Could it be that Arsène’s men aren’t eating enough chilli?
What is wrong with Arsenal? Should Arsène go? I bring you exclusively the results of an intensive, spot-on, world-class survey conducted among Gooners that is sure to be a big talking point among fans who talk about talking points.
Though I'm a Spurs fan, I've been going to watch Arsenal for decades. Not to hate them, nor to cheer them - just to observe and enjoy their enjoyment when they win. If they don't, well, what do I care?
For many years, I had half a season ticket, when the son of a friend was away at college, but our local streets seem to be full of Arsenal fans, so there's always someone who has a spare.
Such as my friend Tony the judge, with whom I went on 23 September to Arsenal's game against Bolton. The gaps were noticeable, especially in the seats in front of the boxes. So many of the corporate owners never turn up, and their guests, mostly business contacts or lowly serfs, are more interested in stuffing their faces than in watching football.
The first half was rubbish: two struggling, bottom-of-the-table sides. To my surprise, I could hear Theo Walcott, once the darling of the faithful, being booed. "We've lost it," Gooners around me were saying at half-time. "What are we going to do?"
Football fans employ the royal "we" much as the Queen does. They talk in the plural, for they consider themselves part of an institution to which they have belonged since birth, or earlier, and on whose behalf they feel entitled to pronounce.
Arsenal fans have always been particularly possessive. Think of those chants from a decade ago, when they really were a good team. "We've got Dennis Bergkamp," they shouted, followed by the Patrick Vieira chant: "He comes from Senny-gal/He plays for Arsy-nal!"
One thing new this season is the Arsenal badge. Peer carefully at the telly and you can see that, on their shirts, the gun carriage symbol is surrounded by laurel leaves. A crazy conviction that the team will be crowned champions some day soon? Or a wreath in memoriam? No one around me seemed to know the reason. Perhaps it's to mark that it's 125 years since they were founded? More likely it was a marketing wheeze to sell more shirts.
In the second half, things perked up and Bolton's ten men were beaten 3-0, so when the fans trooped out, half were quite happy - such as the under-tens, who are easily pleased, and the elderly, who have seen it all before. The middling-aged bulk were still moaning.
This is when I decided to ask a random sample those two questions. I asked Tony first, as he was sitting next to me. "Not much is wrong," he replied, "though I wish that Arsène had sold Cesc Fàbregas earlier in the summer. It would have given us more time to get better replacements. Alex Song and Gervinho both acted like idiots early in the season, which gave us a bad start. I think that the crowd doesn't give enough support.
“Since the move to the Emirates, half the season ticket holders don't have the same loyalty. But no, I don't think Arsène should go."
I turned to a long-haired man who was on my other side. "Arsène has been obsessed with building up his own young players. He needs to buy established players who will be leaders. Should he go? I don't know. OK, then, no."
Next I spoke to Alan, a publisher. "Theo is quite useless and I am sad to say I realised that as soon as he joined the club. A highlights player and the diametric opposite of Wayne Rooney, who has the brain of a football genius. My thoughts about Arsène? These days, they are very negative. Regretfully, I think he should go."
I then asked nine-year-old Bells, who plays for Arsenal Ladies under-11s. "Maybe the players aren't eating enough chilli - they're not fired up enough! Arsène Wenger, he is a bit old, even older than my dad. But I think we should definitely wait until the end of the season."
So, based on this enormous survey, despite everything, three out of four Gooners think that Arsène should stay. You read it here first.
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