I gotta tell ya, I was surprised to see the volume of people who were losing their sh*t yesterday, after Leicester hung on for a narrow 1-0 victory at home to Newcastle. Not because I think Leicester are an amazing team, but mainly because that suggests that some people are of the opinion that we wouldn’t be 11 points off the lead come Tuesday morning. I mean come on folks, they were playing Newcastle at home, a Newcastle team who are quite hopeless. With or without a new manager. So why is this a big shock?
Sure, Leicester haven’t been playing great over the last few games, but that’s always going to happen. The important thing is that they keep grinding out those results and when a defeat does come their way – which I think there will – they have a buffer of points that won’t cause them too many problems.
We’re now into the realms of improbability in terms of our title attempt, something which I accepted post the Swansea game and unfortunately, nothing has changed. Leicester have lost three games all season and given their form I think it unlikely they’ll lose another three. Perhaps one of two, maybe a few draws, but that’s probably it. Which essentially means that we have to win almost all of our games between now and the end of the season.
Interlude: you’ll notice I haven’t talked about Barcelona tomorrow night. Apologies, but I just can’t bring myself to it right now. It must be a 99.5% certainty that we’re crashing out of European competition, so why bother? I’ll do a match preview tomorrow, but it won’t be filled with much hope, I’m sorry to say.
The chances are that we won’t win our remaining games. We simply haven’t had the same ruthless efficiency of results in the league that Leicester have shown. When we’ve been poor, we’ve been punished, but that’s not because we’ve been unlucky. It’s because we’re predictable to set up against. But also we never control games and look shaky defensively. There simply isn’t enough belief in the team that they can turn matches around, something depressingly familiar on show on Sunday, against a hard-working but limited Watford team.
So what we’re faced with now is a slowly ticking time bomb. It’s ticking because Arsenal will surely – given the horrendous form – drop more points somewhere. If it happens at Everton, it will be well and truly game over, but if by some chance we do win then the bomb will simply not go off until the next game. We’re lurching from one terrifying and terrible performance to the next knowing that the coffin has been closed on our season and all we’re waiting on now is the final hammer to come down and the melancholy music to begin playing. Then when that happens, all eyes will turn to Arsène and there won’t be many Arsenal fans left not saying “now? Is now the time to do it? To accept your failings and walk away?”
When the inevitable does happen, when that final nail does slice into the pine box on our season, I don’t know how the manager can remain at the helm of the club. One of his fundamental counter-arguments to our inability to compete for the league right to the death has been the financial doping we’ve been up against. But this season we have been up against two teams who are not run by oil cash, who are not traditional title challengers and who have managed to sustain form enough with the squads they have that they look far more worthy at this point. The whole foundations of our troubled last ten years (I’m speaking specifically about challenging for the league here) will have been shaken to its core. There will be no more hiding places. No more ‘yeah but’s to counter. No more excuses and surely no more people who believe that we have been fighting an impossible battle in the pursuit of league success, because we cannot compete with the cash of teams with rich owners. There is a blueprint for success against the big bucks clubs. Unfortunately, Arsène is incapable of delivering that success, which is very sad.
It’s sad because he won’t go out with a bang like Ferguson. His time will simply end with people saying “what a great manager he was, but phew, aren’t we all glad that’s over?”. You have no idea how much I wanted us to do it this season. Do it for the old dog. Because I love that old dog. He’s given me as an Arsenal fan so many good seasons. Even last season and the season before. Sure, the league form wasn’t great, but I was still able to see us win back-to-back FA Cups at Wembley. It was a great feeling. But it came and went quickly and I wanted him to show that there’s life in the old dog yet. That people who make sweeping statements about how “Arsène will never win the league again”. There have been people saying that for three or four years and I’ve always thought “never is a long time”. But it’s like Colin Montgomery in golf. He never one a major and after a while, it became clear he never would. Because he didn’t have the tools in his game to do it. Mentally I mean. I think Arsène is the same. I just don’t think he has the tools to do it. I’m not talking about players (although signing some last summer might have helped), but about his approach to modern day football, because I just don’t think he knows how to do it. And perhaps, as horrific as this is, those people with their sweeping statements three or four years ago were right. Perhaps he hasn’t had the ability to do it for a few years now.
I’d like to end with a “yes, but, if he does win the league it will be an amazing achievement”, but I ask you this; do really believe that’s possible? Search your inner feelings. Think about it. Long and hard. Then ask yourself that question again. I don’t think any Arsenal fan truly believes in their heart-of-hearts that this title can be claimed.
We’re waiting on a miracle. Everyone gets one and I think we used up ours as a club in 89. What about you?
We fans should desperately get rid of Wenger and Kroenke, enough is enough.
Really interesting post today – thank you. I’ve sort of thrown myself into reading different opinions about Arsenal since that Watford game. I’ve found it really hard to get out of my mind.
I still hope we can win the league but as you say, in my heart of hearts, can’t envisage it happening – we just seem to jaded now, I also feel as thought the relationship between Arsene and the fans is becoming equally frayed…I just don’t think he really cares what we think as long as the people who pay his wages are content with his performance. To be fair, why would he?
That there are still fans who support him unwaveringly is a testament to what the man has done. Two back to back FA cups is not to be sniffed at, particularly if you add fourth and third place league finishes to that list of achievements.
I’m also of the mind that he should go but if I’m frank, I just don’t see it. If you take what I’ve written above plus the fact all the cash rich clubs have faltered this year in what’s being described by pundits as a ‘crazy season’, he will always have something to hide behind. He’ll talk about spending money not guaranteeing success (and he would be right, looking at City, Chelsea and Man U – never mind the fact that it looks like all three will be changing managers in the summer). He will talk about injuries (and let’s face it, he has a point – we’ve lost players like Santi, Coq,Sanchez, Cech and Theo for long chunks of the season – not to mention serial sicknotes like Jack, Tomas and sadly, Arteta has also joined that list).
Like you, I think the pattern of failure, the types of lapses, the recurring mistakes, the general malaise and disillusionment across the playing staff suggests it is time to go. I genuinely believe another manager with some fresh ideas can really lift this team to new heights – I don’t think there as many bad players in that squad as the people who seem to subjectively call out week in, week out suggest.
However, I just don’t see there being a change this summer. Whatever the outcome.
Thanks again for writing your blog everyday – I read lots of blogs but this is the only one I comment on.
I think the relationship between Arsène and the fans is on the verge of breaking, to be honest mate. But I will always respect his legacy. You’d be a fool not too.
Remember not so long ago when Peter Hill-Wood said about Stan Kroenke something to the effect that ‘We don’t need his kind here.’ Sadly, we could be lumbered with him for years as he has no interest in the club apart from being a cash cow where he can syphon off money like he did a short while ago. As for Usmanov, do we want his kind of dubious rubles?
However the season pans out, I suppose we will get all the usual links with players to increase our likelihood of season ticket renewal and people will shell out like they always do on new kits. More fool them.
I was so ashamed and annoyed at the recent feeble performance at Old Trafford that I purposely boycotted the Swansea game fortunately which was first home game I’d missed this season.
Can anyone answer me this? What is Arsene Wenger on about when he says things like ‘We played with the handbrake on?’
I hope Leicester go on to win the title now: good luck to them, they deserve it
They do deserve it. I’ll back Leicester, but only after the game at the weekend when the end is nigh in terms of the title.