It’s hard being a contrarian on Arsenal Twitter these days. Like any strict, self-regulated community, there is a stridency among a majority of posters that demands and enforces conformity. It punishes dissent via the block, unfollow and mute buttons for committing any of the following heresies:
- Not vocally supporting the new manager
- Criticizing any of the mooted new signings
Instead of summer hostilities between the former WOBs and AKBs, which usually reach boiling point during transfer season, both sides for their own reasons are currently wishing and hoping for the new manager, Unai Emery, to succeed, bigly. Obviously the ex-WOBs are delighted that their bête noir, the cheapskate, deluded, out of touch, omnipotent (choose your epithet) Arsene Wenger is now gone. Should Emery succeed, it will be a ringing endorsement of their long-held claim that the club was being held back by the former manager.
On the other hand, it seems to me, the so-called AKBs are on the defensive, not wanting to be seen as mindless acolytes of the old gaffer, fearing they will give credence to the years of repeated taunts by the anti-Wenger crowd that they support Arsene FC rather than Arsenal FC. They too are just as wishful and hopeful that the new manager, who seems to be as modern and progressive as the old, will be able to overcome all the external and internal obstacles that held the club back.
WOBs, AKBs and the Middle-Of-the-Roaders
Strange and as incongruous as it may seem, former WOBs and AKBs are now locked together, singing the same tune; leave Emery alone and he will succeed.
Let us not fool ourselves. While there appears to be two extremist camps in the Arsenal fanbase, there is definitely a large, if not larger, middle-of-the-road contingent which often takes one side or the other depending on results. It wasn’t that long ago, for example, we had the experience on the opening day of a new season at the Arsenal stadium, with the transfer window still open, that a majority were in uproar demanding the club spend some “facking” money as the club was losing to Aston Villa. The fact that Arsenal eventually came 3rd or 4th that year, qualifying for the Champion’s League, at a time when it was still struggling under the stadium-related austerity, stands in sharp contrast to the £200 million spent on transfers these past two years while coming 5th and lately 6th in the Premier League.
So conventional thinking has concluded that leaving Emery alone, rather than the relentless attention to the every move and statement made by Arsene Wenger, is now a guarantor of success. The underlying assumption is the belief that the Wenger years, particularly the most recent, were a failure which Emery must avoid. The problem is this hypothesis is not fully supported by the facts.
Note the “unbiased data”, on which we should rely, is diligently avoided by the mainstream media and most of its cohorts on twitter and in the blogsphere, who are now bloviating with optimism and goodwill towards Emery.
Take a gander, below, on some key performance metrics for the last 11 years of the Wenger era.
|Year||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||GF||GA||Win %||Loss %|
- Wenger achieved an average win percentage of 58% across all competitions never falling below 51.9% and going as high as 66.1%.
- 52% was good enough to qualify for the champions league up to 15/16. But in 16-17 a 63.4% win rate and a FA cup was apparently not good enough for some in the club hierarchy as evident in Wenger’s 2-year contract, which in retrospect was putting him on notice.
- In 17-18, the win percentage was 52.6, not the lowest historically, but it was marked by the highest ever GA, a total of 70, compared to an average of 60 GA over the 11-year period.
- Wenger’s loss percentage while averaging 22% increased by a dramatic 8 percentage points between 16-17 and 17-18 coinciding with the highest ever GA of 70 in the latter year.
The GA seems to be the key. As Finsbury, a long-standing and frequent contributor to Positively Arsenal has repeatedly argued, Wenger’s biggest challenge in 17/18 was maintaining or recreating the defensive stability he had achieved during the four year reign of Mertsacker-Koscielny, which was one of the premier central defensive partnerships in club football. The 2016-17 season-long loss of the BFG and his subsequent relegation in 17-18 to a mere squad player combined with Koscielny’s well publicized chronic Achilles injury coincided with a growth in GAs from 59 in 15-16 to an unheard of 70 last season and the dramatic increase in losses from the average of 22% to 30% over the last two seasons.
Based on the facts as presented, surely it is reasonable and necessary for us to ask Mr. Gazidis and his rising number of busy-bodies (Mislintat, Sanllehi and a Marcel Lucassen who is to become Director of Football Operations on August 1st) the following questions:
- How will the signing of Lichsteiner, a 34 year-old injury-prone right back, improve and stabilize Arsenal’s central defensive partnership?
- In a world where a Virgil Van Dijk costs £70 million, how do Arsenal plan to replace the retired Mertsacker and an ageing injury-prone Koscielny?
At a time when mainstream media, Twitter, Facebook and Google are doing their best to censor and block non-conforming points of view, it is frightening the level to which Arsenal-twitter has engaged in self-censorship to not rock the boat during this transition to new management. Apparently Ivan and his team are now omniscient and omnipotent. They have free reign, without any challenge by fans, to give Emery any players they deem necessary, because, to paraphrase managerial genius Tony Adams, coaching is over-rated, what matters is the director of football and those who do player recruitment.
So “keep schtum”. Don’t rock the boat. It will all work out in the end. Hmm.