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Arsene Wenger: A Case of Denialism

Wednesday 16th March 2016
It is not the season that Arsenal fans were looking for, the chants (and banners) for #WengerOut have been going around the Emirates.

It's mid-March in 2016 and Michael's exhausted mother refuses to give up hope. Her son, still on life support, has shown no sign of life in ten years. His bed, surrounded in Arsenal scarves and posters, red balloons and club memorabilia, serving as a poetic reminder of his former life. She tells herself the flicker of eyelid movement is a sign of consciousness. The doctors inform her it's no more than a spontaneous corneal reflex.

Denialism describes irrational actions that avoid the uncomfortable truth. A wilful ignorance. For things we sense may never improve, a coping mechanism can be self-inflicted cataracts. In the midst of crisis, Arsene Wenger shares this trait with Michael's mother.

It has been argued by psychologists Diethelm and McKee that all denial shares the following characteristics:

  1. Conspiracy theories - When overwhelming evidence reaches the same conclusion, denialists shall argue that this is not the product of independent decision making, but a secret conspiracy. In January 2016, Wenger proposed that social media had given fans a worrying strength of opinion. “Today, straight away it becomes a stream of people who think the same way and they become a force.”

  2. Cherry Picking - Ignoring the wider opinion, a denialist shall cherry pick in order to challenge the consensus. In years of underwhelming transfer windows, when fans urged Wenger to open the cheque book, he would point towards Diaby, Walcott or Rosicky. Players returning from injury would be described as ‘new signings' much to the frustration of the supporters.

  3. Logical Fallacies - Logically false arguments lead to the creation of invalid conclusions. Wenger has become renowned for insisting that fault lies with the pitch, opposition style of play and the referees, before any internal deliberation.

In utilising a denial-based coping mechanism, Wenger can avoid the real root of the problem. It is an intrinsic issue that stems from the Board.

Stan Kroenke is Arsenal Football Club's majority shareholder and currently earns £3,000,000 per year in 'consultancy fees.' One can assume that this consultancy involves annual perpetuation of settling for inadequacy. Hunches aside, one stakeholder group that he continually fails to consult is the supporters.

It becomes somewhat unsurprising that he has been nicknamed ‘Silent Stan' upon reading some of his statements. His recent comments describing Arsenal as a 'brand' that require financial success over titles is perhaps his most damning yet. He is not discussing Heinz Baked Beans. He is making reference to a club with historic traditions and values. From 1886 when a group of armament factory workers decided to form a football team, to the present day, with fans paying the highest ticket prices nationally in order to follow the club. It is more than just a logo and a commodified dream.

In recent financial statements, Arsenal announced a cash reserve of close to £200m. Whilst it is understood that this outlay is not solely for player transfers, the purchase of no outfield players in the last summer transfer window was inexcusable. This feat was matched by no other club in any of Europe's top leagues.

With the boost of a lucrative commercial deal with Puma, fans had expected the recruitment strategy to adapt accordingly. But nothing has changed. Whilst fans understand the Club's commitment to comply with financial fair play regulations, there is a moribund thirst for major honours. The opportunity to make a significant advance past struggling competitors in stages of transition was there to be taken. This chance is fading fast. This is a systemic issue. Of executive origin. For real progress, Stan Kroenke must sell his share and allow Arsene Wenger the freedom from denial.

16th May 2016.

Michael's finger twitches. His elbow begins to raise. An eye opens.

The doctors take time to explain that he had been in a comatose state for the past decade. His tearful mother is overwhelmed with love for her son. Michael looks back at her. His eyes glimmer as they roll towards the framed Thierry Henry poster hanging on his bedside. The hope that his beloved club propelled beyond the invincible season and the Champions League Final defeat onto innumerable success filled his decennary slumber. Surely Mother had countless tales of triumph to share...

Denial was all that could relieve him for the next half an hour.

Sign the petition to show your discontent with Stan Kroenke's shareholding at Arsenal: https://www.change.org/p/arsenal-fc-remove-stan-kroenke-from-the-arsenal-board
Sean Gibson
Arsenal fan. All time favourite players include Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Eduardo Da Silva, Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane. Will never forget the 25th April 2004. Follow Sean on Twitter: @seangooner

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