Arsenal Guilty Of Addiction To Conservatism

A brief electric spark of the divine, however momentary, outshines the 40 watt light bulb of 'doing alright' for years. Our Johnny's take on Arsenal and Arsene...

Last Updated: 24/03/14 at 09:32 Post Comment

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It has always seemed to me, before I could even put a label on it, that life is largely divided between conservatives and risk-takers. Conservatives are reluctant to, or are afraid or suspicious of, change. They tend to like the status quo and feel as if it benefits them. They are cautious and take few chances in life.

Risk-takers derive their life-blood from damn well doing things. They're interested in the new and the different. Whether their decisions turn out for the best or the worst, they'd rather take that gamble, feeling that to live on the edge is to be truly alive.

We've all probably got a little bit of both sides in us, with one side or the other, more dominant.

A regular mantra uttered by football's conservatives is 'be careful what you wish for.' This is usually said in relation to changing a manager who has had a long tenure and this is certainly what Arsene Wenger's supporters have been telling everyone this weekend. Don't get rid of him because someone worse might take his place has now become absolutely the only reason not to bring his reign to a close.

Of course this is totally true - someone worse might replace him - and there are plenty of examples of this being exactly the case. No-one is saying change always makes things better, it doesn't. But it can and trying it is really exciting.

The Arsenal way is to be scared of change. They're addicted to conservatism and to being steady and have clutched this notion to their bosom so tightly that they believe in it as an almost moral crusade with which to berate the rest of us.

In modern football that is nonsense. This is not some sort of sensible business environment any more - it's a mad house. None of the rules of normal business apply, and your rivals are run by wealthy lunatics. By trying to hold out against the prevailing times you might think you're being responsible but really all you're doing is sitting in the kitchen at a party, cutting the crusts off the sandwiches, awkwardly fingering the collar of your stiff new shirt, whilst everyone else is upstairs naked in the bedrooms.

If endless almostness is what turns you on you must love Arsenal. A new manager might sink them to mid-table. They might. But they might not. They might transform the side into a title winning side. Dare you take that risk though?

It is now almost without doubt that Wenger can't do this. Indeed, he has had to redefine what success is to align it with what he's done in order to appear not to be a failure. The Arsenal conservatives see Champions League qualification as success. They see the type of football played as success. They see paying for a new stadium as success. They probably see playing in red and on grass a success too. No change needed. Keep on with the almostness.

It's classic head-in-the-sand conservatism but come on, not letting go of nursey through the fear of something worse is such a tedious and limp way to live isn't it? Nothing good ever comes from fear of the new or fear of change. 'It's better to burn out than it is to rust' has become a rock n roll cliché but the spirit intrinsic in Neil Young's paean to living life with passion is really what we're talking about when it comes to Wenger's tenure.

Fleeting, golden moments of glory keep you warm on the long dark nights of the soul in a way that doing quite well for decades simply doesn't. A brief electric spark of the divine, however momentary, outshines the 40 watt light bulb of 'doing alright' for years.

The truly woeful thing about Arsenal's position is that they're forever on the edge of success and this is a unique position. Most clubs are not within sniffing distance of victory. Arsenal are but continue to be too conservative to grasp the glory. Paralysed by fear they'd rather continue to redefine whatever they do as worthy instead of reaching for the prize.

While Arsenal are busy feeling warm and fuzzy about how they are not part of the hysterical chopping and changing culture of modern management, European football has overtaken them and beaten them and and they've all done it by specifically not having a manager for nearly two decades, especially not a manager that won seven trophies in the first 500 games and none in the second 500. Is that not proof enough that the Arsenal way is not the right way? They are not all wrong and Arsenal right. The truth is obvious.

Ironically Wenger is paid as though he is one of world football's elite managers - which he clearly isn't. That might be said to be the most irresponsible decision of all but of course as usual, Arsenal have dressed this lavish expenditure up as though it is itself a sort of victory. But then conservatives do tend to over-reward predictability and under-appreciate the maverick.

The point is you trade years and years of heartache for a moment of glory. That's what football is really about at this level. It is that Marco Tardelli screaming to the skies, arms aloft moment when the dull hum of monotony briefly gives way to the howl of something more orgasmic. Arsenal seem happier to put on their slippers and have some cocoa.

If you never fall in love you'll never have your heart broken but what kind of life is it to live which pulls back on the big stuff for fear of both the heartache and the glory it can bring.

After this weekend's latest appalling performance the Arsenal choice is simple : Keep Wenger or don't keep Wenger. Clearly, only one option offers the potential of glory. Both offer the potential for failure.

A conservative wouldn't take the chance. A risk-taker would relish it. Which side are you on?

Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here:

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