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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


Arsene Wenger and the Arab Spring

Written by on August 31, 2011 | 11 Comments »
Posted in English Premier League, General

This is obviously not the appropriate forum for discussions on the demise of various tyrants across the Middle East, but President Mubarak, Prime Minister Maliki and recent events in Libya provide a valuable lesson in how quickly things can change; even when a leader has retained his command for a number of years.

Not even his fiercest critics would compare Arsene Wenger to some of the most brutal dictators in history, but there are elements of his time at Arsenal that could (in a particularly fevered imagination) have correlations with the rise and fall of the leader of a military junta.

Following his coming to power at the club he brought the fans an undreamed of number of trophies and somehow managed to ally that success with a style of play that made them the envy of the footballing world.

It was true that at times his players were forced to resort to bouts of brutality to counter balance the beauty, but that was a small price to pay for the riches on offer.

Street parades and celebratory parties were the order of the day with the “Great Satan” of Manchester United helpless against Arsene’s “invincibles”.

Then things slowly began to deteriorate. The style of play may have remained in tact but the rewards were suddenly scarce. Murmurs of discontent began to form on the lips of a small group of followers, but they were swiftly silenced by the overpowering majority who still maintained their seemingly unshakable faith in the dear leader.

Yet there were no more victory parades. Just self-satisfied arguments that proclaimed the Arsenal way to be the best and the urge to mock the more prosaic clubs that relished silverware over style.

Yet those in charge at Arsenal, who still happily wandered the newly marbled halls of the Emirates Stadium, were losing touch with the reality of life on the street; the lot of the average fan was becoming less satisfying month by month and game by game.

Wenger continued to insist that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds and that the future of the beloved Arsenal was still safe in his hands, but then the boos began in earnest (at first just a smattering that died a swift death in the cold London air) but those few rebels emboldened a few more, and before much longer every bad result, every bad forty-five minutes of football, was greeted with raucous disapproval from virtually all the faithful in attendance.

People were no longer seeing their leader as an infallible demigod; they now saw him as an all too fallible human who was holding the thing that they loved back due to his stubbornness and his reliance on the traditional ways.

The wave of displeasure was developing into a tsunami of unrest.

The explanations for why so many leaders in the Arab world came to lose their grip on power are staggeringly complex and rooted firmly in the individual history of each country, but the way that they lost their grip on power is almost universally the same.

The people who had once followed them without question suddenly saw them as being so much weaker than they had once supposed and began to actively imagine a world without them in it.

Arsenal fans have now begun to imagine a world without their current manager, and once that process is set in motion it can build to an unstoppable force.

The time may soon come when Arsene Wenger has to decide to either leave Arsenal of his own free will with his dignity in tact, or mount a futile rearguard action that could irreversibly damage both his reputation and the club that he so clearly loves.

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11 responses to “Arsene Wenger and the Arab Spring”

  1. Soccerlogical says:

    Bobby – Just listened to the pod on my morning run. You said that you think Arsenal will finish in the top 4, who do you think they will surpass to one of those spots? IMO, Liverpool have more defensive depth, a potent attack and no Europe to worry about and CHE also have a deeper defensive squad with Mata and possibly another effective mid joining and we all know about MU and MC.

    John Bladen – To answer your question. If as you say the board has some say in terms of who Wenger can buy to be contingent upon resale value then obviously buy Cahill and Samba (who have EPL experience) plus the likes of M’Villa from Rennes, Martin from Sochaux, Fellaini from Everton, Hazard, Vargas, Schweinsteiger, Rolfes or Erickson from Ajax. But let’s be honest, we both know the board would sanction at least one seasoned player like an Arteta or Benayoun.

    In addition, many more “good resale value” signings would have been more easily attainable earlier in the transfer window should Wenger not have waited till the 11th hour, as he knew of the departures and we know the money was there beforehand.

    For him to take a risk on Mertesecker from a less defense minded league like Bundesliga and especially Bremen who leak goals like crazy is asinine, just to save a few million over Cahill or Samba who have proven able to handle EPL physicality. Seems like desperate buys from a squirrel that slept all of Fall season only to wake up and run around crazy as it desperately searches for a few nuts to store before Winter sets in.

    I mean what team aiming for any sort of success would be willing to sell a good player with less that 10 hours remaining in the transfer window to replace their loss… and that’s Wenger’s own fault!

    And the likes of Dempsey and Malouda are pure panic buy of you ask me as Clint doesn’t fit into the Arsenal system and Malouda is way too inconsistent in the EPL.

  2. Gus Keri says:


    I know that you have this tendency to equate soccer events to important historical and political events. Most of pundits do.

    But to equate Wenger to an Arab dictator and the Arsenal fans’ discontent with the recent results to the Arab spring? Sorry, my friend. This was way off the mark.

    And by the way, where does this leave Bobby?
    It looks like he is the anti-Arab-spring then.

  3. Gus- I did specifically say that Wenger was not being compared to an Arab dictator, just that when somebody has been in control for so long is is difficult to imagine them leaving, but once people do start to think about it then that process can grow faster than thought possible.

    I think it’s a reasonable analogy.

    I guess in this scenario Bobby would be a TV pundit explaining that the downfall of the leader could lead to unseen consequences that those calling for change may come to regret (so no change there then).

  4. Alberta Gooner says:

    There’s much that could be written about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, from the palace intrigues with the changes on the board to the Keystone Kops quality of some of transfer business to whether David Dein needs to rejoin the club.

    Obviously, this would require a little research and thoughtful analysis. As opposed to say, grunting out a statement of the obvious by using a grasping and tasteless analogy. Well done for uncovering the fact we’ve got our share of plasticky prats and johnny-come-lately gloryhunters who’ve now channeled their inner Chicken Littles. That’s top, top work and you will, no doubt, earn responses from them as they presented halfwitted theories about Wenger’s myopia/stubborness/parismony/ego holding back the club.

    Congratulations on baiting me into a response, Russell. This is first and last time I’ll dignify you with a page view.

  5. Clay says:

    Russell – thanks for an amusing perspective on the woes of Arsenal and its leadership dilemma. While it may have been lost on some, I actually enjoyed the humorous undertones. If nothing else, you can say Wenger has encouraged and built teams that generally play fast, attractive football. Not many other teams in the EPL or elsewhere that can at least say they saw consistently attractive football even if not a lot of silverware went with it.

  6. J says:

    Have to say I’ve enjoyed my day at the circus. The bread was fantastic! Wenger delivered, today.

  7. Roberto Manita says:


    “ManU = The Great Satan”. I live, breathe, eat, sleep, drink, and drink more & more Kilkenny and Guinness to that statement. I wholeheartedly concur with that.

    May I use that statement, with your permission, henceforth?

    Cheers 😉

  8. Ed Gomes says:

    Arsenal has become a very ordinary team. They will have to fight and fight hard in order to compete for a top 4 spot.
    Are we now suppose to believe that Arteta is anything more than adequate.
    After looking awful playing on the Brazilian squad, if Sandro pans out he himself just might be the most surprised.
    Mertesacker brings an imposing figure to the middle, and I guess that’s better than what is currently there.
    Yosef for me is the only thing close to quality, and Wenger had to go begging for him, although he himself was looking for work.
    What the new players lack in quality maybe they will be able to bring in leadership.

    By the way is there any doubt that RVP is looking disinterested.
    Arshavin at least is trying to score, although he has been looking to leave for a while now.
    Everyone seems high on Szczesny, but didn’t he get the job the same way Almunia did. A backup that was looked at as a backup, but got and held the starting spot after good early performances. He too will prove to be the product of lazy administrative mistake. They should have gone out and got a new keeper.
    Wait a minute, talking about lazyness. Almunia is still on the squad.
    Everyone sleeping at the wheel.

  9. John Bladen says:

    Ed: I would agree, Mertesacker will help and he’s an improvement over what the club had (IE: no real cb’s at all). Ambivalent about the Santos signing… but he will likely be an upgrade as well. Arteta? At that price? He will help a (still) depleted squad, but cost too much.

    A bit surprised that Almunia and Arshavin are still here. No disrespect to AA’s game, but it never (even in his RPL days) looked like translating into an EPL starring role. Add to that the Wenger has stubbornly kept him on the wing rather than allowing a more central role…. well, in my view, it’s time to move him on – and he probably wants to leave as well.

    Anyone else shocked that AW gave up on the alleged next next next big thing, Lansbury?

    Russell: Who plays the NATO role in your analogy? Will there be carpet bombing of the Emirates stadium under the guise of squad improvement initiatives?

  10. John Bladen says:

    … apologies everyone, while I was away the newspaper had Lansbury listed as transferred out… just checked and in fact it is a season long loan only…

  11. Russell Berrisford says:

    John-I’m pretty sure that FIFA could take care of any carpet bombing.

    Roberto- by all means.

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