Premier League

Au revoir, Emirates: Arsene Wenger set to bid farewell to the stadium he helped build

Sixth-placed Arsenal are already out of the running for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger will bid farewell to a stadium he helped to build in more ways than one when he leads Arsenal at the Emirates for the final time at home to Burnley on Sunday.

Wenger’s final season after 22 years in charge is destined to end in disappointment after Thursday’s Europa League semi-final exit to Atletico Madrid.

Sixth-placed Arsenal are already out of the running for a top-four finish, and could even finish below their visitors this weekend in seventh with a poor return from Wenger’s final three games in charge.

Tributes will be paid to the Frenchman at full-time on Sunday with Arsenal’s players even embarking on an end of season lap of honour.

Once again, though, it will be a parade without a trophy as it often has been since Arsenal moved to the Emirates in 2006.

The success Wenger produced in his first decade at the club, winning two doubles and ‘The Invincibles’ unbeaten season on course to another Premier League triumph in 2003/04, created the demand to move to a 60,000-capacity stadium from Highbury.

However, whilst the Emirates was intended to give Arsenal the financial resources in the long term to compete with not just England’s, but Europe’s elite, it significantly hampered Wenger’s ability to challenge in the short term.

Wenger claimed it was his commitment to remain with the club that helped to secure bank loans needed to build the stadium.

He was so tied to the move, Wenger even helped in the design of some parts of the stadium such as the dressing rooms.

‘Most difficult period’

However, once the move had taken place, Wenger was often forced to sell his best players to pay back those loans at the same time huge investment poured into Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.

“In 2006 the most difficult period of my life started. We had restricted finances, we had to pay back a huge amount of money and we had to sell our best players,” Wenger told BT Sport ahead of last season’s FA Cup final.

“That was, for me, the biggest period of pressure between 2006 and 2014. If you told me today I’d do that again I would say ‘no thank you, I’ll leave that to someone else.’”

By the time Arsenal were ready to join in the arms race in the last four years, the Gunners were playing catch up and Wenger too far stuck in his ways to enact the change that was needed.

Wenger is finally leaving the job to someone else, albeit it seems against his better judgement having admitted the timing of his departure “was not really my decision”.

He also claimed he was going to help unite a fan base that has grown increasingly frustrated at his inability to mould a team capable of contending to win the Premier League.

That has been reflected in dwindling attendances at the Emirates in recent months.

On Sunday, though, the Arsenal fans have one final chance to gather and thank the most successful ever manager in the stadium that stands for the legacy he leaves behind.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.