Arsenal seem to be attracting a lot of neutrals at the moment because of the type of football we play under Wenger. I would just like to warn those who are considering adopting Arsenal as their club that his brand of football will not necessarily always be the Arsenal way!
I fell in love with Arsenal in the George Graham era. I have always been a fan of teams that battle and play physically, teams that get the ball in the box at the first opportunity and who have great team spirit and togetherness in the squad. In the early 90s that described my club, we were famed for being aggressive, for our tight defence and for playing the long ball game. We were the team that everyone hated because we played dirty and because we were winners. Whilst we were labelled as ‘boring, boring, Arsenal’, this was by our opponents, not by our own fans. It was us against the world and brought a togetherness both amongst the players and amongst the fans.
Even in Wenger’s early days we had players like Vieira and Petit who continued to add that ‘physical element’ to our game. We had one of the worst disciplinary records in the Premiership. The likes of Adams and Bouldy ensured that new players were brought up the real Arsenal way – none of the feigning injury or making excuses for poor performances that I have seen in recent seasons. Since the invincible season the physical aspect to our game and the winning mentality has been lost. Gallas’ sulk in ‘that’ Birmingham game and the way players like Cole, Flamini, Adebayor and others have left the club suggest that the togetherness and camaraderie are not as they were.
I can see why the passing game might be attractive to neutrals and how Wenger’s philosophy on how a football club should be run seems to be the right way. Nobody can argue against Wenger being one of the club’s (and indeed English football’s) most successful managers. But don’t forget that Wenger is not immortal, at some point there will be an Arsenal after Arsene and that future managers might have different ideas as to how to run the club. What concerns me is how the neutrals who are currently adopting Arsenal as their club might respond to a change in mentality?
The example that springs to mind is how Allardyce was hounded out of Newcastle United for not playing the type of football expected by the fans. Whilst we will never know if Allardyce would have kept the club up, it is my opinion that he would have not only kept them up, but that he could have built a squad capable of challenging for the European places again. At Arsenal there may come a time when we see a Mourinho type manager, an organiser, who returns us to being a club that puts winning ahead of entertaining.
I have had to get used to supporting what in the early-mid 90s I’d have described as an ‘airy fairy’ team. In those days we used to laugh at Nottingham Forest and Liverpool for playing pretty football and winning nothing. In 10-15 years time we might be winning with long ball football again and there are going to be some people, who have started supporting the club under Wenger, struggling to justify obtaining success that way – just as I sometimes struggle to justify the ‘airy fairy’ ‘good football’ we currently play at the expense of silverware!