because I think we’ll concede every game.
I can’t believe in 2012/13 we’ve relied on the likes of Abou Diaby & Rosicky to be fit. Honestly, if someone would have told you in 2009 that in 2012, you will miss Diaby & Rosicky, I’d have said you’re mental. They won’t be at the club then. We’ve pinned our hopes on those two staying fit for a season when they’ve never managed that before!? It makes no sense what so ever… and I’m sorry, but there is something fundamentally wrong, within the club, and finally, after years of witnessing the same thing & trying to find excuse after excuse, whilst searching for the positives, I can’t find them anymore. I’d like to hold my hands up & say I’m sorry, but I don’t know any more. I don’t know what’s wrong, where we’re going or what we’re doing. I’m completely totally & utterly lost & I no longer have an answer for anything anymore.
The personnel problems started right at the end of the 07/08 season. We pushed Utd & Chelsea right to the 37th fixture that year & perhaps we should have won it. But we should have sat down & evaluated what was needed. But nope, we made do. It was the start of us ‘making do’. We lost Diarra, Lehmann, Flamini, Gilberto, & Hleb. We bought Ramsey & Nasri… Then made do. We probably needed a Nasri on top of what we had in order to push that one last bit. Subsequently, there were no additions. We barely replaced. We bought Arshavin in Jan when we should have bought him in the summer previous. Clawed our way to 4th. That summer? Lost Toure &Adebayor. In? Vermaelen. Again, we needed a Vermaelen on top of what we had, so again, no additions. Just making do, once again.
We then finally made an attempt to replace those two losses a whole year later with Koscielny & Chamakh. So where are the additions? To help push on? By now, we’ve lost Eduardo as well. We go into 2011 summer. We lose Nasri, Cesc, Eboue & Clichy. We’re down. We already needed additions to compete, on top of what we had so now, we’re fucked basically.
We then send a depleted side to Old Trafford & Arsene lines up 4-3-3 & they’re ripped apart from 1st minute to last. Embarrassing. How dare he line that side up as open as that, at Old Trafford. 4-5-1, pack that midfield out & play flat. Come away with a 2/3 goal defeat, people understand. But we’ve left ourselves in a position where we’re selecting left backs that are being sold the very next day. Why the fuck, how the fuck, is Traore getting anywhere near that starting XI!?
We then leave it last minute, in true supermarket sweep fashion to bring in Mertesacker, Santos, Arteta & Benayoun. Ok, you’ve made your purchases. Not everyone’s choices, but you’ve made them never the less. We’ll get behind them…& as much as I love the likes of Arteta & as much as I respect & appreciate that we somehow finished 3rd in a shit-off between ourselves Tottenham, Chelsea & Newcastle - we knew what we needed so that we wouldn’t find ourselves in this position again. We knew, we all did & at the start we thought the club did too.
We went out & completed deals for Podolski, Giroud & Cazorla. It was exciting, because finally, after years of not doing so, squad personnel/options looked good again. It may have been good enough.
But then every single one of us was smacked in the face with the sales of Van Persie, Song & the Theo issue not being resolved.
"Sorry, Theo. We can’t offer you that extra 10k or whatever you want a week because Mr 28 year old & Mr 30 year old have no footballing ambition whatsoever & want to sit on their 50/60k p/w wages which prevents us from keeping our most dangerous player, which you are. Bye."
Makes… no… fucking… sense… WHATSOVER.
It’s the club’s fault we’ll lose Theo, not his. Not his at all. And once again we find ourselves in the same, moronic, tiresome position of being short in the exact, same positions we have been for yeeeaaarrrs.
It’s not on, it’s not acceptable. We’re not Everton. We don’t have to sell before we can buy & hope we find a gem. David Moyes has to make do because they haven’t a pot to piss in. Which wouldn’t bother me if we were in the same position. But we have pots. Fucking loads of ‘em. Each & every single board member has their own individual diamond encrusted, gold rimmed pot to urinate all over whenever the fuck they like.
This club does not give itself a chance, on the pitch. We make do through choice, not because we have to. We don’t compete because we choose not to compete. Not because we can’t. Year after year, all we do is make do. No conviction. No direction. No ambition. Farce… and there’s not a single person out there who knows how much it’s taken me to voice an opinion as strong as that.
Strong stuff, eh?
Having read that back, it was said quite harshly, but reading it as if it were written by someone else I’m struggling to disagree with it, which means it must be an accurate description of how I feel. Finally. After years of not being quite sure.
I think the bigger picture is, if the likes of me are beginning to question – someone who is positive, tries to encourage, and tries to see the good of every decision – then how many more are beginning to do so? Because for the first time I think it really does seem that more people than ever are concerned with what direction the club is going in.
Look, I’m a supporter first. I’m not a shareholder. Yes I have an interest in the day-to-day running of the club, of course I do. I love the club; I have an interest in everything surrounding The Arsenal. But fundamentally I care most about what happens on the pitch. Nothing else. The football is my sole interest, and what I see every game, every week, is beginning to get tedious for me, because we’re witnessing the exact same errors every other game, every season… and what I’m really wondering is if the likes of me can see it, then why can’t the people at the top see it?
Because let me tell you, I’m by no means qualified to manage a football club, but I’m educated enough, interested enough, and have travelled up and down the country and Europe enough, to know when the persistence with a flawed system with flawed tactics and a flawed shape is no longer working. Not for this crop it’s not anyway. In fact, ask yourselves this, which players does this system benefit, if any? Because I don’t see it. Last season it benefited Robin Van Persie. That’s it.
I’m bored. I’m so bored. I’m bored of being out a title race before we were even in it. I’m bored of challenging for 4th. I’m bored of securing 4th. I get nothing out of 4th? What do I get as a fan for finishing 4th? I get nothing. I don’t get anything financially, it doesn’t benefit me personally. I’m bored of the fact Uefa and Sky have made the Champions League the be all and end all of football. The only competition that really matters. I’m bored of striving to qualify for a competition we have absolutely zero chance of winning, as much as it would complete my life if we won it. I’m bored of reaching the latter stages of the League Cup and not bothering to show any sort of conviction to go out and win it. I’m bored of completely neglecting the FA Cup. I’m bored of goalkeeper errors. I’m bored of failing to deal with set pieces. I’m bored of being tormented down our left side. I’m bored of lacking fight and a strong tackler in midfield. I’m bored of not having any proper wingers. I’m bored of playing players out of position and I’m bored of only ever having one striker to choose from ever.
No other club hinders themselves and gives themselves less of a chance than we do. It’s almost as if the board, for their own amusement, tries and tests Arsene each season.
“Hmm… OK… try and finish 4th if we do this…”
* Alex Song and Robin Van Persie vanish in a puff of smoke*
So what now? Where do we go from here? Horrible, isn’t it? There’s absolutely nothing we as individuals we can do is there? Even if there was, I wouldn’t know where to start as I’m not entirely sure where the cause of the problems lie except that there are problems.
If Arsene Wenger were to leave tomorrow I think, and I’m stopping before I finish writing this sentence, it’s not an easy one… but I think we’d be worse off. I believe he has made more errors in the last few seasons on the pitch than ever before. Player neglect, tactics, formations, player choice etc. I think he’s cost us just as many points as any individual player through his stubbornness, his lack of tactical awareness, and his persistence in waiting until at least the 68th minute before making a substitution. It almost feels like he pre-plans his subs. Before a game, he knows who he’s going to take off and when, irrespective of the score line or the dictation of the game itself.
I may be wrong but it also seems at times he gets a kick out of the development and progression of an individual player more so, than what he should be concentrating on, which is effectively the three points on a Saturday.
But at the same time I wonder has he been a victim of neglect himself?
Has the current board neglected him and just assumed he knows the club inside out well enough, that they feel comfortable enough, almost not caring, to let him get on with it, do what he wants, when he wants, not have anyone to answer too or to meet targets for.
Now I don’t buy the argument there’s no one else who could manage this club. I think that’s quite an arrogant perspective to take. There isn’t just one manager in the world. There are plenty of decent enough managers, proven managers, at top level who could come in and do a well enough job at our club. I do think we need a dramatic change and if you were to guarantee me a top, top class appointment then I think I’d find it very difficult to find the reasons as to why we shouldn’t make that happen. However sad that may be, with each season that passes, I’m finding it more and more difficult to defend Arsene Wenger.
But, and there is a big ‘but’ with that. Do you trust this board to make the right appointment if Arsene Wenger were to leave tomorrow?
Because I don’t.
I find myself questioning every other week whether or not he’s up to the task anymore, for the simple fact that nothing ever changes. Same tactics, same formation, same neglect. How does Sir Alex Ferguson continues to modernize season after season? incredible. He’s as much in touch with the modern day game as the likes of Jose Mourinho. He does a sensational job. Man Utd play a different formation, with different tactics, in a different shape dependent on the opposition. We don’t. It seems as if we can’t.
Man Utd bought Robin Van Persie, not because they needed him – they didn’t. They bought him as an addition. An additional player which they thought could help push them into leap-frogging Man City. They’d still be up there now without him. Yes he’s scored a large majority of their goals so far this season, but that’s only because Rooney pays slightly deeper now – almost Cazorla-like. But they hoped a signing of Van Persie’s quality would continue to keep them challenging both for the title and in Europe.
Irrespective and regardless of what mistakes Arsene Wenger makes today, I am eternally grateful for every single bit of input and success he has had with the club. My happiest moments have all been with him at the helm. I remember Alan Smith vs Parma. That was my first 90 minute game I ever watched on the box the entire way through, I was 8. I don’t remember the domestic cup success of ’93, but I remember the heartbreak of Nayim scoring in Paris a year after our defensive success of Copenhagen. But I was too young to appreciate/experience any of the success/pain at those ages. So my first true experience of pure joy was the ‘98 double.
I read and hear many fans say they don’t think they appreciated the Invincibles at the time, or the double success of 2002 enough as they perhaps should have. Well, I think I did. After the 2001 summer signing of Sol Campbell I was so convinced we would win the league that season that I wanted to do something memorable. That season, on the way to school, I proceeded in buying a paper the morning after every fixture. In doing so, I now have a collection of newspapers from every fixture that season, and every now and then I flick through them and have a read. At the start of the following season, Wenger made the claim “I believe we can go the whole season unbeaten.” I believed him.
So once again I proceeded in continuing to buy a newspaper after every single match day. We kept that unbeaten record up until mid-October until a 16-year old Rooney buried a peach. Something he’s continued to make a habit of. I have the Monday morning newspaper from that weekend, and I continued to stick it out for the remainder of the season. I got an FA Cup win out of it. 2004? Well, we all know what happened there.
I kept up the newspaper collecting until Man Utd ended our unbeaten run in the 50th match. The point is, I only decided to start collecting newspapers because I believed we had a very special squad at the time, and lo and behold look what we achieved in that three-year period. Incredible, historic success and I’ve got the newspapers from the fucking lot and I’m chuffed to bits about that, it was a great call from a young boy.
I’d be the first to travel up to the stadium tomorrow to congratulate, thank, and say goodbye to Arsene Wenger if he were to leave for whatever reason. I mean that, I truly mean that. When the day comes it will be one of the saddest days I’ll ever experience in the history of my club. I will never forget all that he’s accomplished, the joy he’s brought not just me personally, but all the fans, all over. He’s made the single biggest impact, I believe, in the history of the club. He’s revolutionized the game, the club, and won trophies, breaking records in the process.
I’m not saying ending his tenure as manager is the right thing to do, but I can’t argue any longer that it isn’t.
We all want what’s best for Arsenal Football Club, and a regular phrase of mine is that, whatever happens, I’ll always go down with my ship. But right now, I don’t want to. I want my ship fixed. The main mast doesn’t work with the foremast; we need a new crow’s nest, whilst the captain’s cabin needs a revamp as well. We need more than just a little care and attention, we need an overhaul. The smaller problem is that the storm may have only just got going, what really worries me is if it continues, there’s bound to be choppier seas ahead.
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