Extremists. They get right on my nerves. The worst ones are those who don’t recognise that they’re at the end of the spectrum, the outlier in the statistical analysis, they think they’re in the middle as one of the reasonable majority.
When it comes to Arsenal (in fact most things) I’m in the middle. Despite the name of this blog I represent the reasonable majority. I get annoyed about things when they’re not done properly, when I can see that improvements could be made. That’s why I criticise Arsène Wenger – because he’s not perfect. And the Arsenal Board – they’re not perfect either. Nor is David Dein, nor Alisher Usmanov. Nor was Danny Fiszman. I’ve criticised all of them.
Whoever I criticise, some people at the end of the spectrum I’m criticising overreact and jump to the conclusion that I’m at the other end of the spectrum. If I say Herbert Chapman was Arsenal’s greatest manager (he was), extremist Arsène fanatics leap up and say I must hate Wenger! AW is clearly the greatest manager of all time in their eyes (and Coach of the Decade 2000-2010, remember). So if I don’t love him unreservedly I must hate him and want him sacked!
I criticise the Arsenal Board: I must love Usmanov! I must want to sell Arsenal’s soul to a dodgy mafia-linked Russian! But I criticise Usmanov too: Shock! I love Stan! I’m in the pay of the club and we’ll never win anything with that tightfisted moneygrabber in charge!
I could take the easy option and not criticise anyone. Just be relentlessly positive about everything to do with Arsenal, and overlook any obvious errors the club makes. Always expect things will turn out just fine. I call this the ‘@10Akhil Option’. (It’s okay, I love Akhil, and he’s happy, Good for him.) But it’s not in my nature to do that. It’s in my nature to take a critical look at things and see if they can be improved. Even if they’re okay, can they be better? Here’s the thing: they usually can. Even when they’re being run by experts. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Here’s something decided by experts. The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) – the same people who awarded Arsène Wenger Coach of the Decade, rightly or wrongly – do a poll for World’s Most Popular Footballer. They’ve been doing this since 2006. Here’s the list of winners, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Stevie G, yes I’ve heard of him. More recently there was, umm, who’s he again? And him? And the guy who won it twice? Ummmm.
Now obviously some people have heard of these players, particularly in their own countries or the countries they play in, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one in the world who hasn’t. I can save them the trouble of a poll, though: the most popular footballer in the world is an Argentinean called Lionel Messi. Short fellow, scores a lot. Very popular.
Before him it was David Beckham. You may have heard of him also – not as good as Messi, but immensely popular. Phenomenally so.
You’d think after eight straight years of definitely picking the wrong guy the IFFHS might give up, but no – they’re experts you see. Their way must be right.
Also according to the IFFHS rankings, Liverpool are the 25th best club in the world, while Tottenham are 37th. Guess where Arsenal are. Actually don’t bother because I don’t know – they don’t appear in the top 40. I read it eight times to be sure.
So should Arsène be Coach of the Decade? Just because everything else the IFFHS says looks like a load of rubbish doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong about that. Arsène’s best placing in Coach of the Year was second in both 2002 and 2004. Meanwhile Fergie, second in the ‘Decade’ race, was winner for the year once and runner-up once. Jose Mourinho, third for the decade, was Coach of the Year four times. Here’s the trophy count for the three:
I’ve got to say the case for Arsène to be number one is not hugely strong on those statistics. For the period up to 2005 he’s right there, but since then, not so much. It doesn’t mean he’s not a great manager, but look how much the others have won. ‘But look at the restrictions Arsène had to work under!’ say his supporters. ‘Who could have done a better job with the resources?’ Well we’ll never know if anyone could. Maybe someone could; maybe no one could. Nevertheless, Arsène extremists hold the Coach of the Decade title up as proof positive of the genius of Arsène, even if it was handed out by an organisation who have given World’s Most Popular Player to a succession of people I’ve never heard of.
I’ve largely wandered off the subject of extremists, so more on that tomorrow, if I have time.
Follow me on Twitter, meantime, if you don’t already: @AngryOfN5