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Wenger stands up to answer the anti-Arsenal Arsenal

by Tony Attwood

In the last article I wrote about the foundations of the anti-Arsenal Arsenal – a grouping of “supporters” who felt that Arsène Wenger should be removed from the managership of the club.

The main complaint of the AAA at this stage was that the latest crop of signings were poor (Stepanovs was singled out), that the club was a “selling club” (witness the sale to Barca of two of our top stars), and that the double Wenger had delivered was just luck.  Pires was seen as not quite up to it, and there was thought to be no depth in the squad.

Journalists were unsure what to do with this movement.  The hacks had come seriously unstuck with their disgusting and disgraceful campaign to suggest that Wenger had left Japan under a cloud, with the manager outwitting the journos on the steps of Highbury with great aplomb.  They were keen to get one over on him, but even the most cynical journalist had to admit that the manager had revolutionised the club, breathing new life into a defence that the previous manager had failed to motivate.  (No one as yet was putting out the utterly ludicrous story that Wenger was lucky to inherit a solid defence, and that anyone could have managed that team.  Clearly Rioch could and did not).

The message in Fleet Street was therefore one of wait and see, but a few careful stories were drip fed that a fourth year without a trophy would not go down well with the board.

But support for those who wanted to have a go at the foreigner in charge came from an unexpected source: Thierry Henry who complained that the club did not have a “fox in the box”.  Quite where Thierry got the phrase from is not known; presumably a journalist fed it to him, but once it was out, it was used and recycled over and over again.  The journos had what they wanted – a criticism from within the camp.  Forget the fact that it was hardly a major breech in the walls.  They had something.

That the answer to Henry’s call – Francis Jeffers – would be something of a flop, was of course not to be discovered for some time.  But by and large the 20 year old was signed and forgotten – he did not get a game in the first half of the season.  Next up on the transfer schedule was Giovanni van Bronckhorst from Rangers, followed by Sol Campbell from Tottenham on a free.  Sol was followed by Richard Wright and Junichi Inamoto.

Of course the fact that Sol came from Tottenham has always been the main talking point, but what is often forgotten is what a surprise this was.  Indeed no journalist successfully predicted this move, and even on the day of the transfer there was little excitement.  In fact quite a few journalists didn’t bother to show up for the press call, expecting the Richard Wright transfer from Ipswich to be announced.  Once again Wenger had got the better of the scribblers, and this time they were really annoyed.

However what the journalists particularly did not have were ex-Wenger players who could spill the beans on the inside story.  Wenger the screamer, Wenger the drinker, Wenger the anything other than the cool calm man who could find unknown players, buy them for £250,000, sell them for a 1000% profit, and still deliver a team the likes of which had not been seen at Highbury for 70 years.  Before Mr Wenger came the journalists had Tony Adams with his infamous “what does he know about English football?” comment.  But that was in the past.  Adams’ career had been given a new boost and he wasn’t about to kick the hand that was feeding him.

Thus the AAA had little going for its early campaign.  They also had few seats inside Highbury, where the waiting list for season tickets was now said to be up to 8 years, and growing.  Those inside the stadium were willing to give the man who had delivered the club a style of football that could only have been dreamed about in the Rioch year as much time as he wanted.

The opening game away to Middlesbrough had this team on the pitch

Seaman

Lauren Campbell Adams Cole

Pires Parlour Vieira Ljunburg

Henry Wiltord

It was quite an interesting team.  Lauren had moved into the full back position that he then established as his own, and Ashley Cole completed his journey from the youth side to having a starting position.  Pires was confirmed as the foil for Henry, with the two swapping positions on the left wing, when Pires wasn’t playing on the right, and Wiltord not Jeffers was the fox in the box.  Parlour was the new Petit playing alongside Vieira in midfield.  It was quite a set of changes.

The 4-0 victory away made it feel like a great start, but when the same team lost 1-2 at home to Leeds in the next game, the protests were heard.  “We won’t even make second this year, let alone win anything” was the AAA claim.  And although Arsenal went eight games without a defeat, the fact that the next loss was 2-4 to Charlton at home made people edgy.

There was one problem – injuries at centre back.  By late September we had a central defence of Upson and Grimandi or Keown.  The only thing that kept us going was Henry – 14 goals in the first 15 games.  But no matter how you looked at it, by the end of the Charlton game we were fifth.

We suffered one more defeat before the end of the year (to Newcastle) and things picked up a little – especially with Pires now showing his true form (the goal against Tottenham in a 1-1 was something that should be on everyone’s all time great goals), and we ended the year with three straight 2-1 wins against Liverpool, Chelsea and Middlesbrough.  Maybe things were picking up after all.

The series continues in the next article

Index of articles

Making the Arsenal – the story of 1910

Untold Arsenal

19 comments to Wenger stands up to answer the anti-Arsenal Arsenal

  • Naren

    Tony,
    I wonder what exactly is it that these poor souls hold against Mr. Wenger?

  • jack

    what is the point of living in the past?

  • chris

    You just do not get it do you ? When Wenger won so many trophies he had inherited the old back 4/5 which was then kept going with Campbell, Keown plus Cole. If he had been given a load of money and a blank sheet of paper he would have won sweet F.A.

  • chris

    Why do you think in France he is known as the ‘ Nearly man ‘ ??

  • chris

    Wenger has a good record for acquiring young stars in the making but few have come through to fruition. As for buying very good mature players .. his record stinks.

  • Redrum

    i dont support Arsen i support Arsenal Football Club

  • Jamie

    Chris u talk a load of bull, it was wenger who signed campbell and laurent and he brought cole in from da youth he also brought kolo toure who were da unbeaten back four so he has brought quality cb and full backs, he has also brought vermalen so u can not say he dnt kno wat he is doin, he also brought pires vieira gilberto bergkamp wiltord kanu fabregas ljungberg overmars nasri van persie edu he even git david suker on loan oh and lets not forget petit oh yeah and dat guy wat wad his name!!!! Only da best arsenal player ever to have graced the team thierry henry, all of these players played for dere country and went on to win trophys with arsenal, so quit sulking and hav some faith in da greatest manager to hav ever been at arsenal football club

  • Jamie

    Sorry lol nasri and fabregas hant won trophies wiv arsenal but dey are great player non da less because barcelona want cesc and apparently man u wnt nasri so i tjink dat speaks for itself

  • T2T

    Chris, what is a mature player when Wenger buys them?
    Sol? Henry? Arshavin? …

  • tt-gunner

    Arsenal fans who want the boss out ant got a clue,and as for nearly man ,he went the season unbeaten ??.are clubs run the best looks the best ,plays the best ,6 years is a hell of a long time but paying silly money for one player is not the way forward for the future and does put back younger players coming through tha ranks and we have some great players in the making just as jack has been showing all year best English player ATM by far,and as long as we add about 3 or 4 players and get rid on the dead wood ,in wenger we trust

  • I think it’s you who do not get it, Chris. Wenger has introduced a style of play that doesn’t always come off, but when it does is exciting to watch. I’d rather have thrilling football than boring football with a clutch of trophies. You can either like it or lump it. The board are backing Wenger, so you can whine as much as you like – not that need any encouragement, I expect: moan, whine, bleat and complain.

  • Chris, it is you that do not get it. Support your team, support your manager (the most successful since the great Herbert C) I do not understand supporters who seem so determined to drive a wedge between players/fans/club. I will be the first to admit it is Wengers fault we did not win anything the last couple of seasons when we had great opportunities, had we bought the relevant player in the Jan window. But I also understand the financial situation we have had at the club from moving out of Highbury. This close season he has to buy, we have the money so there is no excuse. If he doesn’t then I will understand people getting upset but being so vociferous at this time is helping no one and could even drive top players out.
    Please get behind the team.
    A lifelong gooner since the age of 5 (70/71 season)

  • IvoryGoonz

    Tony, there is no Anti Arsenal Arsenal.
    This is just a word made up by you and your likes who want to believe they are the only “true arsenal supporter” and to justify a load of crap articles about the so called “anti wenger brigade”. Well, contrarily to your AKB brigade, people who are fed up with the way wenger does are not blind and don’t need to get organized. At your age I would have expected you would have a discount at specsavers by now.. Just an advice: take that broom out of your ass… No one is bigger than the team itself, neither Arsene Wenger, neither you. And you look more and more like an attention seeking puppy everyday, more like a Cesc actually. What will you do when Wenger leaves? Rename all your blogs?

  • Fantastic article as ever Tony. Having lived and worked in France on and off for the last few years I don’t recal Arsene being known as the nearly man. Would people have been happier if we had stayed at highbury and gradually had to accumulate debt to stay still or fall by the wayside. The fact is we have remained competitive in a league that has been warped by other clubs spending what they don’t have and racking up massive debts, whilst taking on a huge building project in the middle of a recession. And it’s working.

  • OnDGooner

    I am 110% in agreement with Chris!

    Wenger has been lucky with the trophies as can be seen when you compare his teams with thoseof ManU and Chelsea. Wenger’s teams were always much better on paper but won less since his arrival than esp. ManU.

    He is not a motivator and as I have always maintained someone like Jose or Alex Fergi could have won more than Arsene with the same team!

  • sahil

    @chris: It seems you dont get it do you?You say wenger inherited the back four,tell me how come the back four never won the a title after 1991.Only after wenger came did your so called back 4 started winning again.Few of wengers young signings have come to fruition you say?Ever heard of henry anelka veira cole fabregas pires…the list is long….

  • Chris

    Even in George Graham’s latter days the media were telling us that he had to replace Dixon and Winterburn who were getting too old. Both played for 5-6 years after Wenger joined.

    And, as I keep saying, Arsenal’s defence under Graham was 1 goal better per season than under Wenger. However, the team scored, on average, 15 more goals per season under Wenger than Graham.

    There are a lot of rose-tinted glasses being worn with regards to the defence that Graham built. Look back at the record books and see what happened on the first day of the first ever Premier League season. Then look at what happened on the first day of the following season. Not a great advert for Graham’s defence.

  • Namib-Gunner

    I support Arsenal always, not Wenger always. However, your articles are excellent and i love seeing the suffering of the AAA when they read them.
    I mean, why should you be Arsenal and Anti-Arsenal with such a passion at the same time.

    I should rather keep Wenger than be like Chelsea & Liverpool (one manager after another).

  • realistic tony

    I wish people would leave the great arsene alone..hes done so well buying crap players and making them better than crap…and it hasnt cost too much either. We play great football under his guidance..its really exciting…where can you see 4-4 draws and 3-2 losses?….man utd are boring they win 1-0 a lot….yes so they win trophies..they dont play as good as we do…everyone says so.
    These wenger haters should go and support chelsea..how can they support arsenal if they dont love arsene? its only 6 years ago since we won the fa cup on penalties…how recently exciting was that?….and another thing these top quality players cesc and nasri…they should be grateful to play in our team….what an absolute cheek of nasri to say that he wanted quality signings before he would commit. He should be grateful that we are a club that has “nice and modest” ambitions to finish 2nd every season or just to play in the champs league.
    These supporters that arent happy with the state of our club should be publicly hanged.

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