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Sometimes the truth hurts.
“Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.” - Lao Tzu
We all know I like quotes. Especially quotes with very direct meaning as does the one above by Lao Tsu (Laozi, Lao Tse), the Chinese philosopher who wrote the Tao Te Ching. At the core of this rather philosophical statement is the simple meaning – words often spoken truthfully are hard to take.
It’s part of what I want to focus on today because lately, Gooners have been wracked over comments made by players who at one time plied their trade for Arsenal.
There are a bunch of them, Alan Smith, Paul Merson, Tony Adams and recently, David Seaman. There are more to be sure. These just came to my head and two of them I want to focus on today. Now, sometimes the words are tainted, slightly. They are tainted with a desire to get one in on the boss.
Take for instance Tony Adams. Tony needs no introduction, his god-like status with Arsenal supporters is second to only Henry maybe not even him. Tony has all been too willing to discuss Arsenal. This weekend as a pundit he asked Arsenal supporters who were chanting “We want our Arsenal back,” which Arsenal that was, the one that Wenger built? And while he is supportive he can also be very criticial. Take for instance his comments this past September after the transfer window had closed:
“This time last year, it would have been a very interesting game. It’s a bit like us playing Manchester United before we sold our centre-forward, Robin van Persie, to them.
“It’s the same scenario with Montpellier and Olivier Giroud — we’ve become a feeder club and it’s like different levels of clubs all of a sudden.
“My experience is that when you play away from home in Europe, it is very important to be resilient and Arsenal are not known for being resilient.
“That can change but I’d say that in games they haven’t won, they haven’t done a professional job.
“We’ve not had the greatest success in Europe but I do feel that the whole team have got to be defensively solid away from home and I don’t think it is in a lot of these guys’ nature. Hence, when you open up, you can concede.
“There is no way in a million years Arsene is going to change his philosophy but I don’t think this team are good enough to win it.
“I expect them to score goals but they cannot win the Champions League with their current mentality. I hope they prove me wrong but against the better teams I think they will fall short again.
“I am not alone here — I think most of the Arsenal fans would agree with me. Strange things happen, like Chelsea winning with not the greatest team in the world, but they did have the whole team fighting to keep clean sheets.
“To actually think you are going to play Barcelona or Real Madrid off the pitch . . . I don’t think this team are good enough to do that.
“I think they will beat Montpellier but in recent years you just fear they cannot go away from home and do a professional job.
“The thing is, they have to do it for two or three years before they get that reputation back as a resilient side.
“They have sent out the wrong message piece by piece for seven years and it chips away at your credibility. Selling your best players is part of that.”
Now when this interview with Tony came out, a lot of people attacked Tony for it. Were they right for doing so? Should Tony not be criticizing the club that made him a legend? It’s the same question as any supporter who criticizes asks back to those criticizing. What was it that Tony said here that was wrong? Well we’ll get to that in a moment.
In addition to Tony’s comments from September, David Seaman, THE DAVID SEAMAN, (I have to do that) was recently quoted as saying this:
“Losing your captains all the time – like Van Persie and Fabregas – is like when Patrick Vieira left. It takes the heart out of the team. We used to be able to keep our best players and that’s why we were winning trophies, but at the moment we can’t do that.
“What are people looking at Arsenal for? Are they looking to advance their careers? They’re not looking to advance themselves financially because they know they can get more money elsewhere.
“It’s going to be hard for them to attract players and what’s happening is they’re getting players in, making them into great players and then they’re having to let them go.
“When Arsene came it was a given that they’d be in the Champions League all the time and we were winning things as well, but you can’t do what they’re doing at the moment and expect to win trophies.”
Not much different than what Tony had to say is it? Basically, Arsenal aren’t going to be successful if they continue operating as a development center and feeder club for other teams.
Here’s the thing – they are right. And therein lies the crux of the problem for Arsenal supporters. The truth hurts. And when confronted with the truth, the best thing we can do is defend against it, criticize the message deliverer and hope the pain subsides (secretly). But the fact remains their comments, like those of some in the press (notice I didn’t say all), and those on social mean ring with a certain amount of truth and we at times don’t want to face up to it.
Sooner or later though we have to accept the truth. The truth we have to accept at Arsenal is that something is very wrong. Regardless of who is setting the policies, the board, Ivan Gazidis, Wenger or a hodge-podge of all 3, the policies we’ve been under have been applied in such a way that the image of the club, the product on the field and the way we are perceived off of it has suffered – immensely.
But what is hidden in the words, often time painful as they may be is that we all want it to get fixed. Tony and David aren’t calling for Wenger’s head. No, in each case they’ve been effusive of the praise their former boss should get. The point is they care. They see something wrong and they in their positions want to say something. Maybe, just maybe in their positions as former players they will be heard.
Flipping the coin
“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napoleon Hill.
We’ve all learned since childhood that we should “think twice before you speak.” We also know and generally accept as Gooners that Arsenal, for all their warts are generally run by some very smart individuals. However, just because you are smart doesn’t necessarily mean you should be in the position you are in.
However, in this case being smart means you should really know better when you open your mouth. As a marketer, professional communicator if you will, I am constantly amazed by the poor communication skills of our board and club leadership.
Take for instance Ivan Gazidis letting us know once again, that “we’ve kept some powder dry for January.” Did anyone in the PR department bother to check with Ivan about his comments? Well, if they had, they might have discovered he used the exact same sentence last season. And while I don’t think he was being insincere, it smacks of not taking the fans seriously. The simply ability to turn a phrase can make or break you and more times than not it has broke Arsenal.
4th place is a trophy anyone? I mean it’s an asinine statement to make. Sure, we all got what he was saying but what Wenger said and the way it was portrayed was completely different then the intended meaning.
Let’s not get started about our chairman who deigns us all fortunate to sit in an AGM in his exalted presence. And our owner, well he is saved from ridicule here because he doesn’t bloody well say anything.
It pains me to be critical of a club that I love and enjoy. But let me ask you all this question (it’s lengthy and I hope it spurs discussion) – At the time we moved into the Emirates if the club had told us the truth – said we are making this move because we see in the next 8-10 years it aiding in making us one of the biggest clubs in Europe however, it may mean some pain (lot’s of meaning in that word right there) in the near future. It may mean policies that may be considered unwelcome or damaging to the club. But its all being done with an eye to the future and the long-term stability of the club.
Had Arsenal been honest with us, the pain we endure right now may still be there (because who doesn’t want their club to win) but it may at least be softened.
Words have meanings. When we look at truthful ones, we are twinged with pain at the reality of having to face them. And words meant to assuage that are poorly delivered only work to drive the spike in our hearts deeper.
So I will close with a few choice words – I want my Arsenal back. What does that mean? Well I want the Arsenal that was dignified, glorified and heralded. Enough is enough.
Until next time – Stay Goonerish!