Some years ago, my two sons and I went to Wembley Stadium to be entertained and ultimately engrossed by events on the pitch. EE that day meant receiving messages from music, not football as we were at a Coldplay concert.
The most memorable moment of the evening came when the lighting rigs bathed the whole audience in a yellow tint as Christopher, Anthony, John and Martin – who form the group – sang:
“Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow”
This left us all with feelings of happiness and optimism for the future – like that summer which will always follow winter, no matter how cold and harsh things might appear at the time.
Arsene Wenger might have been feeling similarly wistful before the League Cup Final at the same Wembley Stadium on Sunday. He once looked out on stars such as Vieira, Petit, Wright, Bergkamp and Henry and knew that they would shine for him and all Arsenal fans in everything they did; everywhere they played.
Arsene’s memories of long, happy days, bathed in the sunshine of football success, seem to have denied the very real march of long shadows that shroud so many of the pitches on which his teams try to recreate that magic. Arsene still believes that summer can come again but, really, these are days of autumn. Johnny Halliday has sadly gone forever; rock and roll has been replaced by a dressing room that sits somewhere between a rock and a hard place.
Yellow can also be the colour of cowardice – even deceit – and recent years have shown this to be a cancer at the Emirates which Arsene has failed to cut out, preferring a nice new cardigan to hide everything inside instead. Spending large amounts of money to buy success from ‘proven’ players was never the Arsenal way (remember Martin Keown being summarily exported by George Graham for seeking a pay rise?) and Arsene has probably never been able to quite compromise his own coaching ideals to accommodate them in each side he has tried to build.
FA Cup successes are remembered less than the battering they have received from the likes of Bayern Munich and Stoke City. Aaron Ramsey may once have been a Wembley hero, but wandering aimlessly around the pitch against a Manchester City team – who fear the wrath of a Pep Guardiola rant far more than Arsenal players do a stiff lecture from Arsene – was far from heroic.
Arsene even went back to his boyhood roots and crossed the border into Germany (as he often did during his coming-of-age affair with Moenchengladbach) to try and find some answers to his sides’ lack of backbone. Unfortunately, he found only Shkodran Mustafi, who had his back to Sergio Aguero, and watched nicely as the most dangerous striker on the pitch dispatched a long ball into the Arsenal net … again.
To give him his due, Shkodran did shout a lot, as did Arsene, but few could hear him above Gary Neville’s disgraceful rant about footballers being disgraceful.
Arsene stayed on in Germany to see if Borussia Dortmund – being similarly historically bound to only ever come second best – could offer up any clues. There he found that the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ was missing thousands of bricks as fans protested against Monday kick-off times which have been ordered by the TV companies that run the global game. One banner at their match against Augsburg summed up the feeling of loyal fans who have had enough of being sold out: “For fairer kick-off times for fans – no to Monday games.”
News reaches us that Arsenal fans have taken this protest movement a step further with the ‘Play fair – no to any more Arsenal games that we have to pay to endure’ movement. This is a bit long-winded for social media so a new shorthand has reduced it to ‘#Cowarsdice.’
Pep wears his yellow ribbon in support of those who have been imprisoned. Perhaps Arsenal’s players should also wear them under their bellies and show solidarity with a nod to the past. We could maybe call it ‘onturfmeant without trial.’
Arsene was once so tuned-in to a future which has become the past. He too may be seeking release as he hums along to each new Dawn:
“It’s been twenty-one long years, do you still want me?”