Yesterday afternoon Arsène spoke about how everyone at the club is devastated that Danny Welbeck has picked up this second injury. You’d expect him to say something like that and as I lamented yesterday, I too won’t dwell on what has been a terrible injury at a time in which his importance to the team was obvious of late. The suggestion that anybody was to blame was also dismissed by Arsène, rightly so, because we could all see it was an impact injury on his knee. Bad luck strikes us again I’m afraid.
But I don’t want to dwell on that, I want to move forward and talk about something else, which surprised me yesterday. There was no player update from Arsène. I’ve had a look on the site and couldn’t see anything, so I do wonder if even Arsène just wants this season to ‘do one’, because as I’ve been saying for a few weeks I’m ready for it to be over now.
When I saw that there was no update I did have a chuckle to myself at the thought of Arsène going full ‘Arry Redknapp and saying:
Shall we bovva? I dan’t fink we should, ya know? I mean, most of der boys are fit, so can’t you just stick that on the site? I fancy a baguette for lunch.
Or something like that. Or maybe he just said “every bodies fit” as he walked out of the studio and the video team at Arsenal just looked at each other and said “well there’s little we can do with that. Let’s clock off early and go and have a baguette”.
I imagine there are plenty of baguettes at London Colney. Not just because of the French connection, but also because they’re nice. A warm French baguette with bacon and ketchup? Yes please, sir.
Anyway, I’m sure there’ll be a presser today and I’m sure Arsène will say that Sunday is an important game, that we want to win to see if we can catch the Spuds (we can’t), that the team wants to win to give the supporters something to be happy about (some won’t), but I wonder if this will be an opportunity for journos to get Arsène to reflect on this season and to give some thoughts to see how he thinks it has gone. At that point I’d love to get a lie detector hooked up to Arsène to monitor his stress levels, because if we could, I bet we’d quickly find that what he says in front of the press is not what he actually thinks.
For example, I suspect he would say that we have finished third and that is the same as last season, where as other ‘big clubs’ have had poorer seasons in comparison. I think he will say that we have been unfortunate with injuries and that has had a detrimental effect on the title bid. He will also say that the team has fought together, shown mental strength and solidarity to get the consistent position of top four.
But I wonder if he believes all of his own spin? Does he really believe, for example, that all of his players have performed to their maximum? I’m not so sure. The proof of that pudding will be in the outgoing and incomings in the summer. We’ve all already speculated that Theo will probably be on his way, so despite talking about the mentality of all of his players, his actions in the transfer market belie what he actually thinks.
There’s also the injury side. Why does it keep happening? And why are our injuries always long-term ones? Surely he doesn’t believe that over the last five or six years we’ve just been unlucky every season? There’s a time in which it stops being coincidence and if we’re thinking it, surely the manager must be, no? I’m not specifically talking about the Welbeck injury of course. Does Arsène Wenger just buy players who are – in old Championship Manager speak – rated 20 for injury proneness? Obviously not, because players like Özil and Welbeck were playing all of the time before they signed for Arsenal. The injury conundrum is the hardest to call because there are so many variables that lead to injury. But surely what Arsène says to the press will be different to what he thinks to himself.
Finally, does he truly believe that this season has been a success, given the crazy nature of it, with all of the traditionally big teams falling away? Does he truly believe that what we have done has been good to stay up there when others have failed? Or does he look at games like Norwich away, West Brom away, Swansea at home or United away, as examples of how the team doesn’t seem to be mentally capable of making the step needed to become champions? He looks at data. He knows that this all feels too familiar, so surely he must have had the same thoughts we have i.e. This keeps happening with different players, so what can be changed?
I hope he is asking himself a lot of questions. I had a lot of faith that he had built a squad this season to challenge for the title. But that faith has been eroded with some insipid performances and the dull familiarity of the position the team finds themselves in come the last game of the season. If he is asking the right questions, and if he does have the right answers, then maybe we can learn to worship him again. But right now that feels a long way off.
Catch you tomorrow.