Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

Wonderful news from weekend last as Woolwich saw off the challenge of European titans Hull City Tigers. Hull, lest we forget, are twelve time winners of the European Cup, 37 time winners of the English Premier League, and due to administrative error have won La Liga fifteen times, Serie A 80 times since the Boer War and Ligue 1 so many times that every Hull City Tigers fan is automatically given the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur.

Hull’s brand of free-flowing, incisive, sultry football redefined tactics in the twenties, the thirties, the forties, the fifties, the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and whatever we are supposed to call the last decade. They are the quintessential ‘glamour club’, exceeding even the glitter of Internazionale, Real Madrid or Tottenham Hotspur. And little old Woolwich managed to take two points off them. I have arranged for my personal tattooist to commemorate the occasion. And not only that, dear reader, but we avoided equalling the worst start to a season under Mr. Windsor.

Shortly after kick-off we dared to dream. We had taken the lead against Hull! Actually let me contextualise that a little more. We had taken the lead against a football team! In a game of football! Matron, string up the bunting! Fill the decanters! Find a vein! For joy unbound, we were one nil up! Mr Saunders red-hot starboard whizzbang scorched the onion bag and we were in the Promised Land! All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever, said the Lord! (Genesis 13:15).

Sadly, we dared to dream, and we woke up with a start, much like when some horrible urchin thinks it amusing to wake one up from a reverie with a squirt from a water pistol. The water pistol came in the form of ghastly cheating subhuman Mohamed Diame – who fouled Flame in the buildup, something which is in the same class of danger as Russian roulette or clubbing yourself over the head with a polo mallet. No argument on the second though – a Noggin Bobbler from Hernandez with the Middlesex Reject duo Huddlesixteenstone, the poor man’s Amaury Bischoff, and Jake Lilyliver combining. Luckily for Woolwich, we have Brazilian superhero Welé to save the day.

Wednesday eve, happily, is Laudanum eve at Gentleman Towers. Even more happily, it tends to deaden the blow of having to watch Arsenal play football upon the lantern. Through my gauzy haze, everything seemed to be fine, and in traditional fashion we went a goal behind. Is there a finer sight in European football than our defenders standing around scratching their heads whilst some unknown Belgian wheels away with his hand aloft? There is not. Luckily, Saint Whizzbang of Saunders, currently not only Arsenal’s chief cook and bottle washer but our under butler, first footman and Lord of the Manor all rolled into one, was on hand to provide vim, verve and vivvle.

I have just made ‘vivvle’ up, but it was Kanvar Khumar who provided the starboard artillery for Gibbois to finish with a textbook side-foot volley – known to connoisseurs as scuffing the spats. Then just moments later, Part-Time Ponsonby, the Deadly Stranger, was on hand to filch three points from the hands of the Belgians. I would have leapt with joy if I weren’t confined to a bath chair and under the influence of tincture of opium.

Let them eat chips

Let them eat chips

“This fee was proposed by myself and Lord Harris (of Peckham) for the wide range of services provided to Arsenal Football Club by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment.”

This was Chairman Sir Chips Keswick’s answer at last week’s Annual General Meeting when quizzed about the controversial £3m fee extracted from the club by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment. Keswick couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what the payment pertained to specifically, beyond the troublingly vague banner ‘strategic and advisory services.’ Questions for the AGM were submitted in advance and that was as specific as the Arsenal board felt they could be.

In the rolling river of Arsenal’s revenue, which has topped £300m for the first time, £3m is barely a ripple in the stream. But to place that fee into context, chief executive Ivan Gazidis’ basic annual salary is reported to be in the region of £2.2m per annum. The ‘services’ KSE provided were deemed to be of more value to Arsenal than 12 months of output from their chief executive. Yet even in light of that, the board could not detail what these services entailed.

If you insisted an employee should be on your payroll for £3m a year but you were unable to write them a specific job description, you would start to wonder whether they were really worth such an exalted fee. What’s more, this fee was apparently suggested by the chairman and one of the club’s senior directors, of their own volition and without prompting. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that board meeting. “Hey chief, the guys and I were chatting and we’re going to propose paying you an extra £3m. All those in favour say ‘I!” Forever in debt to your priceless advice, as Kurt Cobain once howled.

Sir Chips’ rather vague and muddled rebuttal raised more questions than answers. Or maybe it didn’t. A dividend by any other name smells as sweet. Because what we are increasingly seeing is the ‘human face’ of Kroenke’s ownership gradually melt away. Most of us knew this would happen of course. Investors like Kroenke don’t buy football clubs because they are attracted to the club’s values, or their style of play, or their tradition or history or any other such nonsense. They buy in to make money. A lot of money.

We all know this, but for some reason, the corporate world has a kind of allergy towards the literal. You only have to watch television advertisements, concocting increasingly bizarre narratives to hawk their wares. If a product is being advertised, it is because the company behind the product wants your money. Everybody knows this as an indisputable fact. Yet for some reason, nobody is allowed to say it. When Stan Kroenke bought Arsenal, we all knew what was going to happen.

The most we could hope for was a benevolent dictator, who may even increase the value and profile of the club. Despite having not put a penny in, we all knew that there would come a day when he would dip his hand into the till. Sitting in the audience at the AGM, it struck me that Kroenke’s ownership is no longer in its infancy. A czar will usually spend the nascent years of his premiership trying to present himself in a favourable light to his subjects. However, after a certain amount of time passes, the cynicism of the regime becomes so obvious and so uncloaked, that the mask begins to slip.

Shareholders were asked to vote on whether Stan’s son Josh Kroenke should maintain his appointment to the board. I scanned the room as Sir Chips asked for the hands of “all who oppose.” There were plenty of hands raised, but Stan had already raised his in response to “those in favour.” Stan’s forearm was worth more than everyone in the room combined, so the protest of the objectors was rendered a token gesture (I should clarify that Stan was by no means the only person that indicated he was in favour of retaining Josh on the board).

The charity of Kroenke’s reign significantly eroded with last year’s 3% ticket price rise. In fact, it unmasked him like an unsuspecting Scooby-Doo villain in an abandoned amusement park. The 3% price rise, along with the £3m payment for services so important and so indispensable that we cannot even describe what they are, have seen an acceleration in the corporate mendacity of Kroenke’s tenure. It’s only likely to pick up momentum from here too. Once the veil has slipped, there is little point in trying to butter up the natives any longer. If your toupee slips off in a very public place, its purpose has expired. Even if most people rather suspected your hair wasn’t real anyway.

@AngryofN5 cuts a swathe through more of the prevarication of the AGM here. Arsenal adopted a very, “not me, guv” stance on a number of contentious issues, such as overseas Premier League matches, safe standing, Fanshare and the London living wage. During Kroenke’s premiership, answers to these questions, almost exclusively fielded by Gazidis, have always contained some waffle. But for what it’s worth, you got the impression you were being humoured at least. Maybe it’s my imagination but the answers seem to be becoming more closed.

Corporate avarice in football is not a new phenomenon. Anyone with a vague knowledge of the works of David Conn knows this. The erosion of football’s soul as a result is not a new topic and it’s one I have touched on many times myself. Arsenal can and do argue that many of the developments opposed by the flat-cap sporting hardcore are necessary in the name of ‘progress.’ In many ways, they have a point.

Gazidis used the term ‘progress’ in reference to the possibility of staging competitive domestic games overseas. Sir Chips suggested that KSE’s heavily invoiced expertise was of “the utmost importance to ensure we keep progressing.” Progress has become the foremost example of capitalistic doublespeak, adopted by the small coterie of beneficiaries and foisted upon the rest of us. The winners don’t just get to write history, as the old adage has it. They get to write the dictionary too.

As I sat in the plush surrounds of club level, I became acutely aware that we have left the ‘honeymoon period’ of Kroenke’s ownership. We can expect more ticket price rises, more ‘strategic and advisory’ fees and we can expect to eat cake if we don’t like it. Again, most of us probably knew that the day he parked his boots under our bed. I suddenly became aware during that AGM that my relationship with the club will alter negatively much sooner than I would like.

Either I will be priced out of attending Arsenal matches or else I will become so offended by the Disneyfication of the whole thing that I’ll kind of melt away in apathy. It’s probably just a question of which one comes first. I’ve entered a state of voluntary narcolepsy and tried to ignore much of the commercial side, which, personally speaking, I find very uncomfortable. When the overseas domestic game eventually arrives and the competition’s integrity is nakedly sullied for cash, maybe I’ll be able to keep my head down and stay asleep. But my wallet has a more definite limit than my morals.

Do I prance out or wait until I am priced out? One or both of those things will more than likely happen in the lifetime of Stan Kroenke’s regime. I appreciate that this might sound a little self-pitying – after all, many were priced out well before Stanley kicked the doors of the saloon door open. But if the idea of not going to Arsenal anymore stops making me feel sad and angry, well, then I should probably stop going to Arsenal!

The human mask of Kroenke Sports Entertainment has started to slip. We knew it would, but it doesn’t make the face that lurks beneath any more enticing. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

The 4-1-4-1 on Arsenal’s new formation

The 4-1-4-1 on Arsenal’s new formation

With the football world celebrating ten years since Arsenal became “Invincible,” it was interesting how chatter quickly veered away from the amazing technical accuracy the team played with, to discussion about leaders. That’s because, having begun during the international break, with no comparable action of note, nostalgia was suddenly forced to merge with real life as new Arsenal were set to host Hull City.

Looking at it that way, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about how far away this Arsenal side is in terms of leadership. Looking back, certainly the Invincibles did comprise of some of the sport’s strongest and most demanding characters, while it is not so easy to see the same physical and mental toughness on this Arsenal side. Yet, as Daniel Taylor writes in his column for The Guardian, the downfall of Arsenal probably started in the next season when managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce begun telling their teams to systematically hack The Gunners down whenever theyhad the ball. Football has changed, however, and power, which Arsenal were built on, doesn’t dominate as much. Tackles with excessive force are routinely called up, so much so that Allardyce says he trains players to intercept now – “because most tackles are fouls.”

Against Hull, in the 2-2 draw, Arsenal didn’t need a leader in as much as they needed a technical leader. Of course, the constant finger-jabbing and cajoling of the likes of Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini pale in comparison to the drive and sheer omnipresence of Patrick Viera, Sol Campbell et al. and there are times when you need “big balls” as Jose Mourinho says, yet there were large moments in the game, particularly after half-time when Hull scored, when Arsenal just needed sanity to their play. In that middle period, passes frequently missed their target and moves broke down as Arsenal looked to force a tempo that wasn’t there. What they should have realised was that upping the tempo was a gradual thing, requiring subtle, sudden changing of gears. Instead, players would make runs that weren’t found in an attempt to transplant urgency to the play, and with each misplaced pass the fans groaned louder and anxiousness seeped into Arsenal’s play.

Thankfully it was Alexis Sanchez who finally grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, though it took a while as he was also culpable of bouts of zealousness, when he took the ball past two players before slipping Danny Welbeck in for the equaliser. His opener was of similar class, but the goal followed an opening passage of play where Arsenal were thoroughly dominant, and which epitomised why Arsene Wenger is determined to use a 4-1-4-1 system this season.

After the game he said that the team has “progressed since last season in the way we dominate the games and the way we combine,” which may confuse some given Arsenal’s league position, but what people might be missing are the palpable steps Arsenal are taking to improve to their positional play. In that, Wenger is looking to emulate bits of the Germany/Pep Guardiola/Dutch 4-3-3 model where the attacking line in the 4-1-4-1 occupies the length of the pitch, thereby always creating angles and options to pass to. As Leighton Baines says, in an interview for The Guardian when talking about Everton’s philosophy which goes along the same branch, “the really top teams who have mastered this way (Dutch Total Football), are the ones that gets success.”

GIF: Just before Santi Cazorla’s shot forces a save, Arsenal’s players occupy the length of the pitch, with Chamberlain joining Welbeck when the full-back pushes forward and Santi breaking from deep. His role changed in the second-half, which affected Arsenal’s fluidity, playing closer to a number 10 role when he played deeper in the first-half.

On the other hand, emphasis on death by possession makes it tougher for Arsenal to defeat teams as often; defences are set thus making it more difficult to get through. It has made Arsenal more sterile in effect, one of the things Wenger has strived to avoid. However, he has probably come round to see it as a necessary evil because sterile domination is not really an aim for possession teams; rather, it’s a by-product of their voraciousness to have the ball. Keeping the ball better also has the added effect of protecting the team from the counter-attack, an increasingly important aspect when planning your team in the modern game and what Jose Mourinho calls the “fourth phase”: attacking, defending, counter-attacking, and then, countering the counter.

Indeed, it’s arguable that much of Arsenal’s success last season was down to, if not more, to increased pragmatism to their play – that is the ability to drop deep, keep opponents at arms length, and then hit them when they showed mental, physical tiredness – as much as the goals of Aaron Ramsey, the impact of Ozil. And that, to a degree, points to Arsenal’s troubles in finding “defensive efficiency” this season as Wenger calls it. Because, as highlighted by the first goal they conceded, the team still seems to be unsure of what it wants to do at various stages or yet, haven’t acquired the game intelligence to carry it out; whether to press high up or sit back.

GIF: Here, Jack Wilshere urges Santi Cazorla to press when nobody else is, eventually leaving Mohamed Diame free to pass to. Wilshere had the right of it to some extent, as Hull’s player had picked up the ball with his back to goal – which should have been the trigger to press – but where he was wrong was that the whole Arsenal team showed no indication to squeeze play prior, with Hull completing 3-4 passes in that area with relative comfort anyway.

Indeed, the frustrating thing with this goal and the second goal was that it happened in the only two real passages of play where Hull had play at the back, and that’s why Wenger says the teams lack “defensive efficiency.” Their ability on the ball helped guard themselves on the counter, but pushing up as a team and moving as a unit, is what they have yet to synchronise. At the start of the season, Aaron Ramsey led the press but with his injury, Wilshere has replaced him, though it seems currently, both players play with more emotion than organisation.

The defence for the 4-1-4-1 falls flat when you consider Arsenal’s highest scoring performances, 3-0 against Villa and 4-1 v Galatasaray, have come when Ozil has been switched to the middle. In those games, he made Arsenal fluid, much as he did last season, drifting into the channels and silently killing teams with his intelligent passing. Yet, the 4-2-3-1 shouldn’t be seen as some sort of panacea for a stuttering start to the season because it must be remembered, for substantial periods of last season playing with the system, Arsenal’s play was jerky and uncertain, and sometimes turgid. At the time, that was put down to Arsenal missing runners from midfield, Ramsey and Walcott, therefore it might be understandable Wenger look for ways to make his system less reliant on certain individuals. Certainly, Alexis is currently bailing the side out on his own, yet The Gunners have looked to add other ways of breaking down opponents, as they lead the league for most through-balls and dribble succeeded.

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Partnerships are forming, though most notably revolving around Alexis, who was found by Wilshere a couple of times with diagonal passes while he himself, works well in tandem with Welbeck. Indeed, it seems Alexis can make a good no.10 if Wenger ever looks to switch-up his formation but perhaps for now, his best position is on the right where he can roam laterally or sprint behind. On the other side, he perhaps relies too much on cutting inside, thus clogging up play centrally. Indeed, Wenger’s reticence about playing him on the right before Hull might have been down to wanting fill his side with ball-players to maximise chance creation, but with Wilshere showing huge strides in his execution of the final ball, switching Alexis to the other was a no-brainer. His impact showed how big a player he has become for Arsenal.

Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

And so we return from the Wilderness Fortnight, where we have learnt several things.

One: The Balkans remain the Tottenham of Europe. Like the trouble-ridden Middlesex borough of Tottenham, we hear far more about them than is necessary. From Adriatic to Ionian, from the Mediterranean to the Aegean, from Gorani to Aromanian, and especially from Bosniak to Serb, there seems to be something intractable about their football. Last week, a piece of flying witchcraft which seemed to have leapt from the very pages of Mr. Da Vinci’s notebook, carried the colours of Greater Albania onto a pitch where some Albanians were playing Serbia. According to the downstairs staff, these devices are called Drones. Incidentally, to have a magical flying device named after one of the first Gentleman’s clubs in London is all very well, but let them not be used for provoking inter-ethnic battles on the foot-ball pitch. Let them be used for the delivery of cocktails and cigars to players on the pitch instead. How much more civilised than this vulgar display.

Two: Mr. Sterling is an idle bugger who should be birched.

Three: Mr. Rooney, who seems to have cast some sort of spell over Mr. Hodgson, will play on in whichever role he pleases until he becomes England’s top scorer. Should it be noted that 80% of these goals have come against San Marino, The Faroe Islands, East Kilbride Under Tens, Salford Lads’ Club & a Somaliland Ambassador’s XI who only fielded nine players. How Mr. Rooney continues to find work at Premier League level is beyond me. My only thought is that he has incriminating daguerreotypes of all his managers.

Four: England remain woefully bad.

Five: Arsenal players seem to be slightly safer on international duty than they are at London Colney.

There has been some brouhaha this week from crypto-communist and anti-Arsenal propaganda machine the BBC, who have pointed out to the world that Woolwich have some of the highest ticket prices in the game. To which I say this. Would you rather see a tailor on Jermyn Street, or would you rather be clad head to toe by Mr. Primark? Quite so. Caviar costs money. Arsenal are reassuringly expensive, which serves two purposes. One, it keeps the riff-raff out. Two, it allows us to accumulate vast cash reserves. And everyone loves vast cash reserves. So until the BBC is shut down by the Arsenal Special Branch, we should pay this kind of nonsense no heed.

We turn then to the AGM, where our dear leader, Mr. Windsor, (right) held forth on all matters Woolwich. I have a truncated transcript below.

Alan Windsor - Arsenal manager“Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, chaps and chapesses. I bid you good afternoon. I will now perform an act of mass hypnosis, so please just relax. Look into my lovely eyes. Not around the eyes, look into my eyes. You are feeling sleepy.

“Every ruddy year I can’t please you buggers. FA Cup? Forgotten like a lukewarm cup of tea. Signing Mr. Orwell? Why can’t we have a striker. Bringing Whizzbang Saunders into the club? Why do we have to make do with 1.5 centre-halves. It is dashed difficult to bring in the proper level of chap. I know other clubs seem to manage to buy foot-ballers but it’s not as simple as phoning a club, stating your intention, asking if that player is for sale and then offering his market value. Oh no, dear lord no. If only you knew how complex these things were. And we won the FA Cup.

“We had ups and downs, like a little boat, but also like a little boat, we sank to the bottom of the sea a few times with the loss of all crew. But that didn’t happen more than four or five times in the season, the season in which we won the FA Cup. We finished on 79 points, which would have won us the league in 1998. I have asked the Premier League if they would consider simply repeating that season’s table as a matter of courtesy to us because then we would have also won it in 2014. We await their response. As we won the FA Cup, this year would have been another double.

“We lost some players. Vermington went to the rebellious Catalans. Bertie Sailor went to get splinters in his arse and rain on his head in Manchester. Good riddance to the treacherous pair. We brought in Matthew Matthews and Kanvar Kumar. And let’s not forget Welé.

“And we have cut down on the variety and severity of injuries. There is now very little smallpox at Arsenal. Polio, mumps and Guinea-worm disease are all things of the past. I know that to have 75% of your first team laid up with twangs, tweaks, rips, tears and the like is not ideal, but it is always exciting when players come back from injury for the first time for nine or ten months, and for the two week period until they get injured again all seems well in the world. Admittedly, Orwell, Robinson, Costerley, Ramsara, Arkwright, Fenton, Mandeville, Matthews and Goring-Hildred are all seasoned professionals but injuries at least give us the chance to throw in raw talent with only a few games to their name just to see what happens.

“So here’s to hope!”

What a rousing speech. When he departs, there is only one option: Modern technology allows us the possibility of cloning Mr. Herbert Chapman. And surely there is enough in the cash reserves for that magnificent experiment.

Seasons in the sun

Seasons in the sun

It’s understandable that nostalgia is such a popular phenomenon. The past is always a safe place. Preserved in sepia, the sun always shines, music and clothes were much more agreeable and politicians more honest. The past cannot hurt us, we can filter out the bad parts and cryogenically freeze the good in our mind’s eye. Nowhere is this truer than the mind of a football fan. Because at its best, football is a constant reconnection with youth.

You can behave like a moody adolescent with football in ways that you just cannot at the coalface of adult life. No matter how cynical and relentlessly profit driven the game becomes, when the whistle goes and the match starts, you’re the naughty child again. Ridiculously pleased with yourself for being able to swear and express anger at great volume in public without attracting the slightest hint of attention. A defeat will cause you to sulk insufferably and everyone is just meant to understand.

Every click of the turnstile, every kick of the ball, is a lasting memento to the time you fell in love with the game. Like the ringing of the school bell. And what’s wrong with that? I collect retro Arsenal shirts and what is that but a sentimental bow fastening me to Arsenal’s past? Particularly treasured to me are my collection of early 90s replica shirts, because they re-plot the bonds of my Arsenal awakening. It’s my own football fan version of the mid-life crisis. I wear the bruised banana away kit like a brand new Lamborghini. My 94-95 blue away shirt is a fabric comb-over.

However, nostalgia can alter our judgement and compromise our objectivity. It’s easy to use a sanitised version of the past to bemoan the present. For instance, I think Arsenal fans have only just arrived at the stage where the great ‘Invincibles’ side is seen as a cause célèbre rather than a rolled up newspaper with which to bat the noses of the current crop. Scrutiny is so voluminous and severe in 2014, that anger is very quick to surface. In a time when all of our thoughts and opinions are more public, we compete with another to be heard, which naturally leads to more extreme reactions, which in turn causes the cauldron to bubble further.

In 2012, Arsene Wenger told a gathering of sports journalism students, “We have moved from a society of full support, to a media society and an opinion society. When I arrived here a defeat was not as dramatic as it is today. Why? Because we have moved from a rational society to a much more emotional society. When you finish a game it is analysed in a minute and the opinions go through the whole of society in 10 minutes. The emotional side of any reaction today is massive.”

It’s a question that has gathered dust in my cranium for a while now. How would the revered legends of yesteryear be viewed through the prism of this more emotive landscape? Would their mistakes have been met with greater acrimony and, more pertinently, would that acrimony manifest itself into a long term bitterness held? I think no figure emphasises this divide better in a modern context than ex Arsenal captain Tony Adams.

The term ‘club legend’ is obviously a subjective one. But I think it would take a rather special brand of delusion to deny that Tony Adams is a bona fide club legend. Adams’ Arsenal career was the tale of a Bildungsroman in the classic folk tradition. From smashing his car through an old lady’s wall to smashing home a left footed volley in front of the North Bank against Everton. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1992, so Adams was a very special player to me, invaluable to my Arsenal induction.

The trouble is, nowadays, he tends to talk an awful lot of rot. Yet it’s impossible to say this in any kind of gathering of Arsenal fans without being tied to a stake as a heretic by a torch bearing mob. To many, Adams’ past achievements make his contemporary comments infallible. This is a symptom of nostalgia. If I were to suggest that Arsene Wenger’s past achievements placed him above criticism I doubt I would be met with much support. Rightly so too.

The issue is that, for many, Adams is a symbol of their youth. He bridged the gap between terracing, cheap tickets and drinking and smoking inside the stadium, right into the technicolour razzmatazz of 21st century football. He was the conduit between Graham’s likely lads and Wenger’s global metrostars. He also connects youth to middle age in the minds of many, which has made him a complex kind of symbol. Adams is not the sole bearer of this strange cross.

I remember very well as Ian Wright advanced into his 30s the debate around his legacy. Would he be remembered for his disciplinary problems more than his goals? With hindsight we know jolly well what he is most associated with, but I wonder if that would be the case if Wright’s time were 15 years later. His disciplinary indiscretions would keep Sky Sports News’ yellow ticker rolling for weeks on end had they taken place today, so maybe those skirmishes would have more of a bearing on his legacy.

In warning against overly romanticising the past, I am of course wary of doing just that myself, but I recall John Jensen becoming a kind of cult figure, celebrated for his uselessness. His solitary Arsenal goal is viewed with ironic acclaim as one of the great alternative moments of Arsenal’s history. Right up there with Sammy Nelson’s arse. (Imagine an Arsenal player mooning his own fans in 2014!) Today, John Jensen could probably expect to receive death threats on Instagram for his failure to score.

Likewise George Graham managing Tottenham is considered something of a footnote now. Given the vitriol dished out to more recent defectors and a more intensive media, it would be fascinating to see how that career move would be viewed. For his part, Charlie George maintains to this day that he nearly joined Spurs and had absolutely no qualms about doing so. “When you’re a player, you stop being a supporter,” he once remarked rather laconically, which sits uneasily with the folk tale of the Islington boy made good.

I’m not certain supporters were more forgiving of mistakes in times past, generally speaking. Players of the 1930s spoke about the grumpiness of the Highbury crowd. Nostalgia also sees us often venerate past players if they represent a supposed hole in the contemporary team. Gilberto Silva probably receives greater adulation now than he ever did when he actually played for Arsenal. I recall Ray Parlour too receiving similar retrospective acclaim a few seasons back when it was thought that Arsenal lacked endeavour.

I remember both men being on the end of many a tongue lashing at Highbury in their playing days. I guess the difference now is that those groans and gripes didn’t travel beyond the ears of a few unsuspecting punters in the stands, or past their own living rooms. They weren’t the midwife to an echo chamber of angst as they might have been in the digital age. There has always been frustration and disquiet amongst supporters, it’s just there is much more fertile ground to sow the seeds of that disillusion, enabling it to multiply.

The purpose of this piece is not to douse the flame of Arsenal legends past in order to make the candle of the current crop burn brighter, or to belittle football fans. Of course, players are paid much more handsomely now and supporters pay more handsomely in turn, so expectations are different. But the glorious bygone age never existed. There are down-payments of yin and yang as football evolves and our temples grey with years accumulated. Overall, it doesn’t tend to get much better or much worse. The circumstances simply change. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA