Arsène will have his pre match press conference today and whilst I’d love to start my speculation about who is available, how Swansea will play and what it will mean if we can get back in to winning ways, I am still somewhat resigned and downbeat after the defeat at United.
It has hit me pretty bad to be honest, not because of the fact we lost in itself, but by the manner of the defeat and what I think it could mean for us as the season plays out. We’ve lost football games before, we’ll lose them again, but Sunday lunchtime felt like it was a team with no direction. With no ideas and devoid of the right level of motivation and, possibly not for the first time in the last few years, I question whether Arsène really has it in him any more. To do the neccessary and win the league, I mean, because he’s shown that we have the ability to maintain Champions League status, to win silverware and to give us great days out (albeit sporadically and feeling in quite short supply at the moment), but I am fully questioning whether he can motivate, cajole, drive and push his squad on a consistent enough basis for an entire season. I don’t believe he can and I’m not sure that we really have any major hope of capturing the league at all this season. This may sound defeatist and I’m sorry about that, but by this time next week I have a feeling you might have the same perspective as me.
It makes me sad, because the legacy that Arsène has built is a great one, anybody who argues against this is too invested in their own emotional hatred of a man. An irrational hatred which stems from a stubbornness that you have to have one set of beliefs and not change or deviate from that (i.e. ‘Wenger Out’) regardless of what happens with Arsenal. Those are the people who say they’d rather we finished 10th in the league so it would end his reign. They scorn at supporters of the manager and accuse them of calling the club ‘Arsène FC’, when the irony is that when you want your team to perform badly as an Arsenal fan, then you’re ‘anti-Arsenal FC’.
But I digress.
I want to talk to you about how I’m feeling about Arsène and his legacy. It’s a legacy that will always remain in my eyes. Whatever happens he has still won us a glut of trophies and when the empire finally collapses, I will take from it the good times rather than the bad.
But it does feel like the empire is crumbling.
I watched a programme last week which was about Buckingham Palace. It spoke of its grandeur, of its status as a symbol of hope and the gravitas of the British Empire during its glory years. It painted a wonderful picture of an iconic building that had a legacy. But towards the end of the programme, the reality of running the palace started to set in. Behind all the splendour stood an old building that is falling apart. It needs repairs. Expensive repairs that need funding. But the programme makers intimated that it wasn’t really something the Queen wanted to action at the present time. She’s in her eighties, she doesn’t want to have to undertake or oversee the renovation on the scale that the palace needs. The feeling is that Charles will probably move to Clarence House when he becomes king, opening it up to the public to pay for the renovations.
What’s the point of this analogy? It feels like Arsène’s time at the club, in a way, to me. A once proud career and legacy, successful and a beacon of hope for trophies and glory, now looks like its crumbling a bit. The wallpaper is curling at the edges and the gold leaf patterned effect woodwork is all peeling and looking a little bit ropey. The person in charge doesn’t quite seem to have the appetite to make the changes needed though, which means that the legacy will be like this until the change finally does come.
That’s the saddness I feel. That the empire is crumbling. Sure, I have my fond memories and I’ll always keep them positive, but to see the guy suffering, not having any new ideas, or stumbling upon ideas rather than adapting his style and approach to deliver success, leaves me heavy of heart. But perhaps it is time for something new. Some fresh ideas from somebody who has the drive and desire to experiment? It’s not something I want to properly think about until the end of the season, but the capitulation on Sunday has brought that thinking to the forefront of my mind.
I’m actually dreading the NLD you know. Dreading it because I fear that Arsène will once again be let down by the players, but that will not tell the full story, because he is the one that has to prepare the players. He is the one responsible for motivating and putting them in a position where they are mentally as well as physically prepared. But I ask you this: do you truly believe Arsène can do that this Sunday?
Once I would have been sure. That’s not so any more.
Back tomorrow with a match preview.