Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wenger's Paradise

Every season, it's the same story: Arsenal Football Club of North London have high hopes, and world-class players; and every year, there's key injuries and referees' decisions that screw us out of multiple games; and every year, even when we manage to win the FA Cup, we finish Top 4 in the Premier League but don't win it; and every year, while we always get to the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League, we don't get much, if any, farther.

There are 800 soccer teams (or "football clubs") in England that would love to have kind of "failures" and "mediocrity" that Arsenal produces.

But what we do isn't enough. As if they were Real Madrid fans, there is a small but very loud minority of incredibly ungrateful and disrespectful Arsenal fans who believe that, if we don't win the League every year, the manager needs to be fired.

If we did win the League, which current manager Arsene Wenger has done 3 times, although not since 2004, these people would complain that we didn't also win the Champions League; if we win the CL, which we've never done (closest call was reaching the Final in 2006), they'd complain that we didn't win the PL; and if we won both, and the FA Cup too for a "European Treble," they'd... what? Complain that it wasn't done years sooner?
They complained that, for 9 years, he didn't win any trophies. Then, finally, in 2014, he guided Arsenal to the FA Cup, the oldest competition in the sport. Then he did it again the next season. Suddenly, people began talking about this major trophy as if it didn't matter anymore: "Only the title matters."

So, which is it? Do trophies matter, or does only one trophy (or two of them, counting the CL) really matter?
"We want our Arsenal back!" Which Arsenal would that be? Do you mean the Arsenal that Wenger brought you, winning the League and FA Cup Double in 1998 and 2002, another FA Cup in 2003, the Invincible season (going through the League unbeaten) in 2004, and another FA Cup in 2005?

Or is the Arsenal you want back the one you had before him, where the last 5 finishes were 4th, 10th, 4th, 12th and 5th? If Wenger had done that, you'd want him fired and shot. Not necessarily in that order.

"But we won trophies!" Yes: In 1993, Arsenal became the 1st English team to win the "Cup Double": Winning both domestic cups, the FA Cup and the League Cup; in 1994, Arsenal won the European Cup Winners' Cup. But they finished 10th in 1993. Actual midtable mediocrity. (There are 20 teams in the League.) And the Cup Winners' Cup was Europe's 3rd most significant trophy, behind the European Cup/Champions League and the one known from 1958 to 1971 and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, from 1971 to 2010 as the UEFA Cup, and since as the Europa League. The Cup Winners' Cup was considered so insignificant, it was phased out in 1999, a previous season's national cupholders qualifying for the UEFA Cup/Europa League instead.

"But George Graham won the League twice!" Yes, he did: In 1989 and 1991. However, in 1988, 1993 and 1995, he finished behind arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. That's 3 times in 9 seasons. In his 1st 19 seasons, Wenger has never finished behind "The Scum." (It could happen this time, but Tottenham's record of Spring collapses suggests that it won't.)

"But Graham didn't put up with weak players!" Oh no? In 1991, he sold Michael Thomas, the hero of the 1989 season finale. In 1992, he sold David Rocastle, the best all-around player he ever managed. Both sales were, clearly, too soon: Not only did they have plenty of good soccer left in them, but Arsenal's midfield was seriously weakened, hence the 10th of 1993 and the 12th of 1995.

"But Graham won a European trophy!" In his one chance at the big one, in 1991-92 (to be fair, the Heysel ban prevented the chance in 1989-90, but we were not going to beat that AC Milan side), he lost 3-1 at home to a Benfica team that was hardly up to that club's legendary standards. He never got back, not at Arsenal, not at Leeds, not in his time with the noisy lot up the Seven Sisters Road.

"But Graham's sides never bottled it! Wenger got knocked out of the cups by Bradford! Blackburn! Sunderland! And now, Watford!" Oh really? Do the words "The Wrexham Disaster" ring a bell? Or the League Cup Final loss to Luton Town in 1988? Or losing the FA Cup Semifinal to The Scum in 1991?

Don't even get me started on why Graham had to be fired in 1995.

Some people are only happy when they're unhappy. As David E. Kelley's character Ally McBeal put it, "Some people are happier when they lose, because, when you win, there's no one to blame."

Yesterday, Arsenal emerged from a typical February/March run where they went from challenging for the League, the FA Cup and the Champions League to fighting to achieve Top 4 and thus qualification for next season's CL, by beating Everton away, 2-0. And now, of course, just when we need to build on this and get some momentum going, there's an international break. No more Arsenal for 2 weeks.

Sometimes, I wonder if Arsene should leave after the season, with 1 year left on his contract, just so he doesn't have to put up with this shit anymore.

*

To the tune of "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio -- or, if you prefer, "Amish Paradise" by Weird Al Yankovic:

(Arsene)
As I walk through the valley of the shadow I cast
I take a look at my wins that I got in the past.
You see, I’ve been managing Arsenal so long
But I ain’t never played a man that didn’t deserve it.
Still, they treat me like a punk, and that should be unheard-of!
They’re whinin’ and they’re moanin’ and a little bit the bitchin’
complainin’ that I no longer have any ambition.
I can see they all trippin’, say I bottle and choke.
That’s a joke, I got trophies in confetti and smoke, fool.
I’m the kinda gaffer little coaches want to be like
On their knees in the night, but they can’t stand the spotlight.

(Theo Walcott)
Been spending most of our lives
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
I hear ungrateful guys
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
The Emirates did rise
‘cause he built a Wenger’s Paradise.

(Arsene)
Look at the situation they got me facing.
I can’t live a normal life, the media, they be spacing.
So I built up a fancy European passing team.
Too much, television pundits mock my dream.
I’m an educated fool with money on my mind.
Paying off the stadium debt took time.
I went unbeaten for a season and I won two Doubles.
Now the ungrateful say third place is rubble? Fools!
Mid-table mediocrity’s not far away
if you sack me for another manager today.
I’ve managed 20 seasons. For a 21st? Or do I go?
The way things are going, I just don’t know.

(Aaron Ramsey)
I get hacked, but he shows yellow card to me.
Been spending most of our lives
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
I hear Piers Morgan’s lies
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.

(Arsene)
The board gave me a little money, and gave me all the power.
They think I’ve lost the passion, I should be more hungry.
Well, you can shove that bloody banner, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!
They say I gotta learn, but I’m the one who taught you.
You struggled for Europe before the magic nights I brought you!
I guess they can’t give enough of a fuck
But after I’m gone, their whole life is out of luck, fools!

(Jack Wilshere)
Been spending most of our lives
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
I hear Piers Morgan’s lies
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
living in a Wenger’s Paradise.
I make the sacrifice
‘cause I’m living in a Wenger’s Paradise.

(Olivier Giroud)
Tell me why are refs so blind to see?

(Mesut Ozil)
Tell me why are we so blind to see?
Get ridiculed on Sky and the BBC?

Ahhhh…


Note: Szczesny was caught smoking tobacco in the shower, not marijuana. I just went with the rap theme.

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