The Sheikhigarchy, ambition, and that game: an interview with Nick Hornby about “Pray”

The Academy Award-nominated writer of the screenplay An Education, the best-selling author of the book High Fidelity, and the Arsenal-obsessed main character of his memoir, Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby is an author whose reach in literary, film, music, and football circles is matchless.

Hornby’s big break was Fever Pitch. A touching and poignant memoir of growing up in England, falling in love with both a woman and a sports team (not in that order), and about losing and finding one’s faith told through a series of football matches from his very first in 1968 to the incredible Arsenal season finale in 1989. And now, twenty years later, and after much success in nearly every other arena, it seems natural that Nick Hornby has returned to write about football.

Pray: Notes on a football season (Riverhead eSpecial; $2.99; available now) is written in the same easy style as Fever Pitch. Matchday by matchday, Hornby takes us back through the most significant moments of the 2011-2012 English football season. From the moment that Carlos Tevez refused to play for his manager to Thierry Henry’s triumphant return for Arsenal to Fabrice Muamba’s near-death collapse on the pitch and on to the thrilling finale in Manchester which saw City lift the title for the first time in 44 years everything is examined through the unique lens of Hornby’s wit and wisdom.

But in typical Hornby style Pray is about more than just the who-did-what of a series football matches. The setting is the game but the stories are the global financial crisis, racism in England, being a sports fan, and the silent prayer that washes over 40,000 normally rabid sports fans as they sit in horror while a vital young man struggles for life in front of their very eyes.

Pray is a welcome return of one of football’s greatest ambassadors and I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of Nick Hornby’s time to answer questions about Pray, about his thoughts on Arsenal, and the changing nature of the game.

—-

7am:  Pray reads like the first installment in a serialized novel. Almost like you have set the characters and are laying groundwork for future seasons. There’s our hero, the plucky but underwhelming Arsenal. The villains in the form of the Chelsea, Man U and Man City. Sub plots of racism, just so many stories in one season. What was your intention here with this work? Do you have plans to have a season review every year or was last year so special that it just deserves its own book?

NH: Oh, I’m not sure there was an intention.  I was talking to my editor at Penguin UK, who’s a big football fan, and I told him he needed to commission an e-book about the season, because it contained so many incredible stories. And then I realized that I wanted to write it. I haven’t written much about football since the 90s, and so much has happened since, so PRAY allowed me to get some things off my chest.

I suspect that the problem with writing something similar about every season is that the stories aren’t going to change that much. Money will be a huge issue again this year, and racism, too – but we’re unlikely to get a finish as thrilling as last year’s.

7am:  The book starts off with a lament about the influx of foreign money (which you refer to as a “Sheikhigarchy“) into English football as the two teams from Manchester thump the two from London, but ends with Man City’s win over QPR and the conclusion that “perhaps the only way that professional sport can become interesting is if every team gets hold of as much (money) as possible.” How can an Arsenal fan reconcile these two seemingly disparate positions?

NH: Ha! Well, being an Arsenal fan doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re also a fan of financial prudence!  I didn’t choose to watch them because they’ve drawn some kind of line in the sand – I supported Arsenal long before they decided that self-sustainability was the way forward. The problem that  the Premier League has at the moment is that it’s expensive to watch and not very competitive: we’d all be amazed if anyone other than Chelsea, Man City or Man Utd won the  league this year, next year, and the year after that. I knew before the season kicked off that I was paying very high prices (nobody pays more, in fact, than Arsenal fans) to watch a team that is aiming for fourth place again. Maybe Financial Fair Play would make a difference, but I was merely pointing out at the end of the book that if everyone had Man City’s money, the league would be more exciting. That’s unarguable, surely?

7am:  Would Thierry Henry still be able to help this squad? And if he did return could we please get him his 229th goal back?

NH: I fear that he would be able to help this squad, which of course reflects badly on the squad. It’s interesting how often this is happening, though. Paul Scholes is a vital part of the Man Utd squad after a year in retirement, and at the time of writing it looks as though Drogba may be going back to Chelsea for a few weeks. I’m not sure the Premier League is as robust as people like to make out.

7am:  You also hit on this issue of Arsenal’s ambition to finish fourth and how top football clubs don’t take the FA Cup and League Cup seriously anymore, quoting the boss from the year before about how “the Champions League is compulsory, the FA Cup is something for enjoyment.” This is something that Wenger has been saying for years and yet when Wenger said it again at this year’s AGM there was massive uproar. Why does this shock people and why is it that Arsenal are suddenly a “club without ambition?”

NH: It shocks people only because there is now a substantial number of Arsenal fans who want Arsene to go, so they’re using his apparent lack of ambition as a stick to beat him with. And yet if he’d won the League Cup two years ago, when Arsenal lost, shockingly, to Birmingham, nobody would be satisfied now. The last two League Cup-winning managers got the sack at the end of the season, which indicates the low regard that the competition is held by owners – and possibly even fans, seeing as there wasn’t any real outcry about those sackings. Everybody – and I’d probably include the fans in this – wants their team to play in the Champions’ League more than they want them to win a domestic Cup.

The AGM took place against the backdrop of poor results and the sale of Robin Van Persie. But how can it be any different? We’ve sold a couple of our best players every year since the move to the Emirates, and there isn’t much we can do about it. Nobody is going to turn down the chance to double their wages, especially if trophies, big trophies, are more or less guaranteed at the clubs they’re moving to. We have lost players we wanted to keep to Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and Barcelona - nobody else. If they were going to Spurs, or Everton, or Milan then I’d understand the outcry, but they’re not. And it’s always been like that, my entire supporting life. Frank Stapleton went to Man Utd in 1981. Wenger’s incredible success between 1998 and 2004 has made people forget what Arsenal have been since 1945.

7am:  One of the best articles in the book is a piece on the two cases of racism from last year (Terry and Suarez) and the difference between the way the FA and the clubs tried to deal with the players. At the time you were writing, the Terry case was still ongoing but we now have a conclusion and while he was found innocent in court, the FA found him guilty and chose to ban him just 4 games. I’m curious about your thoughts on the way this case has been concluded?

NH: The length of the ban was peculiar. I’m presuming the FA felt that the court case, and the length of time it took for the case to come to trial, provided a different context from the Suarez case, where the law wasn’t involved. I don’t know why people seem to think that his legal innocence has any bearing on the FA’s disciplinary process. Clearly there are different codes of conduct within professional organizations – after all, taking your shirt off to celebrate a goal can result in a loss of earnings, and that’s hardly legally enforceable. And Rio Ferdinand – in one of the more complicated misconduct charges of the year – was fined a lot of money for tweeting “Hahaha”, which would have made for an interesting couple of days in court if he’d chosen not to pay it.

7am:  5-2 against Tottenham, 5-3 against Chelsea, 8-2 Man U, 4-4 Newcastle, 5-7 against Reading, 6-1 for City against United, 5-4 for Chelsea against United all results in the last two years. Can anyone (other than City) play defense anymore?

NH: 5-2 against Tottenham twice, in the same year! These are no longer extraordinary scores, and clearly something in the game has changed profoundly. In the book I suggested that the players are simply too rich to bother with that kind of drudgery, but I suspect that it’s also something to do with the rapid turnover of playing staff, and on top of that the need to rest players. Arsenal used 16 players in four competitions in 1970/71, when they won the Double, of whom 14 were properly involved in the squad. We’re not halfway through this season, yet they’ve already used more than twenty in the Premier League alone, and another dozen or so in the League Cup. And yet defense involves working as a unit, with a goalkeeper. It must be almost impossible to work together effectively if the line-up changes constantly.

7am:  A lot of people considered the final game of the season between City and QPR as analogous to Arsenal’s win over Liverpool in 1989, a pivotal event in your memoir Fever Pitch. You called it the most “electrifying” ending since 1989 but steered clear of comparing the two, for good reason. I don’t know if I have a real question here except that I wonder how you react to people making the comparison?

NH: Clearly it was every bit as unbelievable for City fans – and they needed two goals, rather than Arsenal’s one, in the last couple of minutes. Our game was a straightforward head-to-head:  the two contenders playing each other in the last game of the season. That never happens. But the big difference, I think, was Arsenal’s underdog status, and Liverpool’s formidable reputation. You didn’t go to Anfield hoping to win, in those days, let alone win by two goals. And I think a lot of the country was rooting for Arsenal to do it, simply because of Liverpool’s dominance over the previous decade. Most neutrals were more ambivalent about City. They were at home, against a struggling team, and they’d spent hundreds of millions on players. And yet if they failed to win, then the trophy went to Man Utd, the  biggest team in the world, who’d won it countless times before. So something about it didn’t feel right, even if it was completely enthralling to watch. I think our moment still has the edge. I would say that, though. That’s become the lot of the Arsenal fan - clinging on to old glories! I never really relax into a season until every Premiership team has been beaten once, and our Invincibles record is preserved….

PRAY:  Notes on a Football Season
Nick Hornby
Riverhead eSpecial ($2.99) Available for purchase at most eBook retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple or directly from the publisher here.

Thanks to the folks from YESNetwork for making this interview possible and especially to Mr. Hornby for taking time to answer questions from some blogger.

Qq

73 thoughts on “The Sheikhigarchy, ambition, and that game: an interview with Nick Hornby about “Pray”

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

    Brilliant! Can’t wait to read it and I’m glad you got the chance to talk to him, Gooner to Gooner.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Through my affiliation with the Yankees Network.

      “In show business it’s all about who you know and I know Crackle.” -Mitch Hedberg.

  2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    “It is true to say that most of us were defined only by the number and extent of our interests. some boys had more records than others, and some knew more about football; some were interested in cars, rugby. we had passions instead of personalities, predictable and uninteresting passions at that, passions which could not reflect or illuminate us in the way that my girlfriend’s did…and this is one of the most inexplicable differences between men and women.” i read that when i was a baby practically, and the book “Fever Pitch” is why I am a gooner. i remember moving into my first apartment in college, and the previous occupant had been a girl, and had left an array of interesting art, poems, and videogame posters on the walls of what was to have been my bedroom. “Get rid of all this shit” i asked the landlord, and it was this passage i recalled that instant, and this one i recall daily. such a touching book. Good job, Tim. I have been a fan of this site for years, and now it is interviewing Nicholas Hornby. Forward!

  3. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1feygooner

    “I never really relax into a season until every Premiership team has been beaten once, and our Invincibles record is preserved….”

    Hahahahaha :D

    Juventus’ run also lasted 49 games, how weird is that?

  4. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Life is indeed like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re going to get.

    What a fantastic, fantastics surprise to see this. And a very well done interview with some great questions. Congratulations.

    I can’t wait to read the book. I now officially like The Yes Network, though I’ll always, always hate the Yankees.

    I’m all pumped for Swansea now…

  5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    Fascinating interview. I completely relate to not settling into the league until our unbeaten record stays intact.

    We need another magical Anfield ’89 moment.

  6. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Most enjoyable.

    I’m curious: Was the interview done over email exchange? Phone? On horseback?

    Nick Hornby is a legendary Gooner!

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Unrelated to the above, but just read that Hazard and Diaby among others have signed a protest against Israel hosting the U-21 World Cup because of their recent actions in Gaza.

    Which makes me ponder three things:

    1) Diaby should not be allowed near sharpened pencils.

    2) Didn’t Hamas declare victory anyway?

    3) Are footballers really aware of the complexity of this situation such that it is extremely difficult to take a moral high ground?

    1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

      You may have heard the old Victorian-era canard that “children should be seen and not heard”. That applies doubly to footballers.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Wenger is talking up possibly 1-2 buys in the January transfer window.
    What about the huge load of dead wood we are still carrying on the books right now:

    Squillaci
    Djourou
    Bendtner
    Denilson
    Chamakh
    Park
    Gervinho
    Campbell
    Santos (yes, him too – I never rated him)

    How much money does that represent combined with the potentially available spend from the new sponsorship deal?

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Likely this has been what has made Wenger hesitate with adding up top (apart from lack of options in market for price)

      Many voices make noises about selling the deadwood. if they know how to, they should come up with a plan for Wenger.

      The oilmoney clubs have driven wages upwards and we have had to follow thereby there is now an unhealthy disparity with the top clubs (yes I count us as one) and the rest.

      Whereby many teams who would have come into take our rejects are now unable to do so particularly with the soft economy and UEFA’s FFP coming into effect.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Squllaci I believe will be a free agent shortly.

      Gervinho is not dead wood, enigmatic as his playing style has been. Likely he has another 2-3 seasons on contract and will be pushed by Gnabry for his spot within that time frame if we keep Walcott.

      Djourou will likely leave in the summer for better first team opportunities at a smaller club. Miquel will have a good shot at taking the fourth Cback spot as a natural progression.

      Santos will either be sold if a good offer comes in or kept to contract but likely we will see maybe Vermaelen @LB which may mean another Cback.

      Diaby will be hard to sell. Likely to stay to end of contract as a ‘bonus’ but will have to have a more dependable solid frame player come in before that (possibly even this January). I’m hoping Capoue who is 2 inches extra height to MVila, has better stats and is more dynamic (particularly going forward)…but someone, anyone more durable than Diaby please.

      Arsharvin likely to be sold in January which is reason why (incorrect I feel) Wenger is reticent about his use. Who wants an injured player. If Walcott is retained (likely 3 season extension to 25/26 at close to what he is asking) then we may need someone-else to complement Santi being that Rosicky is likely to leave end of season and Ramsey may/may not deliver (or Eisfeld) + we need an option wide.

      Bendtner, Chamakh. Park – how to sell them? Wage is an issue. Chamakh’s best bet is back in France IMO. Park didn’t cost much and was a hedge (not a good one). Possible sales as I can’t imagine he is on high wages.

      Bendtner, we’re selling him to Spurs right to replace Adebawhore?:D

      Denilson I believe will be out of contract soon.

      Campbell, Ryo, well they didn’t cost much so likely to be loaned again with watching brief on their development.

      One of Fabianski or Mannone may also leave but I don’t think we’ll see anyone in as Shea or Martinez will be promoted.

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    We can all say what we want about Allardyce but today’s managerial performance against Chelsea was superb. His man management of Diame motivated the player to up his game in the 2nd half. I will leave you to draw the inferences to Arsenal as WHU goes above us by 1 point.

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Its just 9 minutes…and have a feeling this is when we will see El-capitan in a solid performance…!!!!!

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Ki and Britton are getting too much space too dictate for Swansea and Michu can win a header to send Dyer on his way a 1v1 chance on goal.

  12. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I realize that of late I enjoy reading Arsenal blogs more than I enjoy watching Arsenal play.

    At HT, it’s 0-0. I’ve seen nothing yet to suggest that scoreline will be threatened in the second.

    To think that today’s battle with Swansea is a “six-pointer.”

    We are ACTUALLY a mid-table team.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      That’s true, but then again, a root vegetable would be doing a better job than Podolski at the moment.

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Hmm, watching Swansea reminded me of what a joy Arsenal used to be to watch. Quick, precise passing, fluid, interchanging of positions, and insightful off the ball movement. We were summed up by a moment around the 40′ mark where we had a decent chance for a counter and the dribbler, and the two players in front of him all converged on the same spot. Sczcesny was forced into a great double save and TV5 makes a great last ditch block on a one v one. Unless the team picks it up, we’ll be looking up at Swansea in the table without being able to complain about it too much.

  14. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Arsenal.

    We were suppose to be the passing team.

    We were suppose to be the possession team.

    We were suppose to the the pressing team.

    We were no more.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

      Kudos to Swansea they were excellent. Composed without the ball and threatening almost every time with it.

  15. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

    Inevitably this’ll lead to calls for a change of manager. I don’t really see that as any sort of solution. But that was a very worrying performance. We’re just not an attacking team anymore. There’s still at least 8 games before we can even get in any additions to the squad, and the club have no choice but to go for it in the winter window. They could of course go the other route and just accept they won’t make the CL this year but I don’t think Wenger will stand for that, and actually I don’t think the board would do that. The churn in personnel is proving ever harder for Wenger to overcome. I think this is the last season that should occur (without at least quality replacements coming in) Song and RVP together took out a lot of our attack. We really need a statement of a signing in January. Till then, these players have to learn to play better. I didn’t think the ManU performance was gutless. Nor did I think that of the draws at Villa and Everton. I thought this was gutless as well as lacking in quality. Get it together Arsenal.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

      Wenger has gambled once too often. Selling RVP? Maybe made sense. To Manu? No sense at all.

      Selling Song was ridiculous when we had no need to do that. Depending on Diaby? Even more ridiculous based on his injury history. Now we are paying for those decisions.

      The real question to be asked is if anyone thinks we would be in the same situation if we had both RVP and Song. If the the answer is no, then getting 40 Mill in transfer fees is really not worth the risk of losing a potential similar amount in CL revenue this year and next, and diminished EPL revenue by virtue of us finishing low in the table.

      At what point does our performances justify selling our best players year after year?

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

        As I said below. It comes down to money. Wenger has always gotten us in the top 4 while selling players and replacing them with cheaper options. Before the stadium move, Wenger and Arsenal, had no problem spending big. It might seem like a long time and a lot o broken promises, but when the stadium was planned, the effects of Abramovich were unknown and the property market fall could not be anticipated. My point is that it seems like this has been going on indefinitely, but it hasn’t. It is a consequence of the stadium move. The new deals have to signify a shift. The club have hailed it as such, and they will stick to it. Whatever you may think of Wenger, he didn’t want to lose those players you mention. With perhaps the exception of Song.

  16. +2 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Vintage plucky Arsenal performance. Lots of offence, shot on goal, etc. Great effort to win the game with the last minute goals. Fantastic stuff.

    Too bad the team playing Arsenal wasn’t actually us.

    What now? Our worst league showing since 1994, and Bunburyist said in excellent comment above, we actually ARE a mid-table.

    I may stop watch the matches for a while and stick to reading the blogs. They are far more entertaining.

  17. Vote -1 Vote +1tino

    Time to cleanse my mind with a little bit of Bundelisga action. Dortmund vs Bayern should very entertaining.

  18. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

    Arsenal’s wage bill has consistently been the fourth or fifth highest in the BPL for several seasons, with only Liverpool outspending us up until 2011 (outside the unholy trinity of the two Manchesters and Chelski of course), and I see no reason to believe that we’re less than fourth or fifth this season. So I think I’m safe in believing that other than the top three, we outspend every team in front of us by a considerable margin. Our wage bill could very well be triple some of the teams in front of us.

    So, if we don’t get the fourth place trophy this season, we are underperforming. For all our talk of being in the poor house compared to the actual title contenders, compared to the other teams ahead of us in the competition for the Champions League participation trophy, we’re as far ahead of them in resources as ManShitty, ManUre and Chelski are ahead of us. One of two things, or a combination of both, are happening here. Either the talent in the squad doesn’t actually match the wage bill or we do have the fourth best group of players in the BPL and they’re not being managed in a way which allows them play to their collective potential. If Wenger is to be given credit for the Invincibles, he needs to held accountable for being tenth after fifteen games. At the end of the day, there are only five points separating us from our goal and 23 games to make up that deficit but this has to be the biggest challenge and most difficult period of Wenger’s tenure. I sincerely hope he’s up to it.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      Some players ostensibly in the squad are being overpayed. But that’s a relic of the past. You could argue though that these players aren’t even being used and so are being wasted entirely by the manager. Yet I suppose in a difficult situation, those players are hardly worth turning to.

      Another factor is the high churn in players. Which has an effect despite the wages paid. How much are Chelsea under-performing? And they’ve tried a new manager as well.

      You’re right. This is the toughest period for Wenger, but I think the fans’ impatience is actually making it tougher than it has to be. Still, it is up to him and the players to withstand that pressure and step up their game.

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

        Wenger chose to bring in Chamakh, Squillaci, Santos, and Park. He chose to renew the contracts of, among others, Denilson, Bendtner, Diaby, and Rosicky rather than risk finding replacements. He sold Song for a relative bargain price and didn’t replace him. If the contracts of those players are now hurting the club and preventing us from bringing in quality players who could actually play for us, then the fact that those decisions were made in the past can’t be ignored. I know that you can’t be right 100% of the time but we’ve made some curious personnel decisions recently. I realize I’m sounding negative. I like and admire Wenger, I really do. I will remember the Invincibles and the double winning seasons with great joy. But the goodwill from those memories is getting close to being fully spent. I’ve said this before, last season and the start of this season feels like the end of a dynasty. If Wenger doesn’t adapt, his last season at the club won’t be remembered with too much fondness.

        As for Chelski, their business model doesn’t demand that they get value for money. Absolutely, they’re underperforming relative to their wage and transfer bill but they can afford to simply throw more money at the problem until they get it right.

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

        Tee Song,

        what I meant by relic of the past is that in the initial years of the stadium move, it was a plan to pay the younger players more than they would be paid elsewhere, and hope they come good together. You can argue the merits or otherwise of that, but I think that was the only way we could get a squad decent enough to finish in the top 4. We did challenge for the odd trophy or two along the way as well. That explains the likes of Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner etc being on high wages.

        Would Wenger have bought the likes of Chamakh, Park, even Squillaci (though at the time it made perfect sense) if he had more funds available? I doubt it. Chamakh’s wages reflect his free transfer anyway.

        Not renewing some player contracts would increase the player churn further while we probably wouldn’t have funds to find capable replacements for the squad players on top of replacements for the star players we lost. Any way you look at it, it boils down to money.

        Arsenal and Wenger haven’t done it perfectly. But the scale of our transition is often forgotten. That is really down to how smooth the transition has been managed in general.

        Anyway, we’ll see how this season turns out. We will improve. We can’t get much worse than today anyway. Can we?

  19. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1londoncalling12

    I’m still travelling an hour and a half after the match. London is cold and miserable and I have just seen my team get outplayed in all areas by a more ambitious set of players. We were dreadful and lacking in direct play but most importantly we were looked afraid with missed passes in midfield. My previous three comments mentioned our need for a devil in midfield. Today even more so that person was needed. I have to say it… I miss Cesc Fabregas. Our team have lost its mojo and we may be in trouble. Something is missing…and we need to find it soon or else no Europe next year.

  20. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    it’s going to cost so much money to make this team what it was in 2009-10 again, far more than what we recouped from selling those players. we are so fucked.

  21. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    On so many levels, it was better to lose to Man U 8-2 than to lose to Swansea 2-0.

    The main level is we could only go up from the bottom then, today we are only going down from the middle.

  22. -2 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    We are in a tough spot and the cracks can no longer be papered over.
    Regardless, I fully expect us to fight and claim 4th or even 3rd. The difference this year is that – and I say this as a continued huge supporter of Arsene Wenger – while I’ll give him all the credit of “getting us out” of this huge hole and dip in form when we do finally achieve a CL spot, I will also assign blame where it belongs and some of it clearly lies at his feet.

    The great man is 63 now and he fights in a league that has achieved a greater degree of parity this year than it has in past years. It is more difficult than ever, and his time is surely coming now. I hope he sees out his contract walks out with his head held high for all he has achieved with us.
    We need to plan aggressively now to move on to the post-Wenger phase.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      Not yet 1NTTA. At least as far as I’m concerned. Let’s get through this season, and see what Wenger can do with the (hopefully) increased spending on transfers and wages. He’s out of contract after next season. He might well decide it’s time to move on. (Apparently he keeps pushing back his retirement age, as promised to his wife, for some time now) Or we might decide that it’s best we move on without him. But as of now, I can’t really fathom him leaving just when all his hard work is about to pay off. Of course, all his hard work could just as well be going to waste if we miss out on the CL.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

        @Shard,

        How much longer can we continue to make excuses for Arsene. He is as much a part of the problem as is Kroenke and the Board. This team is his and his only.

        Fact is, he has not made the best use of available funds. if so, we probably would still have had RVP, we definitely would have had Song, and we could have had, Dema Ba, Dembele, Friedel, Vertonghen, etc., rather than Squillacci, Denilson, Park, Chamakh, etc.

        We don’t have a Director of Footbal Operations, he sets the wage structure, trains the team on a daily basis and is responsible for in game tactics.

        As a PM, if i fail I must accept the blame as long as I have been given the resources and authority I requested. It’s simple as that.

        Nuff said.

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

        The difference being as a PM there are plenty of capable and highly experienced PMs out there ready to replace you should your company so desire.

        Football Managers are a rarer breed.

      3. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

        Yes. But it depends if you are viewing it season to season only, or on a longer timescale. The problem of Wenger’s team today stem from the problems of the past. Most of which were not of his making. The club have always said there are funds available, and while that is not technically a lie, we know our finances were tight. People say the stadium move was supposed to bring us into the elite and allow us to spend more. Well, we’re getting there. It’s been delayed because of the influx of oil money, but the goal is still there and still within reach.

        This season, to me, represents the end of days of sorts. You might take that to mean the end of an era in terms of Arsene Wenger leaving, or like me, you might view this is as the ending of the era of severely restricted spending hampering Arsene Wenger. For all we know, it might be both together. We’ll see. But I have faith in Wenger. For someone who is often accused of being tactically inept, lacking motivational skills, and having shit or average players in his squad, you have to admit he hasn’t done too badly.

        The only thing that’s changed is that the fans over time have gotten tired with the lack of trophies (and constantly being reminded about it). I admit this season has been terrible, but I don’t think the ire against the manager is to do with this season alone. And I don’t buy into the 7 years argument. Hence, I’m still backing Arsene Wenger. He’ll get us out of this mess, and hopefully onwards onto better things..

        A final note on fans. It is their right to boo, and I get the frustration. But it doesn’t help us a team. The players should be better than letting it affect them, and in any case aren’t performing well enough. But surely it is in the fans’ own interest to help them perform in any way they can.

      4. Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

        Sorry. But two things about your post. We could not have kept RVP regardless of any usage of funds. And in any case, the wage structure was necessary when it was put in place.

        And two, Wenger hasn’t ‘failed’. He’s kept us in the CL places, which would be his minimum target I think. Could he fall at the final hurdle before the new deals kick in? He could, but it won’t be through lack of effort on his part. I think it’s up to the board to support him now and provide him funds in the transfer window. They’ve lived off his genius for very long. Time for them to pay him back.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      You’ve said it a little more eloquently than I did but I agree. I do have mixed feelings about this but I suppose he’s earned enough leeway from the club to finally get the chance to “spend some f***ing money,” money which might not be as forthcoming if he hadn’t made a personal (from a career legacy standpoint, not a financial one) sacrifice to martyr himself at the alter of financial prudence.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

        I had forgotten that his contract ended next year. I was thinking he had another 2-3 years left. In that case I am in violent agreement with both Shard and Tee Song. With FFP about to come in and sponsorship $$ to be spent it IS too early to call time on the Wenger era.

        Still, he is far closer to the end than the beginning of his Arsenal tenure obviously, and he has definitely lost something. The club should be planning now.

  23. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    I will just keep repeating one word to myself …no, make that two:
    1.Transition.
    2.Rebuilding.

    If we don’t see the real deal, at least some part in January, and next season (with or without Europe), I will join the doom and gloom brigade.

    In the meantime, I will just keep watching (and supporting) as many matches as I can, because, even though blogs are fun, entertaining and enlighening to read, the reason d’etre is still The Arsenal, you know?

  24. Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    I believe that one thing should be important when judging the situation, especially if it is in defence of the manager.

    Those who say he was buying unproven players on the cheap just because of the stadium debt, seem to forget that this was always Wenger’s way.

    His most expensive purchase before Arshavin was Reyes, I believe, and practically all of the Invincibles were more or less the same profile as the Koscielnys and Chamakhs of today.

    He was always the same, we just tend to notice it more today because everything else has changed. This is what makes me sad to believe his time has passed.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Jop

      Not true, it only appears that way because the Premier League didn’t poach the best of the rest like it does today.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

        He wasn’t Wenger’s buy but when Arsenal bought Bergkamp, it was at the time the English transfer fee record. Henry was bought for £11M at the time that Anelka’s transfer of £22M was the world record. Pires was bought for £6M in 2000. The gist of what I’m saying is that Arsene didn’t pay world record fees but the Invincibles weren’t bought on the cheap. For those times, we paid good money. And while Pires might not have well known to the British, Real Madrid and Juventus both wanted him also. So he was unearthing unknown gems as far as the English pundits and managers were concerned, but not to European teams.

  25. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Londoncalling12

    And another thing : TIRED!! JADED MY ARSE? Some folks work silly hours for less than A FRACTION your weekly wage, then THEY spend a shed load of money to watch that crap FROM YOU ALL THESE past few weeks. !!!!! MOTD made me mad. !!!!

  26. Vote -1 Vote +1TheGunners...AhTheGunners

    I understand losses to the other big dogs at home, but not to Swansea. Not losses on the road to Norwich. I blame the manager. He doesn’t seem able to squeeze his roster for everything they’re worth. We have more talent than Everton, Tottenham, West Brom et al, but sit below them. We’re on course to finish 8th! Brutal.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      Numb? After how many Appleton’s?

      Thought of you today as I opened a bottle of rum. It’s the only cure these days.

  27. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Wish Giroud was at the end of those crosses….
    Also…think the team is not ready to play the fluidic football, with formations keeping on changing, every match….

    Neway…this match did not come with the warnings on it… or that probably we are too bothered about ourselves…

    This is far from the time where we could impose our style on the match and the opposition changes their style to nullify us….its time for us to adjust ourselves to the opposition and play on their weakness…

    Swansea is probably the only team with a lower average height than us…and are less physically imposing than us…If this is not the game for Chamakh (since giroud is not starting) then I dont know which is….

    Piss Pooor corners from Walcott..who is also half the person he is without Sagna..

    Good to see Rosicky back…Also, happy that there are games coming thick and fast…you dont have to rue over this for more than three days…
    Not that I am looking forward to the Olympiakos match…there is no point in topping the table there..and its not like a win is good enough…

    I am going to see it to the end..and sure that the team can turn it around..

  28. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    This is pretty much the same line up that got off to such a promising start (except for the GK who had a very good game today) and we were matched and then beaten like a rented mule.

    There was no hold up play yesterday.
    We had no possession.
    We gave the ball away.
    We had no attack. Remember attack. Attack has left the building. Attack has forsaken us. We used to have an attack once upon a time in a land far far away. Since we don’t have an attack, then we need a defense. Arteta is a good father, husband and provider to his family but he is getting killed by every teams’ support striker and that is where we need a change urgently. Arteta has no pace and no physicality and he has not cope well at all in his role. Mascherano is the same height (5’9″) and he can be like the pitbull from hell. We someone who can pass and bring fear and loathing into our DM positon.

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