In August 2010 three Maidenhead United fans were banned from attending home games, by a kangaroo court, for crimes they didn't commit.
These men promptly encountered a jobsworth security blockade, and so escaped to the non-league underground.
Today, still stigmatised by the MUFC Ltd hierarchy, they survive as supporters of fancy.
If you enjoy a train away day - and if you can find them - then maybe you can share a drink with ... the K-team!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Arsene Knows! or Arsene, No!

Further to Macleod (M)'s recent post re this month's Arsenal v Leeds United game (and the text that he sent me, immediately after the match, pointing out that the Thierry Henry sideshow had papered over the cracks), I read the following from Martin Samuel, in the Mail, earlier this week -

Everyone wants a trophy

'Do they like Arsenal, or do they just like Arsenal with trophies?' Dennis Bergkamp once asked of the famously critical fans. Thierry Henry will claim that as his point, too. Yet Bergkamp was 11 years at the club, arrived in 1995 and never left. Henry fled to Barcelona at the age of 29, two years after Arsene Wenger's team won their last competition, the 2005 FA Cup. It turned out he didn't like Arsenal without trophies, either. Who does?

Who does? Me, for one.

Of course, I'd prefer Arsenal to win things. But it's not as if they haven't come close, very close, during the now six-season-long drought.

I'm as certain as can be, for example, that if Martin Taylor hadn't shattered Eduardo's leg at St Andrews in February 2008* then the Gunners would've won the league that season. Comfortably.

*I distinctly recall that Maidenhead United were playing at Bognor Regis Town that day and, in the time it took Craig, Murdo and I to walk from the parked car to the ground, Arsenal conceded a last-gasp equaliser from the penalty spot. We arrived to witness, on TV in the clubhouse, captain William Gallas behaving like an eight year-old girl.

Meanwhile, only an uncharacteristic man-of-the-match display from Ben Foster - and an almighty defensive cock-up - denied Arsenal a Carling Cup success last season (Birmingham City, who won it instead, were subsequently dogged by rumours of financial problems, suggesting that they - like Portsmouth, Lewes, Windsor & Eton and countless others before them - had bought success using money that they didn't actually have)

Let's say Arsenal had managed to win last season's Carling Cup. Would that have meant more, in itself, than qualification for the Champions League? I'm not sure. Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have qualified for European club football's highest-profile competition for 14 seasons in succession. An extraordinary achievement, especially bearing in mind Wenger has done it without spending the amounts of money on transfer fees that other clubs have (and I'm talking about Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur here; not just Manchester United, Chelsea and, more recently, Manchester City).

Arsene Wenger has completely transformed Arsenal FC and for this he deserves tremendous respect (from Gooners, if no-one else). Although the aforementioned trophy-drought is undoubtedly frustrating, 14 successive seasons in the Champions League (without breaking the bank in the process) is not be sniffed at. Neither is the superb new stadium and training ground built on his watch. Neither is the fact that Arsenal FC is now synonymous, the world over, with attractive, passing football (as opposed to offside traps and 1-0 wins). Indeed Wenger, IMO, has so much credit in the bank, as it were, that - not unlike Fergie at Old Trafford - only he should decide when it is time to call it a day. No one else.

That's not to say that the Frenchman doesn't have his faults. Far from it. Of course he does. He is stubborn and a bad loser, for starters. Tactics have never seemed to be a strong point of his, either. The 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season was an obvious low-point. The 'throw away leads with sloppy defending' defeats at Fulham and Swansea, either side of the Leeds game, were almost systematic of recent Wenger sides.

Indeed, despite the fact that I am clearly a huge Wenger fan, this season has brought into focus something that I've been somewhat concerned about for a while now; the way things fizzled out for him at AS Monaco.

Wenger became Monaco manager in 1987. He had immediate success, winning the title in his first season. A French Cup success followed in 1990/91. Future stars were plucked from relative obscurity (George Weah from Cameroonian football, Youri Djorkaeff from Ligue 2 Strasbourg). Despite under-achievement in Europe (Monaco were UEFA Cup Winners' Cup runners-up in 91/92), they were consistently good in the league, albeit frequently pipped at the post by a wealthier rival (often Olympique Marseille, also Paris St Germain).

Sound familiar? It should.

Wenger became Arsenal manager in 1996. He had immediate success, winning the double in his first (full) season. Another double followed in 2001/02. Future stars were plucked from relative obscurity (Patrick Vieira from AC Milan reserves, Thierry Henry from the doldrums at Juventus). Despite under-achievement in Europe (Arsenal were UEFA Cup runners-up in 99/00, and Champions League runners-up in 05/06), they were consistently good in the league, albeit frequently pipped at the post by a wealthier rival (often Manchester United, also Chelsea).

Monaco's league placings under Wenger -

1987/88 – 1st, 88/89 – 3rd, 89/90 – 3rd, 90/91 – 2nd, 91/92 – 2nd, 92/93 – 3rd, 93/94 – 9th

Spot the abnormality.

Arsenal league placings under Wenger -

1996/97 – 3rd, 97/98 – 1st, 98/99 – 2nd, 99/00 – 2nd, 00/01 – 2nd, 01/02 – 1st, 02/03 – 2nd, 03/04 – 1st, 04/05 – 2nd, 05/06 – 4th, 06/07 – 4th, 07/08 – 3rd, 08/09 – 4th, 09/10 – 3rd, 10/11 – 4th, 11/12 – 5th*

*currently (goal difference separates them from 6th, one point separates them from 7th

Again, spot the abnormality (as things stand).

During what transpired to be Wenger's final season at Monaco, his side plumbed depths previously unknown during his tenure and things ended on a sour note (Monaco refused him permission to talk to Bayern Munich, only to sack him a few weeks later after the vacancy in Germany had been filled).

Did he take them as far as he could and/or did he need a new challenge? Did other sides copy/better his methods? I don't know. It might have been a combination of these (and other things).

Regardless, I wonder if history may now be repeating itself, for him, at Arsenal...

Rooney, Fergie and co are tomorrow's visitors to the Emirates. It's a slap in the face for both sides that the Premier League's game of the day is instead Man City vs Spurs!

Do I think Arsenal will finish below Tottenham - outside of the Champions League placings - and therefore in their lowest position ever, under Wenger? Yes.

Do I think that Arsenal will win a trophy (any trophy!) this year? No.

Do I think that fans who pay extortionate ticket prices have every right to be pi$$ed off that significant sums have consistently NOT been re-invested in proven, established signings? Yes.

That said, do I think Wenger should be replaced? No. No way! To my mind, it's a case of "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" and "be careful what you wish for" (and don't just take my word for it, ask Monaco).

Who does (like Arsenal without trophies)? Me, if that's the way it is.

Up the Arse!

PS > While we're on the subject of Arsene Wenger, I still laugh at the 'Stan' parody 



Lenny Baryea said...

Further to this post, I've just had the misfortune to inadvertently hear a bloke who claims to have supported Arsenal for 56 years state, on Talksh!te's equivalent of 606 (which, thankfully, has journalists on it, rather than dullards like Robbie Savage), that Arsene Wenger is "dragging the club down".

Now, his substitution today of Arshavin for Oxlade-Chamberlain was undoubtedly ill-advised (supporting my point above, about his lack of tactical nous), but "dragging the club down" ?!?!

Ye Gods.

Lenny Baryea said...

Patrick Collins been reading this site?!

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