Herb is a long time reader of AA and occasional author for the site. He is aware that his views are not shared by the majority and so emailed this response to GN5’s post which asked the question “Who is Arsenal’s greatest manager?” …….. Ed
Most of us know that during our early years as Dial Square and Woolwich Arsenal we struggled to establish ourselves, and would have ceased to exist had it not been for Glasgow Rangers buying some shares. And the time leading up to WWI was quite desperate. As you’re aware, in 1913 that perception was about to change. We moved to the other side of the Thames because Tottenham didn’t have anyone to teach them how to play football. Highbury,
The Home of Football became our spiritual home, and our growth as a club between the two world wars was phenomenal. And it was all driven by businessman (and Conservative MP for Fulham during WWI), Henry Norris. My argument is simply based on Norris’ ownership. The club grew more in his time as owner than at any other time in the club’s history. He wanted Arsenal to be bigger and better than anyone else, his ambition was there for all to see. Of course you need the right ingredients to make it happen but that comes down to intelligence.
Herbert Chapman won the club it’s first major trophy – the FA Cup – quickly followed by Arsenal’s first title. Chapman’s. Arsenal is the last to win back-to-back titles. George Allison rightly gets an honourable mention in dispatches, but he didn’t have to tinker too much with what he inherited from Chapman. Arsenal ‘The Bank of England’ Football Club, the biggest most powerful football force in the world. So strong was Arsenal’s position it was impossible for any new owners to fail (to make piles of money!).
So what happened to building on that philosophy and huge advantage we had over everyone else?
Well, obviously we can’t control external forces such as what other club’s do, but what happened to Arsenal was the Hill-Wood’s and Bracewell-Smith’s.
I think it’s fair to say that neither the Hill-Wood’s, Bracewell-Smiths, or Stan Kroenke have given their generation of Arsenl supporters anything like the same club that Norris, Chapman or Allison gave to their generation. And within that premise is the crux of the problem.The whole dynamic paradigm that Norris, Chapman and Allison brought to Arsenal disappeared out of sight under new ownership, and as a whole, the club have never recovered the ground they willingly conceded. But they’ve made shed-loads of cash so the only real losers are the long-suffering fans.
This is where you can help me to better understand, because we live in a culture of ready-made manufactured excuses which are tactically designed to dumb-down the general public and mask people’s flaws.
My perception of The Arsenal is that they are a super-wealthy football club owned by aristocratic Old Etonians related to the Royal family. They are very much part of The Establishment and it is with that in mind that I firmly believe Arsenal should be serial contenders for major trophies every year i.e. PL title and CL.
The whole philosophy and drive of the club changed after WWII. Where once Arsenal had the same burning ambition as Manchester United, now seen at City and Chelsea, now there is no urgency to be the best. The cautious safety-first model isn’t exciting, and has brought limited success since the war.
Arsene Wenger has been wasteful in keeping Arsenal 3rd but mostly fourth and out of CL at the Round of 16. He loves repeatedly reminding people of ordinary achievements like consistently qualifying for CL, which would be more welcome if he tried actually winning the competition. Some laud him even more for the two recent FA Cups, and the signings of Ozil, Sanchez and Cech, and claim he has changed.
He doesn’t care for the FA Cup as seen when he put a second-string out against Blackburn in the 5th Rnd a few years ago, because he was saving the first-team to get put out of the CL against Bayern Munich. After the 5-1 mauling at Anfield we had them a week later in the 5th Rnd at The Emirates, which came as redemption for Arsene Wenger.
The Ox blatantly fouled Suarez in the penalty-area when it was 2-1, but Arsenal got away with it. Once Wigan beat City in the QF, we were left with a SF line-up of Hull, Sheffield Utd, Wigan and Arsenal, and even though they tried not to win it, fate inevitably intervened. Same story for this year’s cup too, sure we won at OT in the QF, but I see that with the same relevance as beating Chelsea in the Community Shield. Arsene Wenger will never field a team capable of beating Utd 8-2 or Chelsea 6-0.
The Mesut Ozil signing fell into his lap. He was under pressure after losing the opening game 3-1 at home against Villa, and for his embarrassing attempt at buying Luis Suarez. Ozil wasn’t what we needed, but it was a big enough name to appease restless supporters. Real Madrid were in the process of up-grading to CL winners, Ozil was surplus to requirements, Arsenal were desperate for a big-name, bingo! The player yet to have a game-changing performance for Arsenal, and who Arsene Wenger said would be Footballer of the Year this year. Pretty similar story with Alexis Sanchez. Barca were up-grading and showing us that with the right ambition Luis Suarez really can be signed. They had Pedro as back-up, so again he was offered to Arsenal. He refused to entertain Liverpool (who wanted him as part of the Suarez deal), so it really couldn’t have been easier. Apparently it was Abramovic and Cech who did most to push his transfer through to Arsenal. Cech and his family are settled in London and he wasn’t that keen to move away.
Is that Arsenal’s transfer policy? To wait until players just under elite-level are offered at cut-price?
Arsene Wenger shows no aggressiveness in the transfer-market in the way that other super-powers do, nor does he have the urgency to make us any better. Winning the FA Cup in2014 was like a genuine ‘Men In Black’ moment, where people are zapped to have their memory erased. Rewind four months. We’d been to OT and The Etihad and were top of the league. Arsene Wenger surrendered the PL title in the January TW with £150m* sitting in the bank, so the FA Cup isn’t really much in the way of compensation. Nice that he can pick and choose when to take the FA Cup seriously – especially if it massages his ego and puts him in the Record books.
I appreciate the huge cost of the stadium move – that rankles with supporters too – Arsenal wouldn’t have gone into such a project without examining all financial pit-falls and worse-case scenario’s. They needn’t have worried. It’s a proper cash-cow with a license to print money, and they don’t have to offer anything in return. When people say they want ‘their Arsenal’ back, they’re talking about the Arsenal that were at Highbury, the original crest with the cannon facing inwards, the siege mentality of us against the world. It has been replaced by a shiny new Corporate Arsenal that has no accountability, exists for the primary reason of making money, and are as far away from their supporters as they’ve ever been. And they’re just not that exciting anymore.
I’m not particularly intelligent, I just want to know why Arsenal refuse to compete at the highest level. It can only be down to the club structure, the administration, or the ability of the manager. I bet Carlo Ancelotti would win us the PL and CL.
It just seems (to me) that there is no correlation between Arsenal’s resources and their performance. This isn’t just a failing of Arsene Wenger, managers such as Billy Wright, Terry Neill and Don Howe should all have done a lot better. If you think I am being stupid/dumb or a bit mis-guided, please don’t hold back. I have no grudge or axe to grind with any other Arsenal fans, I just think some are very narrow and refuse to acknowledge the bigger picture which reveal a lot of the reasons for why Arsenal are where they are. If more people were aware of our history and where Arsenal originate from, I’m sure there would be a lot more understanding and fewer arguments.