The middle classes have taken over at Arsenal
Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column.
On the way to Arsenal, I walked past Ed Miliband’s house. He only lives in the next street. I noticed he had repainted his front door. It’s been black since he moved in and now it’s grey. What does it mean? That he can change his mind?
What of Arsène? What do all the signs mean? Why is he not speaking to Steve Bould, his assistant? Does he smell?
Most of all, he is clearly well pissed off with the Arsenal fans. They are just so spoiled, if you ask me, always moaning. They don’t know how lucky they’ve been these past 16 years, having such an intelligent, clever, successful manager. As a Spurs fan, I honestly wish he’d been our manager all these years. OK, he’s won nada for eight years but come on, you’re always in Europe, up with the elite, with a fab stadium.
I took no pleasure in seeing Arsenal humiliated by Bayern Munich. I was cheering them on, as I want to see Brit clubs progress – and my Arsenal friends smile. I’m fed up with their moany faces. In the league, I want to see them get stuffed, because I want Spurs to do better – so Arsenal’s win over Villa was a sickener – but I want them to do well in Europe. Along with Spurs.
What has caused the fans’ unrest and led to all those empty seats? Losing their best players, such as Fàbregas and van Persie, has been a killer. In those eight years since Arsenal won a pot, the players who have left have gone on to win 64 trophies. Now, that is an appalling stat, summing it all up. There’ll be more this season, when Man United win the league again.
They leave because they are not winning, thus making it worse, but why are they not winning? According to Arsenal’s moaning minnies, it’s all Arsène’s fault. He has lost his touch and is picking duds to replace them.
The current team is pretty average, dodgy in defence, limited in attack and also weak. It’s strange how Arsène’s teams used to be filled with tall, six-feet-plus, impressive, dominant specimens, such as Vieira and Henry. Now, he’s got all these smaller, weedier players: Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott, Cazorla and Wilshere. They are talented but, of that lot, only Wilshere has any presence and can take hold of a game, like Tévez or Suárez, who are equally small. Cazorla, though excellent, fades against the big teams.
Arsène now has a good sprinkling of English players – such as Walcott, Wilshere, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jenkinson – whereas, a few years ago, the team was often totally foreign and some Arsenal fans were moaning about it.
I asked my friends Alan and Joan after the Villa game what they thought.
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Wenger is now convinced of his own infallibility. He is rigid and tactically inflexible. There is no plan B. He uses the same tactics against every club. Unlike other managers who are seen attending matches of future opponents, we can’t recall seeing Wenger there. We are told we are getting better and it will be jam tomorrow. In reality, the club has been asset-stripped. We are going backwards. Wenger has got to go . . .”
There was a lot more in that vein, all well argued and coherent, as you might expect – Alan is an eminent publisher and his partner, Joan, is a well-known opera singer. My other Arsenal friend, Tony, a judge, said much the same: “Erratic team selection, poor tactical thinking.”
That is probably one reason Arsenal fans are so upset. They are just so bleedin’ clever and articulate. The middle classes have taken over Arsenal and no wonder, at those prices. Arsène will have to change his mindset if not his colours or they’ll have his guts.