Before we get to the manager’s press conference from yesterday, let’s begin with the statement yesterday from the club. Or, should I say, Sir Chips Keswick, the figurehead Chairman of Arsenal.
Responding to the criticism of recent days, he said:
We are fully aware of the attention currently focused on the club and understand the debate. We respect that fans are entitled to their different individual opinions but we will always run this great football club with its best long-term interests at heart.
Arsène has a contract until the end of the season. Any decisions will be made by us mutually and communicated at the right time in the right way.
Now, while the Chairman is the usual source for these kind of statements, it’s hard not to look at it as something else that those with actual ‘power’ and influence are hiding behind. Nothing from Stan, nothing from Ivan Gazidis, instead a 77 year old is put into the spotlight to take the heat off a manager who has, to all intents and purposes, been left hung out to dry for ages now.
As for the idea the decision about his future will be made mutually, here are the two possible scenarios I envisage when that happens.
Arsene: I am staying.
Arsenal board: Hurrah!
Arsene: I think it’s time to call it quits.
Arsenal board: Ah don’t.
Arsenal board: Think about it a bit. Stay. We love you.
Arsene: Look …
Arsenal board: Ah go on. Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go go … etc
Either way, the manager was asked at his press conference yesterday if fan unrest and protest would be something he’d take into account when makes that decision. His reply, to be fair to him, was honest:
Yes. Of course, you consider everything. It will not be the most important factor, but you consider it of course.
The implications of that are obvious. It gives those who are minded to protest further encouragement to make their voices heard. I don’t see any other outcome from him saying that, and he must be aware of that too. How that then manifests itself over the next few weeks will be interesting, to say the least, and there’s already talk of another protest before the Lincoln game on Saturday.
Such is the focus on Wenger and his future, that there was not a single question asked about what is a fantastic fixture on Saturday. There are sections of the media that bemoan the marginalisation of the FA Cup at every turn, yet ahead of a quarter-final involving a Premier League side and a non-league side there was nobody willing, or able, to ask the Arsenal manager about it.
They didn’t ask about a team which has beaten two Championship sides and a Premier League outfit on their way to the quarter-finals of the cup, and I think that’s a bit sad. I understand why the spotlight is on the manager, of course, but it’s also a shame that what is set up to be a once in a lifetime cup tie didn’t get even the slightest bit of attention.
It really feels as if we’ve living under the microscope now with Arsene Wenger. Every single thing he does and says is under such scrutiny, and there are very few hot or fresh takes on the situation. I’m not sure the club’s statement has done what they intended it to really, but the only way to take some of the heat off is winning football matches, and that has to start tomorrow.
For some extra reading today, here’s Tim Stillman’s column on the challenges of managing top flight footballers, their needs, wants and egos, and in a piece originally published in Eight by Eight magazine, Jon Spurling remembers The Bear of Highbury.
Time now for this week’s Arsecast, and it’s another long one so prep your ears. I’m joined by James Olley of the Evening Standard to talk Bayern, Wenger, Gazidis, Kroenke and more, before we get some perspective on Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final from Richie Bates, an Arsenal fan who also happens to be Commercial Director with Lincoln City. I’m then joined by Clive Palmer to chat more about the current situation at the club, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Arsenal environment and plenty more besides.
There’s a chunk of the usual waffle, as well as the winner of the Kick Off Revival game from last week.
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Right, hope you enjoy the podcast. We’ll have all the news throughout the day on Arseblog News, more from me tomorrow with a full preview of the FA Cup and the rest.
Have a good one.