Last month, a piece in Arsène Wenger’s defence appeared on these pages. It was written by my daughter Nathalie, who once turned out as a sub in an Arsenal ladies’ pre-season friendly (they beat Swindon something like 13-1, Nathalie later had a trials evening at Highbury – she’s a good player, still – but lacked the exceptional fitness levels required and went off to QPR instead).
Gunners Town indulgently retweeted a link to her piece, which criticised the “bleating from Arsenal fans and the media about how Wenger needs to go” and included the immortal words: “My dad says he would love to have the kind of failure Arsenal have had.”
A few hours after Nathalie’s article appeared, Arsenal were soundly beaten 5-1 at Bayern Munich. She saw no reason to change her mind. I am now awaiting her response to last night’s debacle, 5-1 all over again and this time at the Emirates (was it even quieter than usual there?). Don’t worry Gooners, losing at home by four clear goals feels a bit less painful once it’s happened a few times.
Anyway, and this time with only the most tenuous of Sunderland links (Brian Clough’s decline as manager; we never saw decline as player, just a career-ending injury and regretted that he never managed us), is a dignified and well-argued post-Bayern II lament from Gary Lawrence, an Arsenal season ticket holder for more than 40 years. If you come here only to read about Sunderland, feel free to leave now. But what constitutes success and sackable-offence failure is a good football talking point … and yes, M Salut would still accept the sort of failure Arsenal fans have to endure: fifth top, League Cup quarter finalists, FA Cup semis, Champions League last 16.
Maybe what north London needs is a few seasons of nailbiting escape acts from relegation, always fearing – as we do now – that time may have run out. Could be character-building …
Like many Arsenal fans I am absolutely gutted at the state my club is in. However, I do actually feel very sad about what has become of our once outstanding manager. His current situation reminds so much of the demise of another wonderful manager Brian Clough. The pressure and strain told physically and mentally on Cloughie in just the same way it is affecting Arsène Wenger.
Arsène reminds me of a once great heavyweight champion who has gone on too long believing they can still recapture and go back to being the great fighter they once were. Instead, they end up mere shadows of their former selves and taking too much punishment.
Arsène is on the ropes being battered by the media, the pundits and the fans. Every new defeat is a hammer blow to the head sending him reeling to the canvas where Ivan Gazidis, his corner man is banging on the canvas saying “Get up champ you can still do it”.
His manager Stan Kroenke, who is unfortunately not at ringside as he has other fish to fry, wanting him to sign that two year contract so he can line-up yet more fights for Arsène to take more beatings and more defeats inflicting further damage. Arsenal is Arsène Wenger’s whole life for the last 21 years and his love for Arsenal and pride will not allow him him to quit.
Come on Ivan, we love Arsène too much for all the stunning brilliant times he has given us. All those superb teams, players and the trophies he won, to see him end up getting humiliated and a figure of fun. This man gave us the “Invincibles” but the man himself is not invincible.
It is time for Stan, Ivan and the rest of the seconds like Joel Kroenke, Sir Chips Keswick and Lord Harris of Peckham, to do the right thing for once. They need grow a collective pair of balls and throw the towel into the ring, to take proud fighter out of the firing line, withdraw that two-year contract before Arsène ends up being out for the count.