Arsenal fans demand action after 3-1 humiliation by Villa
Black Scarf Movement tell Gunners chief exec their loyalty to the club is not unconditional
AN APOLOGY, a letter and a shambolic 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa. It's been an eventful 48 hours at Arsenal and life could become even more dramatic this week as the club prepares to travel to Turkey on Wednesday to play Fernebache in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier.
Lose that match and the Gunners will officially be a club in crisis just two games into the new season. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he feels the fans' pain, even issuing a rare apology after a packed Emirates looked on in disbelief as their team suffered their first home defeat on the opening day of the season for 20 years.
It wasn't just that Arsenal were outplayed for all of the first 15 minutes of the match that most riled fans, it was the fact the familiar failings were there for all to see: poor defending, sloppy goal-keeping and the lack of a defensive midfielder.
Arsenal fans gave their side the bird at the end of the nightmare 90 minutes and Wenger said later: "What hurts me is to disappoint people who love the club. I'm here to make them happy and when I do not I can only say sorry, come back and make them happy in the next game."
What would make fans happier is if the club opened their transfer kitty, reportedly in the region of £70m, and made a couple of marquee signings between now and 2 September when the transfer window closes.
Fans on Saturday chanted for the club's board to "spend, spend, spend" and Wenger subsequently told reporters he was hoping to add to his squad in the next couple of weeks.
"I'm there to buy players - if we find them we'll do it," said Wenger, whose only acquisition so far over the summer is 20-year-old striker Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer from Auxerre. "I'm not the only one working on that," said Wenger. "It's not my money, it's the money of the club and we're ready to spend it if we find the right players."
That's not enough for a growing number of Arsenal fans, however, with the Daily Mail reporting that the 4,000-strong 'Black Scarf Movement' – who describe themselves as "Arsenal's largest and fastest growing supporters' group" – have written an open letter to chief executive Ivan Gazidis in which they remind him that fans' loyalty isn't unconditional.
"Silverware isn't the be all and end all," the letter stated. "We follow this club out of pure love and will always do so. However, loyal match-going fans continue to walk away from Emirates Stadium, unwilling to part with their hard-earned cash when they feel let down and lied to by our board. We pay the highest ticket prices in football after being sold a dream, but it's always a case of 'jam tomorrow'."
Questioning the board's financial management of the club in the seven years since Arsenal moved from Highbury to the Emirates, the letter continued: "As a group we have been concerned for some time that the board running our club has lost sight of the raison d'être i.e. we are Arsenal Football Club; not a business purely focused on posting profits year after year."
The letter ends with a warning for Gazidis and his fellow board members: "If there is not significant improvement in our playing squad over the next couple of weeks, the rapidly growing anger in the stands will become difficult to overturn."
Arsenal fans have been here before, of course. This time two years ago they were thrashed 8-2 by Manchester United, a humiliation that persuaded Wenger to splash the cash. And who did he buy? Among others, Andre Santos and Park Chu-Young, two of the worst players ever to pull on an Arsenal shirt.
One of the few world-class players in this current Arsenal side, Jack Wilshere, urged fans to be patient after Saturday's defeat, telling reporters that their anger was "understandable". He added: "My message to them is to stick with us - it's a long season."
Long, and at this rate, very painful. ·