By Avenell Dave
Arsenal have a lot to thank George Graham for.
A playboy during his career, Graham instilled a sense of discipline and professionalism at Arsenal which helped transform the club and set them on the way to competitors at the top table of English football.
It’s ironic that someone who ruled the club with an iron fist turned a blind eye to the drinking culture that blighted Arsenal and created such mayhem with players such as Adams, Merson and Hillier all losing their way.
Of course we all yearn for the days when he drilled the defence day after day, week after week until they were the best defensive unit other than AC Milan in world football.
How we could do with some of that defensive rigidity now.
When we won the title in 1989 and in particular in 1991, Arsenal played a brand of football not far off that we play now – a midfield including Thomas, Davis and Rocastle had observers purring and we looked set for a long spell of success.
Then Graham got cautious, got rid of the flair and brought in workhorse midfielders with Ian Wright expected to carry the team’s goalscoring threat on his own, a task he dealt with admirably.
Similarly to his old Chavski mate Terry Venables, Graham looked with envy at the money being made by his players and while El Tel found other ways of bolstering his fortune, George got caught with his hand in the till and was rightly sacked.
But I recall the last couple of seasons under Graham the turgid desperate style of football we played and the panic buys of players such as Kiwomya, Helder and Hartson (who developed into a fair player it has to be said).
It was a last throw of the dice by a manager who had run out of ideas and who was on his way out.
Does he have a right, in that case, to preach about what Arsene Wenger is doing wrong and how he should change it? I don’t think so.
It’s so easy for us on the outside to say how easily things could change for the better and we as fans have a right to get frustrated at the way the season has gone.
But George? After the way he lost the plot? I don’t think so.
This morning Ivan Gazidis spoke to some journalists – I don’t know whether this had been scheduled for some time or was a reaction to how the season is going.
I’ve met Gazidis a few times and he’s very impressive, even if he has mastered the art of saying very little when answering the questions put to him.
He’s right when he says Wenger has not become a bad manager overnight. I think, in our heart of hearts, most fans know that.
But when you look at every single club in the world, they have all had backroom changes since Wenger arrived, apart from Arsenal.
The Chavs have been through a lot of managers, Liverpool and Citeh too, but even M*nure have replaced first team coaches such as Brian Kidd, Steve McLaren and Carlos Quieroz, because it keeps things fresh.
What Wenger needs now is some fresh thinking to enhance training, freshen things up and get the players on their toes again without simply going through the same routines that they have become used to.
Gazidis said that Stan Kroenke will speak when he is next in England – and that cannot come soon enough.
If we are to remain at the top table of English football, let alone European, we need more than just talk.
We need Silent Stan to come out and tell us his vision for Arsenal and vow to invest further funds in the superstars the team is currently lacking who will give the team and the fans the lift we require to push on rather than get left behind.
Shrewsbury tonight – plenty of interest in how Oxo, Ryo and Park perform but we have to be totally focused, whoever plays.
Defeat tonight would be catastrophic.