The Great Divide – Is it really Just About WOB’s & AKB’s or is there more to it?

Thoughts of The Gooner Reverend

What is it about the Arsenal fanbase these days? To outsiders we seem full of hate, anger and indignation. In the press you see fans fighting amongst each other at games, marching with Wenger out banners at the ready or flying planes over stadiums to magnify their argument.

At West Brom last season fans flew 2 planes over the stadium. One from the Wenger out brigade and one from the Wenger in camp. This is how the press reacted: ‘Arsenal fans go plane crazy as they battle it out in skies above West Brom with ‘Wenger out’ banner soon followed by ‘In Arsene We Trust’ Source: Daily Mail 
The so called WOB’s V AKB’s battle had taken to the skies in earnest and each faction even had their own go fund me page set up to raise the necessary capital to fund their zealous fervour.

On one hand you have to admire the organisers of these types of protests for their tenacity and devotion to the cause but on the other hand you have to ask yourself do you really have that much money to spare and you still continue to complain about ticket prices at the Emirates when your splashing out bucket loads to fly planes over away grounds. On one side you have the WOB argument that Wenger has had his day and needs to move on regardless

FA Cups no longer cut the mustard as trophies go and they want nothing but the Premier League and Champions League trophies because nothing else will sate their desire. On the other side of the divide the AKB’s point to Wenger’s long-standing success both on and off the pitch with 3 trophies in the past 4 years and now world class infrastructure which would be the envy of any club around the world. It’s possibly true and if you asked one of the old boys standing on the North bank back in the 70’s to fast forward to 2017 its safe to say he would hardly recognise his old club. It is of course also true that Arsenal have not won the premier league for 13 years since their last title back in 2004 and for which Wenger as manager has to carry a portion of the blame because it is his job to motivate the team to win trophies which is the true barometer of success for any sporting team and the PL Title is the pinnacle of that barometer in English football. It is also true to say that since that day in May 2004 the landscape both at Arsenal and in the Premier League has dramatically changed. Wenger was at his emphatic best when David Dein was Vice Chairman at the club but when Dein fell out with his fellow board members over the Wembley V new stadium proposal Wenger lost a key ally and friend within the club. We also need to remember that it was Dein who introduced Kroenke to the club as well as selling his shares to Usmanov’s Red & White Co prompting Peter Hill Wood’s now famous quote “We don’t want his sort at Arsenal”. Dein’s sudden departure from Arsenal more than any other was the catalyst for what was to transpire over the next 10 years.

The arrival of Stan Kroenke, the building of the new stadium, the rise of Chelsea under Abramovich and the arrival of Sheik Mansour at Man City. Dein was replaced by Ivan Gazis and where Dein was very hands on and Arsenal through and through, close to the players and the manager on a daily basis Gazidis was a hands-off business administrator with no connection to the club and no affinity with the manager. But in saying all that we have had a win and some close shaves since 2004 and prior to the 2014 FA Cup triumph. The last gasp FA Cup win against Utd in 2005, the infamous CL final in Paris in 2006, the William Gallas spectacular dummy spit at Birmingham in 2008 which many believed cost us the title and Koscielny’s error in the 2011 Carling Cup final against Birmingham. The board have not exactly been the shinning beacon of inspiration in this period of our recent history either. In business, communication between the board and the stake holders is critically important for the ongoing stability and success of the club yet the board have been content to let the manager be the main driver of the mission and vision as well as carry the majority of the heat. That being said Wenger did not do himself any favours with his silence is golden stance in 2016-17. The following AGM probably did more to restore Wenger standing as he was at his eloquent best and on his A game as it did to cement that Sir Chips Keswick is probably not your go to man in the Chairman of a football club stakes.

All of this is of course fuel to the fire of supporter dissatisfaction which has at times burned hotly and intensely throughout the last 3 or 4 years and with the advent of groups like AFTV the shock jocks of the online fan forums you do wonder if the fan base will ever truly be united again. There is of course always room for optimism and there are signs of change on the horizon. Ivan Gazidis has moved from his city office to the training ground to be closer to the action the team and the manager. Steve Rowley Arsenals chief scout for the past 25 years has gone and Arsenal have appointed Sven Mislintat who they brought over from Dortmund and who was credited with discovering Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Oumane Dembele & Shinji Kagawa. Arsenal are also trying to bring across Michael Zorc from Dortmund as Director of Football and with Jens Lehman already in place and Per Mertesacker taking over the running of the youth academy in 2018 it would appear that the long discussed and debated succession planning has already started in earnest. Wenger is expected to leave at the end of his current contract and all of the changes currently being made to the football operation would indicate this to be true.

So where do the fans go from here, do they continue their tit for tat sniping on social media followed by banner processions through the streets and the odd skirmish at pubs train stations and at the ground or do they pull together as they did over ‘Teagate’ backing the team to do their best and win more silverware this season. The atmosphere at the Emirates for the NLD was electric and even watching on the tv you couldn’t help but get swept up in that absorbing atmosphere. One thing is for sure though our board have demonstrated that they will not sack Wenger no matter how many planes, banners or people hold up Wenger out signs in Zimbabwe. So, no matter what side of the debate you are on we all have one thing in common and that is our love for ‘The Arsenal’ so surely, it’s in everyone’s interest to support the club the manager & the team until Wenger’s contract expires. Screaming on twitter every day that you want him gone is an object in futility but hey at least we are not like some West Ham fans who keep calling the Essex police on the emergency number to complain about the club when they lose

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