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  1. #1
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    Phoenix From the Flames #1

    Good afternoon, LoP. Football is, as the old saying goes, a funny old game. One of the funniest things about it is the loyalty that it inspires in the fans; a loyalty that can cross continents, for whom space is no object. But what happens when you step away from your club for a time, only to see the obstacles that pushed you away removed? How do you go about rebuilding that relationship?

    Thatís the experience of my co-host in this little endeavour, Mazza. Weíve both found ourselves drifting away from association football - soccer, to the Americans - in recent years, but the difference is while my love for my club has been unchanged and itís essentially a more fundamental reaction to shifts in the game itself, for Mazza itís been generated more by internal issues at his club, Arsenal FC. Maz, for anyone reading this who wasnít around for your epic-length posts in the old Footy thread, why you donít you quickly catch everyone up on why you finally broke with Arsenal after decades of following them?

    Wenger.

    I'm sure you are going to say a bit more than that, not least because he's the most successful manager you've lived under.

    It was very tough because Arsene Wenger brought the greatest memories of my football fandom. I became a season ticket holder at Arsenal the season before he joined. The 1997/98 season I went up and down the country watching a fantastic team clinch the double. We had trophies rolling in most years. Another league title in 2002. The Invincibles in 2004. All absolutely magic. But after winning the FA Cup the next year, it all dried up. Yet large portions of the fanbase seemed to be ok with that. When it gets to a decade of failure then you have really start questioning things. Every year it became the same thing. Collapse at the business end of the season and finish 4th, go out of the champions league in the first knockout stage (usually to Bayern Munich), spend the summer trying to hold on to our star player whose contract is running down, sign increasingly inferior replacements and get battered by big clubs because he did everything to drive out players with the ďspiritĒ he used to go on about all the time. It was the fact that it happened over and over again and his refusal to learn from his mistakes that drove me more and more insane. I grew up watching a club that was hated for ability to get results with an ugly style of play. We blossomed into a club people loved to watch because we played such beautiful football. That was all down to Arsene, but so was the fact we became the club everybody laughed at because we were such a predictable shambles. First decade Wenger was the greatest manager in Arsenal history. Second decade Wenger became more and more of a joke as time went on. I became embarrassed to support the club quite frankly and drifted away from the game all together. But here we are, new era. I have no doubts it will be tough. One of my big arguments was with the idea in a lot of circles that Wenger was the be all and end all of the club. He had been there for a very long time though and it will take a lot to change 20 years of one manís ideology having its imprints on Arsenal. But I am here to watch it happen. I have to say though Prime, as much as Arsene made me want to jump out of a window, I never felt the urge to throw any veg at him.

    Oh yeah, that was bizarre. I promise you it wasn't me that did that - I've never thrown anything at Steve Bruce, even when he was at the Blues! I'm sure we'll have time to to pick this up over the coming weeks, but just before we do, was it purely the change of manager that brought you back in or were there other factors? And what do you make, in general terms, of the first few weeks of the brave New World?

    Manager was the big catalyst. The club needed to break the status quo and that happening piqued my interest. That said, World Cup fever gripped me far harder than I expected. Something about a World Cup that allows you to sit back and enjoy away from the day to day struggles that come with supporting a club. Iíve enjoyed what Iíve seen of the new season so far. Still not quite back to watching MOTD every week or anything like that, but moving in that direction. I like the fact that United seem to have taken on our position of national laughing stock. Got no idea what is going on there. Is Mourinho what Wenger was a decade ago at this point? Will Spurs ever move into their new stadium? Will life be worth living if Liverpool actually win the league? These arenít hypothetical. I really need answers.

    Iím sure that weíll get them, any many others as we come back across the course of the season. Weíll doubtless be covering all sorts of things, including transfer dealings, the new boss, every area of the playing staff, how you cope when the game is so different now, who you might like to see in an Arsenal shirt, and not least of all, just what did happen to the big four at the weekend. I'd also bet a huge amount of money that anytime either of us gets the chance to take a shot at Jose, we'll absolutely rip him. If nothing else, that should be worth sticking around for. But until next time all I have to say to finish is that I hope you enjoyed this and will come back for the rest of the journey!

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  2. #2
    Senior Member Gooner's Avatar
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    Only just discovered this (thanks Prime!).

    Completely understand Mazza's thoughts and feelings, and I do partially agree with him. It really did become a running joke the whole cycle of each season. Finishing fourth, last 16 of the CL, losing players, etc... Wenger's first 10 years were really magical. A complete change of style, and not just a change, a new way of playing the game, with emphasis on things off the field like nutrition and training methods. Arguably the best league team in modern history. A memorable rivalry with Manchester United. A fairytale, but ultimately with an unhappy ending, run to the Champions League final. All of which culminated in the last season at Highbury, which is still my favourite ground I've been to (bias aside...).

    The next 10 years were difficult. We were paying for the stadium on the field, as mentioned by Mazza. Selling our better players and banking on cheap young players. It was not without successes. The likes of Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie prospered, though without anything to show for it. But then there were the Carlos Velas, the Nicholas Bendtners and the Denilsons of the world that failed to match the hype. Slowly but surely, decline hit.

    Throughout, I stuck by Wenger. I defended him to the hilt, feeling that one good season was all it would take to get us back at the top. It became harder and harder to defend the mediocrity, but I did. For me, if it weren't for FA Cup win against Hull, I would have switched. After 20 minutes, I had switched. But they brought it back and I've never seen a manager more relieved.

    That is when he should have left. That was the moment. Instead, a new vigor arrived. It didn't bring League success, but for the first time in 8 years, I was seeing improvement. A 4th place followed by a 3rd place followed by a 2nd place (to Leicester no less!). It seemed like a matter of time before it clicked again.

    Instead, we crumbled.



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