Olympiacos defeat may not matter but Fox has got it all wrong

By Avenell Dave

Interesting comments by Tom Fox, commercial director at Arsenal this morning underline some of what is wrong at Arsenal.

Last night's defeat against Olympiacos didn't matter and I don't think there were many fans who really careed whether we won or not.

Of course, finishing top would have been nice and had we done it with a crop of fresh and bright young players, it would have prompted media praise about the new era, Wenger's Winners, if you will.

We saw that a few years ago with a crop of youngsters that didn't go on to impress apart from maybe one or two. Most are playing Championship football now or lower and the false dawn was sad but not entirely unexpected.

The fact is that few players last night would be automatic first choice starters.

Andrey Arshavin looks disinterested and should be on his way and will be Maraoune Chamakh whose passing was as woeful as his contribution.

Only Wojciech Szczesny, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Thomas Vermaelen should be anywhere near the first team.

I've been a staunch defender of Gervinho in the past but even I am coming round to the fact that he is simply not good enough.

The flashes of brilliance are too few and far between and his speed of thought simply not fast enough for the top level of the game.

There were some who were quick to jump on the "we hate Aaron Ramsey" bandwagon last night and I find that very frustrating.

Only two years ago he was a symbol of our ability to have quality players hacked down by knuckledraggers and now he's seen as typifying players who simply cannot make the grade.

I'm not for one minute suggesting every time he plays he is world class, but the criticism he receives is way in excess of that the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have to endure.

Ramsey is a fine player and when his confidence is back, I think he will be superb for us. Even when he plays poorly, he does lots of good work in a game and to always find ways to blame him just smacks of seeking a scapegoat.

The Ox has been poor all season and, while he too needs to adjust to this level (with inexperience and youth over youth and injury being the mitigating circumstances) he gets none of the grief. 

We should defend our players whenever we can rather than seek to find ways to lambast and abuse them.

But while last night's defeat really doesn't matter, because we could face a tricky tie whether we finished first or second, winning is all that being a sports club should be about.

It's easy to forget - and most of the younger Arsenal fans who only remember the Wenger era are proof of this - that Arsenal are not residiually trophy winners.

We have traditionally gone years without winning the title or a cup, just as Liverpool now have gone 21 years and M*nure went 26 years before RedNose won it in the early 90s.

But we have been spoilt and with a new stadium and the culture of world class players in our ranks, we expect to be competitive.

That's why every January and August become months of such despondency as we wait for the signings not only to replace those who leave but to make us stronger and with more strength in depth.

For Tom Fox to say that Arsenal is not all about winning is a major PR error.

Of course, we all understand that the club is focused on building its brand, on attracting new fans and new revenues to help make the team more competitive.

But the fans who pay to support the club or claim allegiance don't want to do it just because we are plucky losers or because we play the best football - which we don't even do anymore.

We want to see the team win or at least compete in finals and at the top of the table, not simply accept a position as a decent also-ran.

We have no divine right to win trophies but we need to compete.

That in turn, brings more fans, higher sponsorship deals (and the incentive add-ons).

America is used to a winning culture where first is the top and second is nowhere.

Tom Fox is doing a superb job working with the board on generating more sponsorship and marketing deals for the club.

But if he thinks second place or anything apart from winning trophies is what drives, the fans, the manager or even any of the players worth their salt, he has got the culture of sport, let alone football, completely wrong.