Arsene at the AGM

By on October 25, 2009

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The most glaring difference between this and the last AGM is not the shareholders’ attitude. It is Arsene. His demeanor was completely different this time around, and with good reason. Though that reason may not be down to results entirely.

Arsene Wenger StatueOf course, we still get Arsene’s standard lines about “belief,” the “real spirit in the team,” etc…. But this time around he seems to genuinely mean it. I can’t remember an Arsenal side in all the 12 years I’ve been watching them have as much inner turmoil as last year’s side. It all began with the departures of Flamini and Hleb but subsequent rows between Gallas and Toure and between Adebayor and the supporters. Something obviously wasn’t right, no matter how many times Arsene talked about “spirit” in his post-match interviews and pre-match press conferences.

And he has said that last year was the most stressful of his tenure. It was also the season of least returns as far as his workload was concerned. He worked harder than he had in most seasons but only received more grief and stress as a result. After the way he was treated by a small faction of supporters and the media, it should not have been surprising had he made the pact with el diablo, Real Madrid.

But Arsene’s supreme confidence in this team won out. And he has been rewarded with a very good start to the season and a new outlook from many fans who were highly disgruntled last season at this time. In contrast, Rafa Benitez finds himself in the same position as Arsene last year, having lost 4 of his first 9 league matches. And the pressure is on him now.

Especially considering that Arsenal retained their Champions League place due to a big turnaround on our part and a collapse by the unprovenArsene Wenger in the crowd Villa. Benitez and his Champions League place, however, are being chased by Money City and a revitalized Spurs side and they won’t let Liverpool off as easy as Villa did Arsenal last season.

But Arsene has stuck through another rough patch and the team, despite the pundits insisting that Arsenal are not a contender, is ready to put in a serious challenge for the league and the Champions League. Last season was a bitter experience for all of us but it was like an unnecessary growing pain necessitated by half our midfield deciding to leave for “big clubs.” A setback like that in a team’s development could only take some time to overcome. It was a hiccup, a speed bump, on the road to the complete realization of Arsenal’s third side. And that is what we are watching now.

Arsenal face off against a West Ham side that is winless in their last six Premier League matches with 4 losses and 2 draws. Gianfranco Zola is under pressure considering his side have only 5 points from their first 8 matches and currently sit in the middle relegation spot between Portsmouth and Hull City. Fabianksi, Eduardo, and Senderos are available but Tomas Rosicky’s knee did not come through in time to get in the squad. Bendtner was awaiting a late fitness test yesterday and seems likely to at least be included in the squad. Come on you Gunners!

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