And so another season creeps slowly over the horizon. A number of people I know have given up their season tickets and chosen to watch matches in the pub, although interestingly enough some of them will travel to the Highbury and Islington area on matchdays to do so. The social aspect of attending football games is a big thing for many, and to an extent, with the loss of terracing, inside the stadium there is less opportunity for impromptu meeting up with friends to watch the game. Ultimately though, the being there does not seem to matter so much now. Those who have given up their automatic right to attend home fixtures have done so for a mix of reasons.
where you fail to get excited by hope. There is an idea that securing third or fourth place is the limit of what the team are capable of. Now if you are a Tottenham fan and Champions League football is a rarity, there is a certain excitement and tension in the attempt to get into the top four each season. It’s like scaling Everest. Trying for the next bit of the mountain. The views are stunning, but once you’ve habitually spent a lot of time there you begin to take it for granted and the vistas lose their impact. So the prospect of another campaign in Europe’s top competition does not excite Arsenal fans greatly any more either, as it did in the earlier years of Wenger’s reign.
For me, although some do not articulate it this way, I think there is a feeling that the thrill of football has gradually gone. Specific to Arsenal,
Five years after moving into a stadium that generates £3 million every home match, I’d have liked us to be in the bidding for the likes of Wesley Sneijder
“And of course, with a qualifying tie to negotiate in the lifetime of this issue, there is no guarantee that the Gunners will enjoy more Champions League games this season. However, my belief is that, whoever the opposition, if the players cannot be motivated to play out of their skins to secure participation in the competition we might as well all give up and go home. Although there certainly seemed a lack of drive towards the end of last season, I suspect that, at least in this tie, we will see a bit more of the kind of attitude we do all too rarely amongst many of the players.
seasons of late have become a little too predictable. The team will make a fist of one or two trophies, look like they are in contention to give the fans some silverware, and then fall short when crunch time arrives. The pattern of building up of hopes followed by disappointment on a repeated basis eventually brings you to the stage
”As for the Premier League itself, it promises to be an interesting season for the neutral. Manchester City now have to be taken credibly as genuine contenders and I believe Kenny Dalglish will mould a side at Liverpool well capable of returning to the top four. Arsenal will have their work cut out just to finish in the positions we have been accustomed to them making. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When the club decided to move from Highbury, it was to try and catch Manchester United. No-one had heard of Roman Abramovich or Sheik Mansour. The game has changed as a result, and in truth Arsenal’s selfsustaining ethos, although laudable, does nothing to excite fans. Gervinho looks a decent
2 onlinegooner.com enough signing, but five years after moving into a stadium that generates £3 million every time there is a home match, I’d have liked us to be in the bidding for the likes of Wesley Sneijder. The reliance on UEFA’s financial fair play has as much foundation as believing in Santa Claus, so Arsenal have to get clever or start spending.
What frustrates fans more than anything is that this group of players have demonstrated they have the quality to live with the best, and can buck the odds, but lack the necessary application to perform consistently enough to capitalise fully on wins against the clubs that do win the trophies by season’s end. Motivation has been questioned, and a bit of me does wonder if rewarding young players to the extent that they will never have to do a day’s work again in their lives before they have actually achieved diddly squat can work if you have so many of them. The evidence suggests that something else is needed. I’d argue that the balance of the squad is wrong and that more players who have not spent their formative football years under Arsène Wenger could bring a change to the club, push it on the little bit further that is required.
Which, I guess brings us to the transfer market. Although no-one can be judged before the end of August, there is a feeling of familiarity to this close season, in spite of proclamations from Ivan Gazidis that it would be a busy summer of ins and outs. The fear is that the club are waiting to see if they make the Champions League group stage before they spend what is left of the transfer kitty. That was the case in 2009 and no-one joined June signing Thomas Vermaelen after Wenger’s team cruised past Celtic. The thought of watching the same old faces is not one that is exciting anybody. Maybe Gervinho will turn out to be a miracle signing, an Anelka/Henry/Pires type bargain. But is he going to make the difference on his own? Will Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri still be Arsenal players by the time you are reading this? Interesting to see Nasri being played in Fabregas’ position during the pre-season friendlies, when the manager was so reluctant to put him there for games that mattered towards the conclusion of the last campaign. Who knows what goes on inside Arsène Wenger’s head.
The traditionally predominant emotion at this time of year is one of hope. However, I can’t help but feel that, in 2011, it has become one of trepidation. In June, Ivan Gazidis told members of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust that the manager was ultimately accountable to the fans. The suggestion was that if there was outright dissension amongst the paying customers, Wenger’s position would become untenable. It will be interesting to see what happens if the tough early season fixtures prove the doubters right, especially if significant changes to the team have not occurred. For all the wrong reasons, this could turn out to be a very interesting season.
However, it’s one the Highbury Spy will not be writing about in his long running column, as he has told us that he wishes to bring it to a conclusion. The great man has promised us a farewell offering, which we expect to run next time around, but after that, although Steve Ashford will still write for The Gooner and onlinegooner.com, it will not be in column form. Steve has written for us since the cover price was 50p, and I for one, will miss reading his words every time there is a new issue, as will many of you judging by his consistent finishes in our annual end of season survey, the results of which are on page 20. Thanks mate, hope you do indeed continue to contribute.
Finally, you will notice that The Gooner has undergone something of a re-design, partly down to our use of full colour pages throughout the issue for the first time. We hope to continue with this, although it is dependent on sales remaining healthy. My thanks to long-time Gooner design guru Darren Rackham for his ideas as to how to change the look and feel of the fanzine. We hope you like the results. Now here’s hoping for some good results on the pitch in the months ahead...