The Calvin Report: Tumbling Arsenal concede the moral high ground


Duplicity and subterfuge are not, one imagines, among Arsenal's corporate values. But when the need arises, they have their uses. It is tempting to read too much into the whopping white lie that "the Arsenal brand is defined by more than winning".

Tom Fox, the empty suit in the commercial department who was responsible for such crass company messaging in midweek, offered a juicy hostage to fortune by wittering on about a "large and engaged fan base around the world who want to feel proud to belong to the club".

Cut through the scented silliness of such statements and reality wriggles out. The Arsenal fans in a relatively sparse Emirates crowd were duly grateful to Santi Cazorla. TV replays exposed him as a diver, but he was their diver, who did his duty. He received a standing ovation when substituted three minutes from time. Something to boast to the grandchildren about on the day Arsène Wenger and his players made the admirable gesture of donating their wages to charity. The memory of Cazorla's dive to win a pivotal first-half penalty deserves to fester.

Wenger was honest enough to admit he badly needed a home win. He found the mental strength and resilience he sought. In such circumstances principles are optional. Arsenal may affect higher moral standards, and indeed they do admirable work in the community, but as far as football is concerned, they are scuffling around with the rest of them.

They took advantage of the gullibility of referee Mike Jones, and there was something uniquely sad about the identity of the confidence trickster. Cazorla has enriched the Premier League with his technical excellence since his arrival from Malaga, but he should be stigmatised for the dive which won a penalty, and silenced the first stirrings of impatience.

Wenger was, like most managers in such situations, compromised. He reported Carzola's claim that he had felt contact with little conviction. "These things can go for you or against you," he rationalised. "It went for us today. If I think it was a dive I will speak with Santi. It is something I do not want to see. I am proud of the victory because it is important for our season. Our backs are against the wall and we were being questioned. Sometimes with top-level sportsmen, when they have to win, they win. "

He appeared a lot less agitated than in recent weeks when, according to seasoned observers, he has been unusually sensitive to slights, real or imagined. His decision to deride what appeared to be well-sourced stories about his assistant Steve Bould becoming a more forceful figure in the dressing room hinted at subtle strains.

For a club that, according to Wenger, is in "fantastic shape" Arsenal's problems are worryingly multi-faceted. The manager attempts to project a sense of beatific calm and belief in a long-term strategy, but merely gives the impression of being on auto-pilot.

The old certainties about his popularity are gone. Arsenal's attendance figures are a perennial mystery – yesterday's was 60,083 "tickets sold" when it appeared a maximum 50,000 had turned up – and the empty seats testified to apathy and the proximity of Christmas.

There is a sense of factions forming and splitting like malign cells within the body of the club. Rumours persist of problems involving support staff. Players are thought to remain resistant to conditioning programmes, in particular. Recent failures in the transfer market have highlighted tensions between Steve Rowley, Arsenal's long-serving chief scout, and Gilles Grimandi, Wenger's increasingly influential man in Europe. Whatever the truth, the depth and quality of the squad is questionable.

The form of Wojciech Szczesny, their only credible goalkeeper, has hit a plateau. Jack Wilshere, outstanding yesterday, may be expected to be all things to all Arsenal men, but he alone cannot compensate for the lack of physicality in central midfield. Mikel Arteta rarely wasted a pass and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is maturing, yet the creative balance of the side is unconvincing.

As for strikers, Gervinho is disconcertingly random in both technique and effectiveness. Olivier Giroud is a work in progress but Marouane Chamakh is a waste of hair mousse.

One of those ubiquitous corporate banners was strung over the fourth tier above the travelling fans. It proclaimed "you can't buy class", which might have been well-intentioned but was factually incorrect and politically inconvenient.

It is available, at a premium price.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?