A wise lady once said to me: Unless you strive for perfection, you’ll never achieve it.
And I think it was economist Adam Smith who said about 200 years ago something like: If everyone was happy with the poorest clothing, worst housing and meanest food, that’s all there would be.
In other words, why put up with a bad situation if there is something that can be done about it, and if you accept second best you’ll always be given second best.
Let me put it another way, because ‘bad’ is relative: Why put up with a less than perfect situation if you can keep working to get closer to perfection?
There are many ways of splitting Arsenal fans into factions, and I think we’ve found most of them. One way is those who moan and those who don’t. I’m using ‘moan’ as shorthand for any complaint (however justified) about the team, club policy, the manager or anything else related to Arsenal. It’s a pejorative term, but it’s just shorthand. If you’re a moaner, don’t take it to heart, because I’m also firmly in the moaning camp.
But I’m not moaning about Arsenal for the sake of it or because there’s nothing else to do. Neither am I moaning because I don’t recognise that there are many fans – the vast majority in fact – who will, over time, have far less to celebrate and enjoy than Arsenal fans. No, the reason is simple: in return for the emotional energy and money I invest, I want the best return possible. If Arsenal are doing well but I believe they can do better, then I want them to do better. I want them to utilise all their resources to the absolute best of everyone’s ability. I want them to use the best players, coaches and methods that they can reasonably afford. I want to see a culture of continuous improvement, to borrow a corporate phrase, because as we all know if you stand still while everyone else moves forward, you are effectively going backwards. I ‘moan’ because I don’t see continuous improvement happening.
People who are happy with how things are say various things to the moaners:
- “Why don’t you just shut up and enjoy it.”
- “Even when Arsenal win, you still moan.”
- “Who is going to do a better job than Arsène Wenger?”
- “Who are you to criticise? They’re the experts.”
Well allow me to retort.
“Why don’t you just shut up and enjoy it?”
Well to be fair, some people do bang on rather boringly about the same problem over and over again, win lose or draw. But that doesn’t get away from the point of trying to do better – see paragraph one.
“Even when Arsenal win, you still moan.”
If this was “Even when Arsenal win the League/Champions League you still moan” then I would sympathise with it. But winning a league match against West Ham or Stoke is a cause for satisfaction, not celebration, because Arsenal should win against West Ham and Stoke. If we had 90 per cent possession and stuffed them 14-0, no one would moan and we could celebrate a great performance. If we win by one or two goals then there are clearly things that can be done better, so let’s try and do them better next time. You could argue that the team and everyone involved at the club is doing their damnedest to always improve, but in some cases there is scant evidence to support that. They say that defeat hurts and there is no possibility that they could want success more, but then they put in a half-arsed performance next time. So personally I think there’s room for improvement, and thus there is room for constructive criticism. Some see this as moaning.
“Who is going to do a better job than Arsène Wenger?”
Well this is a tricky one, because without the benefit of parallel universes, we’ll never know if someone else would have done a better job for any or all of the time Arsène Wenger has been in charge of Arsenal. Maybe there are parallel universes – as David Devant said, “Was there really only one big bang? Is there just one Kool & The Gang?” Who knows? But I’ll tell you who would do a better job than the Arsène Wenger of right now: the Arsène Wenger of 15 years ago. The Arsène Wenger who was prepared to try new things and spend relatively big money on players with real talent, and who identified targets and went for them without waiting till the last day of the transfer window. (Having said that, Gervinho was bought early in the window, so nothing’s guaranteed. I think he fails on the ‘real talent’ aspect though.)
In summary, we’ll never know whether someone else could have done a better job than Arsène Wenger, but I do know for sure that Arsène Wenger can do a better job than he is now. I’ve seen him do it.
And don’t say, “Times have changed” – I know they have, and you have to change with them, adapt to circumstances and keep trying to get better. If someone else has more money to spend, spend yours smarter. But also concentrate on things that can be done without spending huge money, like tactics and fitness. Get an advantage by drilling the defence until they know instinctively where their teammates are and what they’re doing. Don’t just rely on having more talented players than most clubs and letting the players get on with it, direct them.
And don’t even say “He’s still the best man for the job.” He may be, but he can still do his job better.
“Who are you to criticise? They’re the experts.”
I’m not saying being a successful football manager is easy. It’s clearly not. You need to be very good to succeed at it. But it’s not like brain surgery, where anyone just ‘having a go’ would fail completely; the basics are not that hard to grasp. Unfortunately, because only one team can win the league each season, there is a lot of room for the failures to point to all the mitigating circumstances and say, “Well if I had the money to buy all those players, I’d probably have won.” I’m looking at you, Fat Sam.
But just because it’s not easy to succeed doesn’t mean I can’t see when it’s being done badly, and perhaps even offer a solution or two, even though I’ve never worked half a day in football. Consider this: if I were in a plane that was being flown very badly, I’d know it was being flown very badly. I might not know how to do it better, but that wouldn’t stop me shouting, “FFS do something! No, something different to what you’re doing now, before we hit that bloody mountain!” And then I might offer a few suggestions. In the same way I can legitimately offer suggestions to football managers.
So don’t give me all this “You couldn’t do any better” bollocks, or think that certain people are above criticism just because they’re ‘experts’. Experts get things wrong. Think about some of the expert summarisers and pundits that TV and radio stations employ – do they know so much? Who caused the banking crisis? Banking experts.
So I, and many others, criticise, or ‘moan’ about Arsenal and what the players, management and Board do, because they can and often should do it better. That, in a nutshell, is why Arsenal annoy me.
When Arsenal achieve the perfection of winning every trophy every season, I’ll stop. In the meantime they should be striving for perfection, not just fourth place.