There’s been an interesting debate between Arsenal fans on social media over the last few days, but I recall something similar when Unai Emery was installed as the head coach at the Emirates
Back then, the Spaniard had a certain amount of latitude in the team’s performances due to 22 years of marriage to Arsene Wenger and the subsequent painful divorce. Wenger’s best sides were a joy to watch and it was a privilege to pay the entrance fee to watch football played as an art form.
Sadly, Wenger, then head coach, was unable to repeat the success in the second ten years of his tenure and just before he parted company with the North London club, watching them became a frustrating exercise as well as an endurance test.
The jury was out on what Arsenal needed to become and the solutions were varied, but some Arsenal fans suggested that Arsenal needed to care less about how they played and concentrated purely on results. Some suggested a return to the George Graham years which suggested that the Scot’s team wasn’t entertaining and that would be rather unfair to a reign that delivered trophies and titles.
Yes, Graham’s teams could grind out results but equally you can’t tell me that the final day of the season in 1989 wasn’t exciting. It was pure theatre with the drama of a Hollywood film script and to a degree, those that lived it still find the outcome hard to believe.
The argument has resurfaced, with the ill fated, ill equipped Unai Emery deservedly sacked and replaced by former Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta as the head coach. The battle for Arsenal’s identity is again being fought for by supporters of the generations.
Some that have experienced the lean times and the good. New supporters with high expectations that demand a level of success that perhaps doesn’t reflect the circumstances or indeed reality. Also, the success hungry armchair fan that just wants the result and a warm fuzzy feeling after watching a goal fest on MOTD.
All of which comprise the DNA of every club but it also reflects the newish divide about what football should be and what type of football should be played. Entertaining or successful ? Why not both ?
I was truly blessed as a fan of a club I have supported since I was a child, to have witnessed the fantasy football of the first ten years of Wenger’s reign. It was a pleasure to watch, even when they didn’t get the result they wanted, they played with heart and desire.
It was generally a fluid and enjoyable experience, like watching a a famous artist at work or listening to a classical composer write his latest work. Visually sublime and totally uplifting, the type of football the fans used to watch on a global stage, the sort that Real Madrid and Brazil served up regularly but I’m not making those comparisons lightly.
Before Wenger, how many bore draws did you suffer in the inclement weather as teams negated each before plodding towards a point.
That’s the whole argument there, back then, when points were important and a win became unlikely, football tended to become a entirely negative process and for those who are in favour of results rather than style, it may be an example worth remembering. Perhaps they can’t, perhaps theirs is a more recent history of unparalleled success, something that tends to taint the perception.
Football can often serve up the most exhilarating moments to a supporter but as important as success is, it’s important to feel as if you witnessed something special. A stunning 25 yard goal, a moment of individual brilliance or a spectacular save.
Beckham’s last gasp 30 yard free-kick against Greece for England that secured a World Cup place. Henry’s individual goal against Spurs in 2002 or Bergkamp’s wonder goal against Newcastle in 2002. All of which you will probably say got a positive result and you would be right, but even if the outcome had been different, you would still remember those magnificent moments.
Those that would rather watch a monotonous 0-0 are of a different breed to the majority of loyal, lifelong Arsenal fans. I want results but I want the performance, I’m not alone or am I ?