Raphael Honigstein suggests fans should abuse Arsene Wenger

Same as it ever was

I slept in. Because I drank too much. But it doesn’t matter. Arsenal have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. They will now be selected to play their annual match against Bayern Munich, give the Germans one good game, and be duly dumped out of the competition. After that, the Arsenal will get everyone healthy and go on a run which will ensure they qualify for the Champions League places. 

Same as it ever was.

Except not quite the same. Apparently some fans hadn’t gotten their fill of ugly scenes in Stoke and chose to camp out on the platform to waylay Sir Wenger. Painting themselves in the ugliest possible light, these champions of poor taste shouted “Joel! Get out while you can!” to Joel Campbell and then booed Arsène Wenger and did a lot of “effing” and “jeffing”, just in case he hadn’t gotten the point. 

When in Stoke act like Orcs, I guess.

Raphael Honigstein, speaking on the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, lauded these gentlemen for their abuse of Arsene. His logic being that abusing Arsene Wenger is the only way to get Arsene Wenger to resign. And since no one at the club level at Arsenal will fire Wenger, Wenger has to fire himself, and by abusing him they might convince the man to fire himself.

I feel like Honigstein is on to something here. For example, I find Raphael Honigstein’s writing sub-par. But I know that he’s a big name and people are going to keep publishing him. The only thing I can hope is that Raphael Honigstein quits writing. Maybe if I wait for him at the Asda near his house and personally abuse him, he will get scared shitless and quit writing!

Come to think of it, I had to listen to that ass clown blather on about Arsenal, which he admitted that he didn’t know much about, while Amy Lawrence, who has written about Arsenal her entire career, was sitting at the table! James Richardson should have stepped in and muzzled his guest, a guest who was glorifying and sanctifying the abuse of another human being. Does anyone know where James Richardson lives? I think I need to abuse him on some platform somewhere. But first I will yell “BARRY! Get out while you can!” at Barry Glendenning, who was the voice of reason (suggesting that fans can boo in the stadium) as Raphael Honigstein gave his call to harms.

I don’t know about you but I think we might have gone beyond the fucking pale when a professional journalist is encouraging fans to abuse a club’s manager. Seriously.

As an antidote to Honigstein’s suggestion I have another idea. Do not abuse Raphael Honigstein on twitter or anywhere else. Please don’t abuse people. It’s not nice. No one deserves abuse. Not even a monster like Raphael Honigstein.

Qq

Wenger-eyes

Footballistically speaking: call him Sir

I have spent the last three days reading old news. Old news reports on Arsene Wenger. Mostly reports from the Guardian between 1997 and 2003, and many from the first half of Arsenal’s Invincibles season. And I guarantee you that if I pull some quotes out, you can’t tell me what year they come from. If I redact the names you won’t know the difference between 2003 and 2013. Try this quote:

The Frenchman’s summer transfer budget could be limited… despite the glaring requirement for heavy investment in new defenders.

Wenger needed to spend heavily on defense and so who did Wenger buy? Jose Antonio Reyes. He also spent £4m on Jens Lehmann and Philippe Senderos that summer. Oh, and building for the future, he bought Cesc Fabregas.

Or how about this quote after a harsh beating, Amy Lawrence wrote:

Will Wenger ever learn? A familiar strategic error cost Arsenal… Selecting an abundance of ball players is admirable but incredibly risky at a level Wenger describes as ‘the best you can see in the world’. You might get away with it in the Premiership but against a side as obviously obdurate as (REDACTED)? Arsenal’s unbalanced formation was putty in (their) hands. Picking a midfield quartet from which only (one player) looked capable of winning a tackle was akin to asking for it. Little wonder the rearguard was under the cosh.

Will Wenger ever learn? …it is all too easy to pick holes in the vulnerable defense, the underpowered midfield, the overdependence on (REDACTED) up front. Wenger is a deeply analytical man and we can safely assume he has noticed these faults.

That was the column Amy wrote after Arsenal’s embarrassing defeat to Inter Milan at Highbury in September 2003. A game in which the Italians sat back, defended deep, and hit Arsenal with an electric counter attack. A counter attack which included a goal scored by Obafemi Martins. Strategic errors and a soft midfield have often been to blame for Arsene Wenger’s defeats. That and a vulnerability to counter attacks.

One month later, 30 November 2003, Amy would change tone. Arsenal would change tone. Everything about Arsenal would change and they would go on to win the League and fulfil Wenger’s prophecy of going an entire League season unbeaten. Amy wrote:

And this is where the ‘less is more’ theme comes into play. Players whose names were derisively used to exemplify Arsenal’s apparent lack of strength in depth, even by their own supporters, have stepped in and stepped up. This season very few of Wenger’s players have come in and let him down.

As you can see, even during the Invincibles season, Wenger was notorious for leaving his squad threadbare. Playing the likes of Pascal Cygan and relying on a 37 year old Martin Keown in defense and a 30 year old Ray Parlor in midfield and Kanu¹ up front. Wenger was also notorious for being a

That was, however, in a much different era. There was only one billionaire team then, Chelsea. And they were spending lavishly: £150m in 03/04 and another £150m the next season. Crazy spending which destabilized the Premier League and eventually won Jose Mourinho a few titles.

Arsenal, meanwhile were so poor that they couldn’t rub two pennies together to give Dennis Bergkamp more than a 1 year deal. Club legend, offered a one year deal. Because Arsenal were building a new stadium.

There’s no mystery as to what happened in the years after the Invincibles. Wenger bought low and got the absolute best out of a handful of players. Arsenal even slowly sold off all the old parts of the Invinchibles and nearly won the League the year after they shipped Thierry Henry to Barcelona.

Wenger-eyes

The slow attrition of talent out of Arsenal picked up pace in the last 5 years. Cesc, Nasri, Toure, van Persie, all left for greener pastures. During the Invincibles season, commenting on the looming age of austerity, Wenger once joked “if I have to be a genius to be successful, Arsenal is in big trouble!”

Arsenal were in big trouble and they did need a genius to be successful. How Arsenal qualified for the Champions League in the last few years with so many teams buying off their best talent, with so many players injured, and with so many teams around them investing huge sums of money in squad depth isn’t a mystery, it’s down to the managerial skills of Arsene Wenger. If an English manager had done what Arsene Wenger has done in his 18 year Arsenal career we’d all be calling him “Sir.” Sir Arthur Wagner or something.

But frustratingly Wenger always came up short in those years after the Invincibles. I lost count of how many times people wrote “Wenger just needs one more X” or “Arsenal are perennially a player short” and “Wenger needs a defensive midfielder.” But this was the same as he was in 2003. The same as he was in 2000. He trusts his players, he doesn’t panic, he builds slowly. And with the success he has enjoyed throughout his career can you really blame him for sticking to his guns?

Arsène Wenger hasn’t changed, except in one way, he’s started spending money. The amount of money Arsène Wenger has spent on transfers in his entire career at Arsenal is roughly £126m but £95m of that spend has come in the last three years.

Challengers for the Top 4 — spending over the last 3 seasons
Arsenal £-95.5
Chelsea £-135
Man City £-135.5
Man U £-254.8
Liverpool £-122.8
Tottenham £-0.3

The people who bayed for Wenger to spend some flocking money have gotten their wish. Wenger has spent lavishly, buying big name players like Özil and Sanchez. And yet, as always, Arsene Wenger comes up a few players short. Or we are waiting on a player to fulfil his promise. Or there’s an injury crisis. As it always has been with Arsenal. As it always will be.

Except now after every loss now more and more people join the spittle-flecked anti-Wenger protesters. The flag wavers and banner hangers numbers grow ever larger. People are fighting each other in the stands. Fueled by faux celebrity more fans are clamoring to have their voices heard and their voices have turned from anger to vile hatred. What do these people want? Funding for cancer research? Food for starving children? No, they want to express their hatred for a man who will be remembered as the greatest manager this club has ever seen.

It’s, frankly, unedifying. With the ridiculous catch phrases, the banners, the protests, and the fighting, Arsenal fans are now looking a lot like their cousins at Tottenham.

Note that throughout this piece I have never said that you can’t wish for Wenger to step down. Personally, I hope he retires soon, if for no other reason than because it’s heartbreaking to see him dragged through the streets by the same lynch mob who attended the FA Cup celebrations just 6 months ago.

What I’m saying that this is Arsene Wenger we are talking about. A club legend and tremendous servant to the club that we all love. This is the man who led Arsenal through the desert and, like Moses, will probably never see his promised land. The man who built the Colosseum we all love to see games in. This is the man who gave us the Invincibles and 18 years of European football. You can want him out and at the same time show him some respect.

For what he’s done for you fans, for The Arsenal, and for English football, if we are going to call for his resignation, we should at least end the sentence with, “Sir”.

Qq

¹Kanu was only 28 that season but his powers had waned significantly.

Book Review: Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season

By Les Crang

In a period where it seems a week is unfulfilled for some of us if another Arsenal book is not released, Amy Lawrence released Invincible: Inside Arsenal’s Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season. With Andrew Mangan and Andrew Allen‘s Together: the story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season we now have two books in as many weeks and it seems we have a run on this era.

Although both discuss this period, both approach the subject differently. The two Andrew’s go through the chronology of the games and like the excellent Arseblog, looks at the book more from a fan’s perspective (they interview Tim Stillman about being at the 5-1 win at Inter Milan in 2003 for example). Amy Lawrence (and this is not a criticism, but an observation) is able to talk to virtually the whole team (sadly, excluding Ashley Cole). Not only that but also the manager and his assistant Pat Rice. Amy’s book is very different in a approach. Only a handful of games are taken on board. These being the 5-1 win at Inter:-

The 0-0 draw at Manchester United:-

The defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi-final to Manchester United:-

The European Quarter-final defeat to Chelsea at Highbury:-


2004 (April 6) Arsenal (England) 1-Chelsea… by sp1873

The following game in the league against Liverpool at Highbury:-

The clinching of the title at White Hart Lane:-


Plus, the final game of the Invincibles against Leicester:-

Amy speaks extensively to the the Arsenal players and as a result here are some real nuggets of information in the book. Especially the stuff on Edu and how he had to return to Brazil in the early noughties, during this period his sister died. Amy discusses with Edu how Arsene Wenger looked out for him, checking everyday with him and how he and his family was and that football was secondary to Edu’s health and welfare.

In discussing the team, Amy asks about the characters of the team (the anger of Jens Lehmann, the silence and introspection of Sol Campbell, the occasionally thoughtful but eternal Arsenal legend Martin Keown). She discusses team spirit and disappointments of the season (the two  consecutive defeats in the FA Cup Semi-Final and Champion League defeat to Chelsea). The team also seems to still regard those times as Elysium days, remembering the team spirit of wanting to win.  This part I really like.

Invincibles season

The part I am not so much endeared with is with is the way she portrays Wenger. Wenger seems to come over as a convivial character. Which, most of the times he is. The way he beds the two Brazilians of Edu and Gilberto Silva seems to show a man who cares for his players. But this is misleading to a degree. The two Andrews in Together: the story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season point out that Wenger didn’t play Sylvain Wiltord once from Christmas to April in the Invincibles season. Wenger was more than willing to play Jeremie Aliadiere rather than our second most expensive player, saying Wiltord was ‘injured’. Wenger moaned most of that Invincible season about how he had a small squad but did not use a French international that often (mainly as he was leaving at the end of the season).

I am not a Wenger out or anything like that at all. But I feel Amy could have been more critical of Wenger. For example, breaking up the Invincibles team too quickly (bit like Bertie Mee with the breakup of the  double squad in 1970-1). Overall, Amy is a wonderful journalist, but I felt it is may be a case of the emperors new clothes in her conclusion to the book. She seems to think that what Wenger says is true. Mostly it might be, but not always (the Wiltord example I mentioned).

In the end, the book certainly brings back some great memories of that season, but it could have been a bit more critical of Arsene Wenger in my opinion.

49 games

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