Keep calm Gooners, Arsene knows… still

Article by fellow Malaysian Gooner,K Anand for The Malaysian Insider

It was seven days ago that the world, okay, maybe just Arsenal supporters eagerly anticipated Arsene Wenger's 1000th game in charge.
The only worry was that it was against Premiership leaders Chelsea and at Stamford Bridge, at that.
Still, just six days before that, The Gunners had gone to arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur's home, White Hart Lane, and achieved a 1-0 win with some fast and fluid football. It gave us all hope.
Yes, just hope, nothing more.
We knew that there were holes in the team that had not been plugged. Some due to injuries to key players – Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and, star of our first half of the season, Aaron Ramsey – while others due to the inability to reinforce weak departments, i.e. strikers, during the summer and January transfer windows.
So, the game night came along and we endured a total annihilation that left most Gooners (as Arsenal fans are called) feeling numb, angry, indifferent, lost... just pick one, or more if you like.
In my case, I just switched off and I was feeling almost sedated by the time goals number 5 and 6 entered the net behind Wojciech Szczesny.
For those who were angry and frustrated, the tweets and Facebook statuses started flashing online around the world – "Wenger must go", "No more Arsene", "Just quit Wenger", and similar suggestions with the use of even more colourful language.
Incidentally, an interesting fact about that 1,000-game milestone is that Wenger's 500th game was also against Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho, at Stamford Bridge.
It was on August 21, 2005 – week two of the 2005-06 English Premier League season.
Arsenal lost 1-0, but what is more significant is that it was also just two competitive matches after The Gunners' last trophy, winning the FA Cup in May the same year.
What does that mean?
Well, it simply emphasises the fact that Wenger won three Premiership titles and four FA Cups - as well as four Community Shields, the annual curtain-raiser to the season – in that first 500 games... and zilch in the next 500.
But it is not all about trophies for me and millions more Arsenal supporters.
Being a long-time follower of English football, I would have to give due credit to Wenger for what he has done for Arsenal.
It's no mean feat, what he has achieved.
Too many fans are obsessed with instant success and just winning trophies in this day and age where live telecasts compounds the pain in watching your team lose, despite there being other teams doing much worse.
The irony for Wenger is that he set such high expectations (and high standards too, with the previous bunch of players) in his first eight years in charge (1997-2005), that every year since then has been a disappointment, despite entering the UEFA Champions League final, League Cup final (twice) and playing Champions League football in every season.
He certainly is stubborn over the issue of not having a Plan B in his team's formation and style of play. He would not doubt that himself.
However, when Plan A has won three titles (two of which were doubles, winning the Premiership and the FA Cup in the same season), four FA Cups, and kept The Gunners in the Top 4 of the English Premier League (EPL) for so long... can one really blame him?
It is the quality of players that is the main cause of any "failure" on his part.
The current batch has a few weak links, compared with those that wore the famous red-and-white during the highly-successful trophy years.
The common feeling among many Arsenal supporters is that The Gunners have been always hitting above their weight-class – to use a boxing analogy – with the limited funds, careful spending and reliance on a youth set-up, which is ironically, among the best in Europe.
However, one simple truth that is often ignored is that aside from Manchester United, the  only other teams to have won the Premiership since Arsenal's last title are Chelsea and Manchester City.
What advantage do these two Blues teams have? It is simply financial doping.
Yes, that is the term used by Coventry manager Steven Pressley prior to the FA Cup 4th round match with Arsenal on January 25, which The Gunners won 4-0.
Pressley was simply explaining how everyone had been unfair to Wenger based on his track record at Highbury and The Emirates Stadium, when in this day and age, clubs are allowed to be bankrolled by billionaire owners, who are "financially-doping" their clubs.
Yes, billionaires who are also very capable of helping their clubs in circumventing UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules with good accountants and financial advisers to cook the books.
If doping and artificial enhancement of any kind is frowned upon in other sports, there must be more control over how much football clubs can spend on new football players.
On that note, I look forward to Arsenal's match against title-favourites Manchester City tonight (1.30am, Sunday morning) with some degree of optimism.
I feel that Wenger's boys can churn out a result to keep their title hopes alive (albeit, barely) but more importantly, to ensure there is more Champions League football next season. – March 29, 2014.

1 comment

Anonymous said...

I admire your steadfastness Anand, the only way I can survive as a gooner is to 'detach' which means I don't get hit by the highs and lows and his football kit that being a fan affords me.

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