Arsenal had their Annual General Meeting yesterday, less than 24 hours after a crushing defeat to Schalke in the Champions League. Ivan Gazidis, Stan Kroenke, Peter Hill-Wood and Arsene Wenger were all in attendance at the meeting.
Gazidis continued to spill the same out crap he’s been giving us since arriving at the club about the financial fair play system that is meant to be coming into football soon and how Arsenal will be successful as well as sustainable and that Wenger has done a great job with what he’s been given, even though they claim he is given a big budget. A slightly contradictory statement there, Ivan.
Peter Hill-Wood continued to show us how out of touch and what an old, boring, miserable sod he is. When Gazidis asked fans if anyone opposed his re-election about 15 hands reportedly went up. Hill-Wood then mumbled into the microphone “the same old lot”, something that frustrates me as a fan, it seems as if nobody is entitled to their opinion. Maybe he didn’t even realise he was speaking into the microphone as he said it.
Stan Kroenke lived up to his nickname of ‘Silent Stan’ as he said very little throughout and dodged a question about whether he would take money out of the club like the Glazer’s at Manchester United. He basically just waffled on without really answering the question like a bad candidate for Prime Minister / President of a country does when asked a question they can’t answer truthfully.
Perhaps the most concerning was Arsene Wenger’s quote about the way he sees trophies nowadays. He ranks them as the following: 1. Premier League, 2. Champions League, 3. Champions League qualification, 4. FA Cup, 5. League Cup. What I want to know is how back when Arsenal used to win things, he took the FA Cup seriously. He played his top players in the competition and also took the Premier League and Champions League seriously. Maybe it was the comfort of knowing that at worst he would only finish second to Manchester United back then because both Chelsea and Manchester City were irrelevant. Maybe that shows how far Arsenal have declined since the glory days in the past decade. Maybe that shows growth in the Premier League, with the likes of Newcastle and Tottenham as well as Chelsea and Manchester City getting better in that period of time.
What I am going to say on the domestic cups is that it is simple. The Cup Final, whether it’s the FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League, Europa League, Cup Winners Cup (back in the day), whatever it may be, it is a day out for the fans. There is no better feeling than watching your side win a trophy and you being there to see it and soak up the atmosphere of a Cup Final. When Arsenal won both the League Cup and FA Cup in 1993, they finished 10th in the league. Do people still talk about Andy Linighan’s late winner against Sheffield Wednesday?!. YES. Because it was a cup final, it means something to the fans. Arsenal may have been to a UEFA Cup and Champions League Final since, but people still talk about Alan Smith’s winner against Parma in 1994. Spurs fans still bring up Nayim’s last minute lob over Seaman the following year, even if it is 17 years on and the cup doesn’t exist anymore.
Arsenal fans have shown how keen they are for trophies. You think back to 1999/2000 when Arsenal played in the UEFA Cup Final against Galatasaray. Arsenal fell into the UEFA Cup having failed to qualify from their group in the Champions League. Did the Arsenal fans say “f*ck it, it’s only the sodding UEFA Cup”. No. They filled up Highbury, travelled on the road en route to the Final and went to Copenhagen to watch it too. Some ended up taking a stabbing or beating for their troubles and the team couldn’t bloody even win the Final.
The following season I don’t recall an empty seat in the stadium when Arsenal played Liverpool in the FA Cup Final. Again Arsenal lost, but the fans sure as hell turned up the next year still to see them beat Chelsea 2-0. They showed up again the following year to see them beat Southampton. The next year Villa Park was full of Arsenal fans when Wenger decided to throw away the FA Cup by playing Jeremie Aliadiere up front with Dennis Bergkamp as well as a fairly weak side when he had better options available, allowing rivals United to win the easy Final against Millwall. Arsenal fans again showed up in Cardiff in 2005 when we won our last trophy to date, the FA Cup. The fact we made so many finals and semi-finals around that period of time tells you Wenger did take the FA Cup seriously and there are some great as well as bad memories in there. That’s part of being a football fan. I will continue my rant with the League Cup. I have seen Arsenal throw away semi-finals in that competition a fair few times. Middlesbrough and Wigan spring to mind in the mid 2000’s. The fans travelled to Cardiff to see Wenger field a boys team against Chelsea in 2007 and lose 2-1. The demand for tickets against Birmingham was crazy in 2011, I tried and ultimately (and thankfully) failed to get hold of a ticket for another 2-1 loss.
So Arsene, if the domestic cups mean nothing to you, it doesn’t mean they don’t mean anything to the fans. Ultimately the fans have the power. If they’re fed up, don’t buy the merchandise, season tickets, tickets or anything else until you get the change that you want.