Sunday, 2 February 2014

Arsenal vs Palace: Match Preview


I wish I could feel excited about this game.

However, I don’t. Even though I decided to get behind the team after the manager yet again underwhelmed, I still cannot get to the terms that Wenger so readily refused to spend, even though a reasonable amount of targets were at our disposal. I’m still seething in the aftermath of another failure of a transfer window.

I did see it coming, though, and that considerably reduced the pain of seeing the Draxler and the Vucinic deals fall apart. It was completely expected, yet the realization of failure early in the window didn’t stop me from feeling pretty drained at the end of it. The frustration of seeing an inactive manager lie through his teeth has reached new heights, if possible.

However, what frustrates me the most is that there are people who blindly support him, not realizing the humongous blunders that he has done over the years. It’s really hard to believe that people are so fixated on the “Wenger Knows” quote that they will go to any lengths to defend the stupid decisions that he has taken, instead blaming the board, the debt and the Financial Fair Play.

People fail to realize that Wenger succeeded in his early years at Arsenal because he had inherited George Graham’s defence. I won’t deny that Wenger deserves huge applause for capitalizing on those foundations laid by Graham, though. He introduced a new diet to prolong the careers of players like Tony Adams, and mixed ageing legs with exciting new talents.

It worked remarkably, as Arsenal were firmly on the up in the early 2000s, reaching the pinnacle of their success in 2004. Arsene Wenger rightly deserved applause for that, because he found a perfect blend between experience and young blood, leading to some mesmerizing counter attacking football and staunch defending.

However, once the defenders started “moving on” and The Back Four disappeared, it became clear that Wenger couldn’t teach his team to defend to save their lives. To top it all, he sold all of the experienced players and replaced them with teenagers, who had nobody to look up to. Once the foundations that Graham had led began to disappear, so did Wenger's success.

No wonder we saw such shameful defending for 5 whole years. Pat Rice was barely given any input by a dominating Wenger, and the wage budget was destroyed by wasting resources on duds like Stepanovs, Poom, Almunia, Vivas, Bothroyd, Pennant, Diawara, Malz, Aliadiere, Bentley, Stack, Jeffers, Wright, Inamoto, Hoyte, Cygan, Shaaban, Awusu-Abeyie, Senderos, Lupoli, Traore, Mannone, Denilson, Diaby, Eboue, Nordtveit, Bartley, Merida, Bischoff, Silvestre, Wellington Silva, Squillaci, Djourou, Andre Santos, Chamakh, Gervinho, Arshavin and Park Chu Young.

I know that building the Emirates Stadium meant that we had to keep a check on our resources and not spend too much, but I strongly feel that that was used as an excuse for not buying top talents when available. Upon analysis, Arsenal Truth has clearly pinpointed the wastage on flop signings. Of course, I could cut the manager some slack had he only bought a couple of flops, but such a high number is astounding.

The board are a spineless bunch of profit-hungry businessmen who put blind faith in their manager, giving him too much freedom and interested only in CL qualification. It speaks volumes that Wenger’s job approaches untenable only when Champions League is on the line, because the board members are only interested in the profits that come along with it.

However, it seems like Gazidis is growing a backbone in recent times. He oh-so cleverly made a public declaration that Wenger would have the funds that he needed to make major signings. Deals with the Emirates and Puma were well-publicized as well, which means that the club will rake in £180m from July 2014 onwards.

Our booming financial conditions meant that Wenger was rightly held 100% accountable for any signings made in the window. While even after 2006 there were no signs that Wenger was denied funds by the board (Wenger’s supporters merely assumed that to absolve Wenger of blame), now there was irrefutable proof that the board were willing to provide Wenger with a bottomless pit.

However, by then Wenger was so disillusioned with his megaflop “Project Youth” campaign, that he refused the fact that he needed to spend big. Even throughout the years when he was supposedly denied funds, he refused to buy top talents at a cut price, instead trusting his deadwood. Witness Xabi Alonso’s failed transfer to Arsenal because Wenger opted to keep faith in Denilson; how stupid does that sound now?

We’ve passed two transfer windows since Ivan made the Gooner family wise that Wenger had an £80m transfer kitty available, yet the only marquee signing that Wenger made was Mesut Ozil, a last ditch panic purchase. For people who are open-minded enough to notice, Wenger has been turned into a power-hungry, procrastinating, profit-making, arrogant dictator after getting too much freedom since 2006. Since David Dein left and the board was replaced with a bunch of money-oriented businessmen who didn’t know squat about football, Wenger was given a lot of trust and power, because he was the only higher authority left in the club who understood football.

However, the lure of having single-handed control, undisputed authority and the ability to get away with everything except CL qualification at a club like Arsenal went straight to Wenger’s head. From being a wise philosopher and a winner at Arsenal, Wenger slowly lowered his expectations because he knew that his new bosses would be okay with failing to win the title regularly.

And now, even though we have a great chance to win the title, we are been backstabbed by a shadow of a man who is living off past glories and knows that the board and a majority of Arsenal supporters will defend him should he fail. Wenger has NO MOTIVATION to aim for the stars this season, since his contract is secure (with a possible pay rise) and CL qualification is in the bag as well.

Many would find this hard to believe. After all, they hear Wenger's wise quotes in press conferences and see his frustration on the touchline when Arsenal are losing, and believe that he knows best. They listen to Wenger saying that he wants to win the title and assume that he’s telling the truth, instead of considering the possibility that Wenger might just be building his PR image to the footballing world.

Bloggers like Arseblog, Gunnerblog as well as sports journalists, who speak a mainstream tone of Wenger nobly bearing pressure under an impatient fanbase lead the average Arsenal fan to think along the same lines as well. No one stops to think that they might be wrong, or that they might be unknowingly contributing to one of the biggest lies in world football history.

There is a reason that people who want Arsene Wenger out never stop complaining, even in good times. It’s because they know that there is a logical explanation behind the scenes for surprising Arsenal results, and that Wenger does not deserve half of the praise that he gets from everywhere. They know that under Wenger, we will always struggle to win things; winning the Premier League or the FA Cup this season won’t change that. Maybe it will, because it might remind Wenger of the times that he used to be a winner. I’m not counting on it, though.

Since 2006, the situation at Arsenal has always been massively complex. There are many theories to explain this steady decline of the club, out of which the widely accepted one is “It’s the board’s and the players’ fault, they didn’t co-operate with Wenger, and our beloved boss has been made a scapegoat”. However, I firmly believe in the theory that I have explained above, because it is supported by facts and figures, and explains ALL of the madness surrounding the club.

Even though I believe that the club has been managed like a circus for a long time through good times and bad, I will still remain an Arsenal fan. Despite knowing about the huge cover-ups and the vast masses of deluded Arsenal fans, I shall never leave this club to join another. I don’t want to brag, but I think that this speaks volumes of me. 

I am independent enough to have my own opinions, despite of what the world thinks. Even though there was a time that the club was filled with clueless board members, a manager who didn’t care about the club, heartless players who wanted out and fans who were horribly split (I am, of course, talking about the end of the 2010-2011 season),  I still had 100% of Arsenal DNA in me to sustain the disappointments.

I, of course, will still stand beside the team and cheer them on, even if I know that Wenger’s inactivity is certain to cost us dear in May. I have said a lot of times before that the players who currently don the red and white are a million times more deserving than the facades of Clichy, Song, Nasri, van Persie and Adebayor. The joy of watching honest, hardworking players give their sweat and blood for the club seems to lessen my pain of inevitable disappointment that’s certain to follow.

Today we face Crystal Palace at home, which is the calm before the storm. Our season – which seems like a dream come true so far – may just suffer a confidence shake up in the games that follow Palace. One cannot rule out the possibility that after the Palace game, the team might fall down a slippery slope and never recover.

The 90 minutes that follow may be one of the last times in a long time that you get to see a rock-solid defence and a scintillating attack. Enjoy it while it lasts.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )