For all their marble halls, busts of great managers and tradition, Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal’s reputation has taken a hit.
First they pleaded poverty, and made a grown man dressed as a dinosaur redundant, as their considered response to a pandemic before club mascot Gunnersaurus was reprieved.
Then Arsenal’s power brokers joined a grubby cartel plotting to make themselves richer while three million people worldwide succumbed to a deadly plague.
And only when a “tsunami” of public outrage left the European Greed League stillborn did majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and chief executive Vinai Venkatesham apologise to manager Arteta and his players.
Kroenke’s crocodile tears cut no ice with Gunners fans, who are expected to picket Friday’s home game with Everton – with Arteta conceding the damage has been done and asking for his players to be spared in the backlash.
In an impressive showcase for his diplomatic skills, Arteta was careful not to condemn his employers but gave a free pass to the fans’ righteous anger.
“Some damage has been done, for sure,” acknowledged the Arsenal manager. “And now it’s our job to try and rebuild that trust with our supporters.
“It’s been a very challenging time and I would say it puts us on the back foot again.
“Everything we have been through, and all the territory we won, it now feels like we have gone back a bit.
“I would like everyone to understand the players were not involved in it, and they don’t have to be the ones paying the price for it. I don’t think it’s fair on them.”
Arteta was informed of Arsenal’s initial subscription to the Super League shortly before news of the coup broke and English football’s dirty half-dozen walked into a firestorm of condemnation.
Much of the ridicule was aimed towards north London, asking how Arsenal (ninth in the Premier League and 17 years without a title) and Tottenham (one trophy this century, 60 years without a title) belonged to a European elite.
Arteta said: “I didn’t have time to reflect or evaluate it. I only found out a little bit before it was leaked and then everything was out of control, the world reacted in a unified manner before a big tsunami killed it.
“You cannot deny our history, and that history is attached to results, attached to our way of doing things and certain values to represent those in the right manner.
“The level of support we have around the world is no coincidence – that has come over years and years with a lot of people’s lives married to the history of this football club.”
Arteta has accepted Kroenke and Venkatesham’s apologies at face value, saying: “I have to respect the genuine intentions to do the best for the club and then to apologise.
“Vinai and the ownership have the right intentions to put the club in the best possible position for now and the future, but they accept that it has had terrible consequences and it was a mistake.
“First of all, they are very intelligent and professional people and I’m sure they had the right reasons to start something, but clearly it wasn’t done the right way and it was time to step back.
“I think competition, and an ability to participate, has to be earned. And that has to be out on the pitch, and I always believe and I will defend that.
“The main reason why we are here is we have the uncertainty of winning and losing, and we can dream. We can dream of winning and the possibility to be in a better place and a risk of being in a worse place – that’s what keeps us alive.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (malaria), Alex Lacazette (hamstring), David Luiz and Kierant Tierney (knee injuries) will all be absent against Everton, while the Gunners will make a late check on playmaker Martin Odegaard’s fitness.
But after this week’s shenanigans, who cares?