Déja Vu Frank Stapleton
By Andrew Cohen
All empires come to an end
Central to the debate between AMGs (Arsène MUST at all costs and as soon as possible GO) and AKBs (Arsène knows just how to please me in bed) is a question of faith. One set has no faith and the other total faith - both of them often in spite of the evidence. So here is some evidence.
In 1982 or thereabouts, Arsenal still had two of their three great Irish players. Liam Brady had gone to get some medals, realising that Arsenal would never reach greatness under Terry Neill, especially with Liverpool dominating the league for the foreseeable future. It was a reasonable decision for the most gifted player of his generation. He had the decency to go to Juventus to further his career. We were sad but resigned to it.
Shortly thereafter, one Frank Stapleton decided to go. Frank was not, unlike Brady, a genius, but was a very good player and a very competent striker. To the fury of the fans, he chose to go to Manchester United, and was duly rewarded with some cup-winners medals. But he had shown disloyalty to the club that had picked him off the plane from Ireland and made him an international.
In addition to the pain of betrayal, there was the realisation that Arsenal would again sink into the slough of the second-rate within the top flight. And so it was, until George Graham came along, who Bertram Mee-like, threw out the fancy dans and wasters and restored our self-respect. Drilling the defence every day, the fortress became impregnable and the midfield never went to work without an orthodox destroyer in place.
David O'Leary, who had remained loyal, had his reward under Graham. George himself ran out of ideas and was dismissed by the Board under the excuse of the unauthorised-commission saga.
In came Mr Wenger. Building upon the inherited foundation of solid defence, he placed two French colossi in midfield in the form of P. Vieira and E Petit. Whatever attacking options he promulgated, the strategy of necessity contained a recognition that, in England, you have to have a solid defence and the ability to win the ball in midfield.
We won a lot of stuff and saw football that we never believed we should see our team play. We went unbeaten in a season. We went to the European Cup Final.
All empires end. There are no exceptions: Rome, the Mongols, Spain, Britain, Woolworths and, in due course, America and Tesco. Rome fell disastrously and left a legacy of great architecture and gladiator films. Spain behaved appallingly and remains residually hated to this day. Britain ran out of money, gave in - for the most part gracefully - and we all still play cricket with each other.
And so we come to Mr Wenger's empire. I had feared that, by the time he was sacked or resigned, we would be relegated to the position in which he found us in 1997: UEFA cup material. I was wrong. The departure of Robin van Persie to Manchester United shows that we are, in fact, back in 1982. That which George Graham built has been destroyed.
We do not have as much ambition as the second-best team in England. To be sure, RvP will be getting more money, but not that much more. At United he has hope. At our end we have none.
Now, it is true that my chagrin is part of a general falling out of love with football which has nothing expressly due to Mr Wenger. He loves not the Oligarchs or the Oil Sheikhs. He certainly doesn't like agents. But, you see, I would like there to be a recognition that a strong defence and a muscular midfield are essential in England. No team wins the title without it. Again, there are no exceptions. And with Arsène, who is (apparently) about to sell his only defensive midfielder to Barcelona, we are never going to have what we need to win - because he doesn't believe in it.
I wish RvP all the best, and thank him for having the guts to break the omerta that the Wenger myth depends upon. But I'm stopping all of the AKBs from adoring their pictures of the Chef D'Equipe, and, before they say so, I wish they would go there, because the club who want to play the beautiful game but can't keep a clean sheet have played in lilywhite and blue since 1961. The AKB's natural home is White Hart Lane, a club without a hope in Hades of collecting the title.
18th August 2012
User Comment and Reaction
User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.
Wombledin 8:27am 18th Aug 2012
Fantastic. Best article I've read here in months. You've summed it all up: without a muscular midfield and strong defense we have no chance in hell of winning anything. What has Wenger done to strengthen our glaring defensive and goalkeeping deficiencies this transfer window? And now Song is going. You wouldn't read about it. - Post No. 27949
Hallgeir Gisleberg 8:37am 18th Aug 2012
Arsene knows! You have got to have trust in him; we will soon win a title again. Good luck with the new campaign! Arsenal forever! - Post No. 27950
andy 8:46am 18th Aug 2012
Couldn't agree more, if song goes will we replace him? It looks like another profitable summer for the board. Us fans have been lied to agai, money keeps disapearing? there is something very rotten at our club and it starts with kronke, the mantra of profits before trophies has now taken over, its heatbreaking if I'm honest. - Post No. 27952
Andy Kelly 8:51am 18th Aug 2012
Er, where is the Frank Stapleton angle (not that the RVP situation is anything like it)? Were you actually born when Stapleton left? - Post No. 27953
gooner in mancland 9:02am 18th Aug 2012
just whats needed something to light the fires of passion in each gooners heart going into the new season. do you lot not get bored of having a go at each other telling each other to **** off down the lane? the way i see it is we have a team to support. that doesnt involve squabbling between eachother. - Post No. 27954
jj 9:03am 18th Aug 2012
I bet winning the title with Arsenal was 1000 times as sweet for O'leary than Brady's ones or a few cups for Stapleton. I disagree on Song, he's a decent player but he hasn't got the determination to win the league at Arsenal. To win he he needs to be carried by others.That's why so many have left. They want to win but don't want to do the hard work to do it with us. - Post No. 27955
John 9:19am 18th Aug 2012
If something gets on my tits it's that 'no ambition' plattitude. Nonsense, absolute total nonsense. Jumping on the cliche bandwagon of gutter press, gutter blogs and gutter radio. If you question Arsenal's ambition, you have absolutely no clue what Arsenal stands for. - Post No. 27956
HIGHAMSPARKGUNNER 9:46am 18th Aug 2012
What a rubbish article, obviously someone whom likes talking out their arse.i think your natural home should be white ****e lane I.E. full of **** and nothing to back it up. We are at the start of a new season and you spout rubbish like this, I just hope you are not going to todays game and you stay on your armchair spouting rubbish off to yourself as arsenal do not need fans like you. 'In wenger we trust' - Post No. 27958
Andrew Cohen 10:27am 18th Aug 2012
On the radio this morning, Stuart Robson was saying that if Arsenal do not sort out their defensive frailties, they cannot win, but that in conversations he had had with ex players, it was clear that AW does not believe in defensive training. I look forward to our Arsene Worshipping Bretheren telling Stuart Robson to go to N17. - Post No. 27959
The London Upstart 10:32am 18th Aug 2012
The fact you think Frank Stapleton left in 1982 and not 1981 - despite having an internet to check your facts - shows how much you know - Post No. 27960
maguiresbridge gooner 10:55am 18th Aug 2012
A solid foundation (defence)is essential with out it you have nothing and your quite right unfortunately arsene doesn't think so.I agree the george graham legacy has been destroyed can one of his old students rebuild it ? If he's allowed to i doubt it will be in a way similar to george. - Post No. 27961
AKBalltheway 10:57am 18th Aug 2012
brilliant piece .. you have done a good job at romaniticising everything pre Wenger and have indulged yourself in pointless ad hominems to get your point across. This is exactly what the club needs right now fans who foster disinity and disenchantment. Way to go Mr Cohen fauxGooner!! - Post No. 27962
Gooner87 12:16pm 18th Aug 2012
I would just like to say that a lot of the articles on here have been leaned on the more negative side. However the articles especially post Van Persie have been as well balanced as I have read. Good post and keep it up - Post No. 27963
John 12:18pm 18th Aug 2012
In Arsene We Rust.He's lost it.The players know it the fans know it.Thats why we are spoonfed by the club that a top 4 finish is a trophy.49 goals conceded Eight goals conceded in a game never in our worst nightmare would any Gooner say that would ever happen.We are light years behind the top 2.Its another season of fighting to finish 4th.But on the bright side the profits will be up - Post No. 27964
Manuel 14:02pm 18th Aug 2012
Pile of tosh. That which George Graham buillt has been destroyed? Have you seen our home ground and training facilities? all of that is down to Wenger. Keep us in the champions league whilst we have built the ground with a limited budget compared to the billionaire clubs, is a miracle. - Post No. 27967
Daryl 14:36pm 18th Aug 2012
Very good article but I disagree with a few point. RvP has had a huge pay rise by going to United. Also, I don't value Alex Song's performances as much as you and I would love to see RvP's glass bone's shatter. Sorry, but going to "them" from us is unforgivable in my opinion. - Post No. 27969
LJB 21:10pm 18th Aug 2012
Well,Daryl don't you dare moan about Arsenal players being injured by bad tackles you utter hypocrite.Good luck robin and thanks for the 30 mill CL revenue you earned for us single handedly last season.Revenue which bought Cazorla and Giroud.Without CL football RVP and Song would have been sold and their replacements.......NOONE.Everyone knows we have to make 20 mill profit each season to pay the Stadium debt and seeing as Gazidis has not brought in any sponsorship deals of note,without CL revenue,EVEN MORE players would have been sold.Roll up roll up its the Arsenal summer sale.Next summer the ox,Vermaelen and Cazorla will be sold so we can all sit in the Reebok part 2 and watch garbage.And yes Arsenal WERE Garbage today.Who is going to score the goals god only knows.Arsenal died the day the board sold out to Stan. - Post No. 27972
Roy 22:00pm 21st Aug 2012
Have never forgiven Stapleton or Anderson and nothing changes for RvP.A lot has changed in football over all that time, but that's the same in any walk of life. It's not the fact that he's gone, it's WHERE he's gone - a sign that times certainly have changed, almost out of all recognition since the early 80's.But the principle remains the same. unforgivable and let's hope those glass ankles show the strain sooner rather than later. Once a fan always a fan and we can't switch allegiance like players, and I,like most correspondents on these pages, cannot ****ing stand Manure. there,I've said it. - Post No. 28112
12th December 2013
Online Ed: Late goals hands Arsenal a tough spring assignment