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?