As I watched the conclusion of The Masters yesterday, I took some comfort in the fact that as it turns out, it’s not just Arsenal that choke under pressure in sport. Jordan Spieth, world number two and man who has controlled the entire competition, had a complete meltdown whilst cruising in front and allowed Britain Danny Willett to claim the Green Jacket.
It should. As an Arsenal fan you’ll be painfully aware of that kind of scenario, not just this weekend, but in the last eight to 10 years. I wonder if Spieth has a soft spot for The Arsenal?
I have to talk about golf you see, because as I explained to my father yesterday as we went out for a bike ride, I was on media lock down when it came to football. Just the Sunday morning blog of my own thoughts, then a quick check in on the football at around 6pm to confirm that both Leicester and the Spuds had dispatched their opposition, then that was it for me. Of course both teams did. Because they are both exhibiting the hallmarks of two teams who are going for the title: consistency.
Arsenal know nothing of consistency this season. I’m not sure if you’re the same as me, but if Arsenal lose of play particularly poorly, that’s Match of the Day pretty much off limits for me. I like seeing the goals from other teams, but if Arsenal have…well, been Arsenal…the I simply don’t want to know. I’d rather distract myself by doing other things. Yesterday was a family bike ride, roast dinner and The Masters, which worked a treat.
This season is probably the least I’ve watched the BBC programme to be honest with you. Sometimes even when we were winning earlier in the season I didn’t always watch. Because it’s hardly been entertaining, has it? The football has been pretty average, which I guess has been reflected in some of the performances. I bet if I thought back, I could find at least two games each month from August to now, in which Arsenal have looked pretty average. That’s a sad reflection on our season and when the final ball is kicked in May, I can’t say I’ll look back on 2015/16 with many happy memories.
It’s weird though, because if you take the season in isolation, we’ve definitely had worse. Remember when we couldn’t win at home at The Emirates when we first moved in? I seem to recall there was a load of draws and it was pretty poor. Or the 2010/11 season, in which we finished on 68 points, fourth, got 11 draws and eight defeats, never even coming close to winning the league. That team in comparison was nowhere near as good as this Arsenal team is supposed to be. Certainly from a squad perspective. I certainly don’t think it was as good. Yet I feel more battered by this season than I recall feeling back then. Why?
Is it expectation? Is it because this collective of players had broken the trophy barrier, which many of us including myself, thought was the last psychological barrier to overcome? Obviously not, because from a league perspective the players have nowhere near delivered the consistency they should have. But I had hope that it was. Moneychester City followed up their first FA Cup win with a Premier League title. Pundits and ‘experts’ alike spoke about how that cup win instilled the belief in the City players that they could win the league. Well, we won the cup two years running, yet find ourselves in a very familiar place with very familiar failings from when we hadn’t won the cup.
So what is it? Is it the manager? I have to assume, given that he is the constant at the club, that he is one of – if not the – correlating factor between the same mistakes that are being made. What hurts more is that I’m seeing situations which back up that argument more and more and quite frankly, I don’t like it. The way he was out-thought at the weekend depressed me. It depresses me because this great man who I hoped would stay at Arsenal forever ten years ago, has become a flawed character who doesn’t seem to have all the answers, not to the questions that need answering anyway. It’s like when you realise your dad doesn’t know everything and isn’t the fountain of knowledge for all. It can be a crushing revelation. That’s what this season has done to me when it comes to Arsène.
In previous seasons I’ve cocooned myself around the excuses like lack of money, competition against financially doped clubs, injuries, etc. But the last of those excuses has been wiped away this season and all that is left is Arsène. Out there on his own, looking more flawed than ever, which is heartbreaking for somebody who has done so much for us as Arsenal fans.
But it is now time for change. Few disagree that I talk to and the ones that do disagree, deep down must be suppressing their own internal strife, because surely nobody can say that this season has been a success. Ignore who the eventual Premier League winners will probably be, just look at Arsenal’s performances. West Ham at home, Norwich away, West Brom away, United away, West Ham away, Swansea at home. The list feels endless. This keeps happening and the only way to change that has to be to change something at the club. We’ve already overhauled the playing staff in the last four years. We’ve already changed the infrastructure of the backroon staff. There’s only one constant that is left. Sadly, we need to change that, to see if it was the real reason after all.
I’m sorry for all the negativity on a Monday, but all I can do is tell you what I’m thinking about at the moment, which is this. I don’t want to think this, but it’s all I’ve got.