|19 Mar||3:00 PM||P||West Bromwich Albion (A)||2||2||Draw|
I am Arsenal FC...
1) A major body, a major power, a major name in English football. Carrying the hopes of the humble and unassuming, I have grown and grown in my 125-year young history, claiming the mantle of London's biggest, one of England's finest in the business.
2) Year on year, I have grown, and played. And conquered. Record after record, and trophy on trophy, I have grown to what I am today. Or what I was yesterday.
3) I have my new stadium, an arena of footballing and artistic magnificence, filled to the rooftops week in, week out. I sell out season tickets, have an enormously profitable sponsorship scheme, and I make steady profits year on year, and am told that I'm a model of excellence in footballing ethics.
4) All of which has left those who run me, my ever-faithful "custodians" of old-age aristocrats, dressed up and spun out in the form of a balding, uninspiring technocrat, more than happy with the status quo. More than happy to rake it all in, fattening their pockets, yet unwilling to put their money where their mouth is. Not just that, but they have the audacity to further charge those who love me and watch me megabucks with no real return on the pitch nor in the deserted trophy cabinet (which they have probably sold for more profit).
I am Arsenal FC...
1) The Arsenal of Henry Norris & Herbert Chapman. Ted Drake, Charlie George and George Graham. Of Tony Adams, Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp & Thierry Henry.
For today's Arsène Wenger, the Arsène Wenger who had put me out on the world map, who had given me the likes of Vieira, Henry and many others in yesteryear, and who had masterminded the Invincibles, has lost his way horribly.
From calm and calculated, to crusty and callous. From obsessed with winning, to being obsessed with winning just one certain way, a wrong way, and refusing change. From the unearthing of gems into world superstars, to the insistence on and persistence with a goalkeeper that cannot catch in Manuel Almunia, a defender that cannot tackle in Sebastian Squillaci, and a midfielder that cannot pass wind let alone a football in Denilson.
Yesterday's Arsène Wenger would have cherished no premature talk of quadruples halfway through a season, would not prophesise about his injured Captain lifting a trophy we had not yet won (and which did not win in the end), and would not look for the referee, the pitch, the weather and whatever else he could grasp on to as excuses for coming up short. Again. And today he STILL refuses to change, and sees no need for that change!
Yesterday's Arsène Wenger knew full well what it took for me to win, and whom it took to win me. Leaders mixed in with the physically powerful and hard working, with an abundance of art and craft to go with all of this. Today's Arsène Wenger is more than happy to pack me with the 5-footers, the timid, pretty, shy boys. Defence, what defence? Leadership, what leadership? All leadership has deserted me, on and off the pitch, and today's Arsène Wenger still thinks I can win it all. And he STILL refuses change!
I look below me and see vultures ready to pounce. Ready to flex their muscles and come out and get me, and better me. All that as my board of old men is happy with the status quo in the name of "stability", with my manager having gone insane, hell-bent on doing it just his own way, and with half of those who represent me on the pitch not fit to wear my glorious red and white.
I look above me and I see Manchester United. He knows who I am & what I stand for. I tell him of my great past anyway & of the great future my "custodians" keep telling me about.
Cue laughter from up above. He tells me:
1) How long have you been told of that great future? And what is it you have done for it? He tells me that in that time, he has regrouped, he has dominated England, and conquered Europe, all while we balance our books and feel good about ourselves.
2) He refuses to do stale, constantly redressing the balance with an innovative, modern management, with which Sir Alex Ferguson can always stay on top, by hook or by crook.
3) He refuses to do stale; any dead wood on the pitch is out before he knows it, all while unearthing gems for tomorrow. You claim to be sole masters of unearthing talent and you have Carlos Vela, Nicklas Bendtner and Denilson, he laughs? How about Javier Hernandez, Chris Smalling and the Da Silva twins? Now, that's talent. Cheap talent too!
4) He's in fits at the thought that I can do battle when I'm soft as jelly, and while he has a real solid backbone on which he can rely when the chips are down. A goalkeeper in the real meaning of the word, leaders in defence and in midfield, and poachers who can finish a game. He tells me in the most patronising but truest of fashions that it's all about results. Not about how many passes, how many shots.
Looking myself in the mirror I see that I'm like watching a car in slow motion crash knowing full well that there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it. You know and I know, and the next person knows what exactly is wrong with me. All except those that sadly matter, who are all in on this sleazy game together.
There is Manchester United, an essentially second-rate yet powerful outfit: probably destined to a title that could have been mine with a bit more nous, a bit more flexibility, a bit more bottle.
And it is sadly looking more and more likely by the day, as I make it all the more easy for them.
I am Arsenal FC, and those who own me, who run me, have, before losing any game or any points, crucially, lost those who love me, and so have lost me.
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