Whatever happened to Arsenal Fan TV? Well, these days, after a copyright intervention by the club last summer, it’s called AFTV. But that doesn’t mean that Claude, Ty, Troopz et al, plus ringmaster Robbie, have gone.
They still record fans’ views in the immediate afterglow of Gunners games, and now even broadcast from what looks a comfy, modern studio. Robbie was the original and best of the fan channels, and his enterprise still does pretty well for clicks. And good luck to him for that.
But the fire has definitely been smothered a touch. The source of the rage that sent the lads viral took his leave in April. Arsenal is not Arsene Wenger’s problem any more, and for a while they were doing just fine without him.
Players like Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi looked like the kind of gems Wenger signed in his golden days, while late-period signings Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang acted in glorious tandem. Unai Emery did not have his team anywhere near the title race, but there were signs of progress and the change that Claude and Troopz had demanded for so long was proving one for the better. A run of 22 games unbeaten was hardly a revival of 2003-04’s “Invincibles” but was enjoyable nonetheless.
And nobody wants to see football fans enjoying their team winning.
What Arsenal didn’t want to do was “a Manchester United”, where a club fell apart once a long-serving manager took his leave. And much to Wenger’s bemusement and irritation they set up a safety net around him during his final year in charge. Newspapers brimmed with information about Raul Sanllehi’s arrival from FC Barcelona as head of football relations and Sven Mislintat being poached from Borussia Dortmund as head of recruitment.
One of United’s greatest problems was to lose their chief executive, David Gill, at the same time as Sir Alex Ferguson. It was Ivan Gazidis, the long-serving CEO, who gave the press conference that followed the news of Wenger’s sacking. “We have a tremendous amount of experience at the football club,” said Gazidis.
This was careful, sensible succession planning of a type diametrically opposed to the firestorm that enveloped United in the summer of 2013. And Emery was a far more experienced, worldly coach than David Moyes.
It was all going so well, and then Gazidis got the call from AC Milan to take an offer he couldn’t refuse. With owner Stan Kroenke’s son Josh taking a lead role, Sanllehi was promoted up the chain while no full replacement was found for Gazidis, and here is where the problems started.
Mislintat, miffed that he would not be bumped up to technical director, has decided to move on, with Bayern Munich his likely next employer. Edu, a much-loved veteran of “the Invincibles”, has been linked for a return in the role Mislintat coveted.
And if the backroom dream team has already come apart at the seams, then it has become clear that Emery actually inherited a squad ill-fitting for his requirements. That Emery and Mislintat disagreed over the players they could bring in during the January transfer window has also been widely reported, and in any case, it has been made clear there is no real money to spend beyond loan fees. A complete Kroenke takeover of the club in August has changed the club’s financial direction of travel.
Among Emery’s inheritance from Wenger was Mesut Ozil on a £350,000 per week contract, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, on £200,000. Aaron Ramsey, one of the club’s senior and potentially most useful players, was in the final year of his contract. And meanwhile, in his final season, Wenger had been allowed to spend over £100m on Lacazette and Aubameyang, while his defence, long his team’s Achilles heel, remained untended.
That 22-game run, stretching from late August to mid-December, gave Arsenal fans great cheer and cause for optimism, but the team’s loss of form since losing at Southampton has rendered all that a mirage. Losing 5-1 to Liverpool on December 29 was a chill wind of reality and an exhibition of the type of defending that let the club down so often in the Wenger years.
Ozil, fit to play and happy to tell anyone who reads his social media pages that, has been banished from the squad and though Emery is to be admired for refusing to bow to superstar, commercial pressures, Arsenal’s lack of a final ball when losing at West Ham last week was glaring.
It did little for the manager’s credibility and the fixture list is daunting, starting with Chelsea on Saturday, then Manchester United in the FA Cup next Friday, followed by Cardiff and then Manchester City. It could soon be time to tune back in to AFTV and revel in the rage of a club back in crisis.