Arsenal: Kroenke's Backing Of Wenger Was Shallow, Condescending & Ultimately Self-Serving
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.”
“I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.”
I saw Arsenal’s majority shareholder said in one of his extremely rare utterances that he was ‘totally aligned’ with Wenger ahead of the 17th anniversary of his first Arsenal game, away at Swansea this weekend.
“There’s no one I feel more strongly about and I think he is doing a great job,” said ‘Silent’ Stan Kroenke this week. “We have been very supportive, we have never wavered, we are proud of him, proud of the club, the way the club is run and how it holds itself out to the world.”
Excuse me in doubting the words of our normally absent dear Chairman – who incidentally has still not confirmed that he plans to follow the 90 year tradition set by the Hill-Wood dynasty of never taking a penny out of the club in dividends or any other financial re-imbursements – but to borrow Christine Keeler’s immortal line during the Profumo trial: “Well he would say that wouldn’t he?”
I failed to hear any such backing from him on the evening of one of the most distressing results in the club’s recent history, the 3-1 defeat by Villa on the opening day. The result almost wasn’t the issue – yes it is painful to lose your opening game of the season at home, but we did against Norwich in a 4-2 home defeat 92/93, and versus an inspired Mickey Quinn hattrick for Coventry in 93/94 in a 3-0 reverse – but the Villa game was different.
Different because there was open mutiny between fans as to whether they believed Wenger was the right man for the job, that made the atmosphere between fellow Arsenal fans as toxic as at anytime over the last 35 years that I can recall.
If Stan wanted to act like the real chief of our great club, that night was the night he could have made his name with fans as a strong leader with such a pronouncement. It would also have stilled all speculation about Wenger’s future.
All we heard back in August from across the Atlantic was an ear-splitting silence indicating a complete and utter determination not to get involved.
I’m not going to debate Wenger here. My feelings on him are too personal, too complex and too trenchant that I doubt I will ever write about them in such detail. Certainly not when the 17th anniversary of his first game at Blackburn in Oct 1996 is approaching.
Just out of interest it is forgotten that Wenger’s first unofficial game was a few days earlier in a UEFA Cup tie in Cologne against Borrusia Moenchengladbach that I was at after spending a riotous few days in Amsterdam (now that is a completely different story). Anyway, the story goes the Frenchman came into the dressing room at half time with the Gunners 2-1 up to change the system from the Bruce Rioch favoured 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 - only to see Arsenal lose 3-2 to a Juskowiak hattrick.
No, what concerns me, as it always concerns me is b******* whether it comes from Piers Morgan or David Cameron. And the b******* in this case is coming from Kronke on Wenger. It is quite simply, stunning.
Peter Hill-Wood gave the American, when he first came sniffing around our club, a stinging public rejoinder, powered with such forceful distaste as only an Old Etonian can: “We don’t want his type around here”.
Of course being the gentleman that he is – along with political expediency of course, Hill-Wood unfortunately changed his mind. But he should have stuck to his gut instinct, for Kronke is not an Arsenal man. (Nor for that matter is Usmanov either. For matters of balance I can’t abide the pair of them – my feeling is simply one of: “leave our f******* club alone”, even if, sadly, that is no longer possible.)
In case Kronke doesn’t realise, Arsenal don’t do public votes of confidence.
Hill-Wood was famous for giving one port-addled interview a year which always made good copy. But he didn’t have to back Wenger as such. That’s not what we do. You either back the manager through words, action and money or you remove him. That’s almost always been our way.
You don’t say ‘I told you so’ when the going is good, when the fans are happy with their lot and the team are playing well – even if, as ever with our thin squad, we are only ever one or two injuries away from a serious problem.
Arsene is in the final year of his three-year contract but, when asked if Wenger is vital to the American’s his “long-term” Arsenal vision, Kroenke was unequivocal.
“Arsène knows how we feel, what our philosophy is, what we want to do and I feel like we are totally aligned. I think he wants to do it the exact same way as we do.”
Again, really? Would you really have said that if, after losing to Villa, we had been dumped out of the Champions League and then lost to Fulham and Spurs? Come off it Stan. Don’t take us for mugs. You might be able to squeeze a grand out of me every year for my season ticket but don’t make out that you’ve always backed him when the silence from you has been deafening on so many matters on so many levels over so many years.
And before people say he’s damned if he opens his mouth and damned if he doesn’t – of course no-one is asking for a rent-a-quote Chairman along the lines of a Bates or the porn-merchants of West Ham - but it would have been nice to hear a little of your strategy for our beloved club that Hill-Wood himself as Chairman always had the dignity, humility and nous in calling himself “a mere custodian” of.
It’s far too easy to say things when everything is going well.
Anyone can do that Stan.
Next time we lose a couple on the trot, or when our squad becomes even more depleted, or when we are knocked out of a cup competition – whether it be at the hands of a fourth tier side or the eventual Champions of Europe – that, my American friend, is the time to back Wenger.
Not now. It only diminishes you.
It is amazing to think that six short weeks ago the natives were restless. If not open rebellion, a defeat against Fenerbache would have seen many fans, pundits and journalists start calling for the Frenchman’s head.
One £42.4 million signing and eight wins on the bounce later all appears to be well in the camp – even if injuries continue to bite into an already thin squad. It could be said Arsenal have also been lucky with the fixture list too - although early November will tell us far more about the Gunner’s aspirations as they have Liverpool, and United in successive weekends with Everton, Man City and Chelsea to play before Christmas.
Loyalty is a virtue that few Chairmen, hand-on-heart can say they possess in football terms.
Your grandiose, self-serving, shallow and ultimately condescending pronouncements this week have done nothing to alter my mind of the fact.
Follow Layth on twitter @laythy29
More Arsenal transfers...
More Arsenal opinion...