Archive for May 16th, 2009

More reaction to Arsene’s face-off with the shareholders

1 comment May 16th, 2009

It is incredible that today we face Manchester United in a clash at Old Trafford which could settle the fate of the Premier League title, and that is not my lead story.  But then, the events of the shareholders Q&A were somewhat extraordinary, and the fall-out from those tense exchanges continued throughout yesterday, right up until the point that ArsenalTV screened footage from the event at 9pm.

Perhaps I was being naieve, but I was amazed that ArsenalTV went to the Stalin-esque lengths of editing out the most controversial moments of the interrogative session.  An hour-long Q&A was reduced to about 35 minutes as the discussions of Silvestre’s geriatricity, Adebayor’s future, and the ability of the likes of Song and Diaby were erased from the club’s own recording of the occasion.

I can understand the logic: the exchanges were unflattering to both Arsene and the fans who affronted him with their all-too-direct questions, but in that case I would have pulled the programme completely.  Censoring content that has already been made public by the national media is somewhat futile.

Perhaps I’m being unfair, fuelled by my annoyance at not being able to see something that would clearly have made for an enthralling piece of television.  It was an in-house event and the club have a right to edit that in whatever way they choose.  We are lucky, however, that we live in a world where their censorship does not deny us a full account of what actually took place, thanks to good sources like this one at ArsenalInsider.

From what I was permitted to see, I gleamed that Arsene is a man very much under pressure.  His responses became almost hectoring, as if he felt a need to re-educate his audience on football’s values.  And in many cases, his arguments stood up.

Something I feel he was trying to say but never quite managed to capture was that we as a club would benefit from being more insular.  We live in a world of media saturation, whereby we are all incluenced by an external perception of the club.  When that is negative, it is easy to succumb and feel similarly.  Some clubs battle negative perception all the time – I’m thinking of Chelsea, primarily – but their fans can at least point to trophies.  Of late we have not had that defence, and that leaves us as fans feeling vulnerable.

In an ideal world, we would not give a toss what the media think.  We would not care what the fans of other clubs think.  In an ideal world, you could argue, we would not even bother to look at the league table.  This club exists only for us, and we exist only for this club.  All that should matter is that this club is run to the best of its capacities – the problem being, perhaps, that we are unclear as to what those capacities are.  But trophies are transient – as soon as they are won they are given up again.  The values of a club – the spirit, the style – are more significant.  As Arsene himself mentioned, Liverpool have not won the title for two decades, but they are doubtless a great club.  Being true to our culture and our heritage ought to be more significant than any statistic.

I know that reeks of idealism and is a philosophy that is almost entirely alien in results-driven modern football, but I don’t think it’s without merit.  Arsene once famously said, “Everyone thinks he has the prettiest wife at home”.  At the moment we Arsenal fans are slagging off our missus and lusting after a few voluptuous but ultimately cheap tarts.

And you know what – if we got them, it’d only be a fling.  Like Arsene said at the Q&A – if he spent £70m on a player, people would be happy for two months, and then the despair would creep back in with a stronger hold than ever.  And everything that he had worked so hard to build would be irretrievably disturbed.

I know many will read this and still insist that trophies are what really count, and I am certainly not advocating a trophyless period as a good thing.  But it seems to me that Arsene believes that trophies must be the fruits of a club’s ethos, not the defining factor.  It’s a view that I’m inclined to agree with.  It’s a view that preserves something of football’s soul at a time when it is draining rapidly away.

We are all disappointed to be trophyless again.  But there is still so much to be thankful for.  Let’s not let disappointment define us.  We are still The Arsenal.  One shareholder suggested that the club’s motto ought to take more prominence, and I can’t agree more: Victoria Concordia Crescit – Victory Through Harmony.  This is a difficult period for this football club, as we all knew it would be when emabarking upon the Emirates adventure.  Arsene is the best man to have at the helm, and we need to rally behind him.

Crikey.  So, Manchester United today.  A point will hand them the Premier League title, and thus the obvious prize for Arsenal players is to be the party-poopers on their rivals’ big day.  A few members of the squad might also have an eye on United’s next game at Hull, knowing that defeat tomorrow would leave United needing to win at The KC Stadium on the final day, with the tantalising possibility of a Hull relegation into the bargain.

Manuel Almunia is still out with an ankle problem, so Lukasz Fabianski will continue in goal (gulp).  In defence, I’d imagine Gibbs and Sagna will flank Toure and one of Djourou or Silvestre.  Ahead of that it’s hard to guess who’ll start, but Andrey Arshavin is fully fit and raring to go.  He gives a frank interview to Martin Samuel and The Daily Mail today which, aside from some somewhat terrifying comments about Arshavin’s adoration of Barcelona, contain some fairly forthright views on the team’s immediate future.  He wants to follow the template United have set – starting now:

“Arsenal have not achieved good results in the last few years, but that is easily explained because the team is so young. I believe we are now at a point where it will begin to work for us and enable the team to start scoring and move on as Manchester United did.

A few years ago, they had young players like Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, who were very promising, but they did not win the league and achieve the right results. Now they are older, they cannot stop winning. Arsenal have been recruiting players for two years, so I do not predict results a long way in the future: I predict them for next season, if we can add some others to our team.

We must buy in the summer. Not more potential, but players who are ready to do it now, players like me. We need two or three. If Arsenal want to win, they have to do it. We are tired of waiting.”

It seems that in the four months he’s been here he’s arrived at what is an undeniable accurate assessment of the team.  After his tremendous impact at Anfield, here’s hoping Arshavin can shine on another grand stage today.

Andrey Arshavin will feature in a pull-out from The Observer tomorrow entitled: ‘Football’s Seven Deadly Sins: Pride’.  There is also one with today’s Guardian about ‘Greed’ – featuring, fittingly, the story of Ashley C*le’s departure to Chelsea.

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