Saturday, 9 April 2011
We're all very naughty boys, Blackpool (a) preview
It seems that civil war is breaking out between Arsenal's management and a growing section of the support. Obviously Arsene Wenger still has plenty of support amongst the fans, but it can't be denied that those who doubt the Manager are growing in numbers (check out the four comments left after yesterday's post - if they are representative of the Arsenal demographic then home matches could be ugly affairs until the end of the season). The comments of the Chairman today will have alienated even more supporters - especially those who pay their money to go and watch the side. Peter Hill-Wood has stated that anyone who questions Arsene Wenger, or the way the Club has been run in recent times, is "stupid." Indeed we are. After all, you'd have to pretty bloody silly to keep blindly paying out to watch Arsenal when the powers that be hold you in such contempt. In no other industry could a Chairman get away with slagging off the customers (for that is what we are to Arsenal) in such an outrageous fashion.
Mr Hill-Wood (whose Arsenal heritage and sense of class is something that has always marked him out as the figure-head of the Club) has also threatened the Arsenal Supporters Trust with being, effectively, ostracised. I am not a member of the Arsenal Supporters Trust, but those who are have every right to voice whatever concerns they have - after all they are shareholders, in just the same way the Chairman is. The comments directed at the AST are the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from Colonel Gadaffi or some other mad dictator - it's largely along the lines of "you're not on board with us, so we'll cut you off." Far better, of course, for the Club to pretend to be fan-friendly by embracing the minority group Redaction (who do not, and will never, represent me in their dealings with the Club) - they have to tow the line or find their banners and their "singing-section" (twats) shut down.
I am absolutely fuming about this whole thing. Arsene Wenger says that second would be success, and the Chairman believes we are all stupid. I paid over £1300 for a season ticket. I travel to watch Arsenal at considerable expense. I buy merchandise from the Club shop in order that the money goes in to the coffers of the Club, rather than people like Steve Ashley at Sports Direct. I love Arsenal Football Club. Surprisingly enough I don't believe second place is success for the reason that, with minimal investment in obvious areas of the squad, we would be Champions. In fact we would have been Champions this season for the third time in four years. When I hand over the money for my season ticket in June this year I will still not consider second to be success. When I hand over £1300+ I expect the Club to invest properly and give the team the best possible chance to win silverware and make my outlay a worthwhile one. Am I stupid for that? Am I stupid because I want my Club to win trophies?
I am too young to remember Terry Neill being sacked, even though he was Manager when I saw my first game. As a historian of the Club I am fully aware of the circumstances that led to Neill being replaced by Don Howe. I am imagining that the depth of feeling among the supporters was not dissimilar to that which saw protests outside the East Stand in the mid-80's. Peter Hill-Wood's comments today might just see such protests moving a step closer in the current era. I hope we get nowhere near that, but the fire is being stoked.
The boys go to Blackpool tomorrow knowing that Manchester United and Chelsea have both had victories this afternoon. Blackpool have seen those around them getting beaten so they have the opportunity to pick up points on their relegation rivals against our woefully out of sorts team. Ian Holloway will have his side ridiculously fired up for tomorrow. We have to hope that the fire in Arsene Wenger's belly yesterday is transmitted to the Arsenal players.
Just when the injury crisis seemed to be easing we find ourselves likely to be without Alex Song (I'd be surprised if he plays again this season), Bacary Sagna and Theo Walcott. Apparently Theo has suffered a recurrence of his ankle injury. As I have contended on here before, there is no way that Theo was out with a "sprained" ankle, as the Club told us. There is clearly something more serious, and another Arsenal player is confirming himself as chronically injury-prone. Denilson also remains on the sidelines, while Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsey should be back. Cesc Fabregas is fit to start.
The Sun today shows Arsenal lining up with Diaby alongside Jack Wilshere. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if that was the case, but my God will it annoy me. Have we not seen Diaby get enough chances? Aaron Ramsey must play in my opinion. We are playing a side fighting relegation, and we have to win the game to stay in with any kind of remote chance at the top, so let's go for it shall we? Failing that, how about a switch to 4-4-2 with Fabregas and Wilshere in midfield, and Van Persie joined by Chamakh/Bendtner up front? No chance, I fear.
Arsene Wenger has also confirmed that Manuel Almunia will play again tomorrow. As I've written before, I have no time for criticism of Almunia. We know he is not up to it. I suspect he knows it himself (there's plenty of evidence to call upon). He doesn't tell the Manager to select him. By Wenger's own admission Jens Lehmann was dropped in 2006 after making "only one mistake" (actually there were two but I'll let it go). So by what standards is Manuel being judged? He very nearly cost us two goals last week because his confidence is shot to pieces. If there was no intention to play Jens Lehmann, no matter what Almunia does wrong, why did we bother signing him? With every single error the pressure grows on Manuel, and the derision and scorn from the stands, pours down upon him more and more. Take him out of the firing line and let Jens organise his back-four and we might just get some improvement.
I'll post a review at some point after the match tomorrow.