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Arsenal Review: The Honest Debate, Part I

I’ve been working on this piece a few times and couldn’t wrap my head around how I wanted to present it.  Fortunately for me, @lordhillwood and his great blog piece, They Don’t Like the C-word, provided a great jumping off point.  So I’ll follow his lead into this breach and see if there can be an honest debate about the issues and ailments of Arsenal Football Club.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches psychologists that the first step for a client to resolve their problem is for that client to first admit that there is a problem.  So, whether you’re member of the “Wenger Out Brigade” or one of the “Arsene Knows Best” bunch or one of the many who rejects labels and positions and simply supports Arsenal, let’s all do this here and now:

There is a problem at Arsenal FC.

Here’s where things get tricky. We can all recognize the signs and symptoms of the problem at the club.  Players forcing transfers out to other clubs, continued disappointing results and performances from season to season, a lowering of expectations from title contenders to Champions League hopefuls and so on.  What we don’t recognize quite so easily is the root cause of the problem.  We easily cast the blame on a variety of potential targets (I touched on the four most obvious way back in February with this piece.) But what is the source of the problem?

I think that’s the most difficult part in this debate.  Is it Arsene Wenger’s fiduciary miserliness?  Is it the Board who continue to block his ability to spend money?  Is it the greater football world, which has gone crazy seeking every penny, ruble, euro and dollar?  Is it simply supporters who are unable to accept the new footballing landscape, one where Arsenal joins Milan, Inter, Sevilla, Ajax and Liverpool as the second class?

There is some validity to all of those questions and others left unsaid.  However, whether any of those targets are the responsible party cannot be ascertained.  The club’s methods for dealing with the public make it nearly impossible to know the truth of things.  Did that transfer not happen cause the club was lowballing their offers?  Do players want out because of higher wage demands or for other reasons?  Does the club have money or are they so in hock to the stadium that they cannot properly move funds to the transfer kitty?  Who makes the final decisions, Arsene, Gazidis, the Board or the tea lady?

Looking for the “guilty” though tends to end up in recriminations and anger from everyone involved.  That’s not what interests me.  Instead, we should see if we can point to the source or sources of the problem at Arsenal that lead the club to stay in this Groundhog Day-like miasma of mediocrity.  Because, one again, it’s November and the club faces the same issues and flaws that will likely mean a campaign without silverware but with anguish and disappointment.

There’ is a problem at Arsenal FC.  Figuring out what it is remains the elusive next step.

More to follow.

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