I don’t really feel much like blogging today if I’m honest with you. I mean I will, after all it’s my thing that I do when I get up in the morning and sit on a train hurtling towards London for a day of grind, but certainly the desire has been sapped out of me.
I guess I also do it because I want to reach out to people, to tell them how Arsenal make me feel – good and bad – and I want others to reach back and confirm that they too have the same feelings. Those feelings at the moment are sadness in a team declining quicker than I could have envisaged, but also sadly a manager doing the same too, and it’s not fun to watch.
Arsenal aren’t fun to watch any more. Mates have been saying that they don’t get what type of club and team we are and I know a couple who have been talking this way for a few years now. I’ve never really wanted to go down that line of questioning but sadly I find myself doing it this season.
What are we?
I don’t know. We’re not a short passing team who dominate possession and suffocate our opponents in to submission. We’re not a high press team that forces the opponents in to mistakes and naturally capitalises on them as a result. We’re not a team who can soak up pressure and lightning quick counter to catch teams off guard. We’re not a powerful team. We don’t seem to be physically more impressive than our opponents. We’re not direct enough to be a long ball team who wins knock downs.
We have no football identity at the moment. We can’t play to our strengths because we don’t know what those strengths are. We’ve chopped and changed so much that we don’t know how to beat teams ‘our way’. Wenger has always been lambasted because he never looked at opponents and only his team, but based on my untrained eyes right now I don’t even know if he’s looking at his own team right now. It’s not as if he has them on the training ground popping short passes amongst each other in five-a-side games, because if he is, you’d have to argue that they’re not paying attention. When I saw the third long ball along the line by the Ox in ten minutes to nobody, followed up by an aimless punt forward from Ramsey to where there was a red shirt nowhere to be found, it occurred to me that I don’t know what this Arsenal team stand for any more.
But that’s the same off the pitch. There is no ‘vision’ for the club. There are soundbites – the now infamous ‘as big as a Bayern Munich’ spring to mind – but that’s all they are. They are words that mean nothing. Have you ever said a word so repeatedly that it loses all meaning? That’s what I hear from Arsenal when the same rubbish is regurgitated at the AGMs. There’s nothing that can excite me at the moment. And for a football fan of any club the most numbing feeling of all is when you feel like nothing is going to change. That there is no growth or development at the club you support. It’s tedious and boring and that’s what I think about when Arsenal spring to mind.
There are some who have said that we should be thankful for what we’ve had. We’ve been spoiled. It’s the manager that has brought such high standards to the club. Fair enough. Perhaps that is the case. But if you are going to label the manager as the person who has brought such wonderful times earlier in his Arsenal career, could you not argue it is the manager again who is presiding over this backwards movement?
Of course it isn’t just him. He is a very important cog but it is others too, the boards lack of ambition, the players’ lack of mental strength, etc, etc. But he is the figurehead and sometimes you just need to mix it up a bit. When Chelski finished 10th last season they got a guy in who has a clear identity in himself and his football. He brought some of his coaching staff in and he worked with his existing players, getting them to buy in to his philosophy and eventually adapting to what we think (and hope as an alternative to Tottenham) will be a side that lifts the title. That’s in the case of one team and one summer. Why can’t we be the same? Why can’t we have a man who has a clear vision come in, bring a few of his staff with him, make a couple of additions to the team and get more out of some of the players we have with us right now?
Of course we could. But we’ve had so much of one thing for so long that we’ve become some form of institutionalised fanbase towards the current regime. We’ve been so entrenched with it over 20+ years that there are still those that can’t imagine a parting of the ways. What will be interesting is when the people who still back the manager have a new man to follow as Arsenal boss. If we get another poor set of results, will some of these people still stick behind the man, or will they turn? Because if it is the latter, then it shows that the loyalty for a once great man completely over-clouds the judgement of the here and now. Because if you’re calling for the new manager – whoever it is and whenever it eventually happens – to go after a string of bad results, then you would do the same if it wasn’t for the history of Arsène rather than the performances in the now.
That’s why so many have been institutionalised. For many they’ve grown up with Arsène. I have too. I’m 34 years old and I was 14 when he signed. I’ve only ever known three Arsenal managers (if you don’t count Stewart Houston) and so even now when I call for Arsène to go it is with a heavy heart. But that’s because I’m looking at the now and the hope for the future and under Arsène I can’t see how another two years does anything other than having us treading water. Another two years feels just like it’s another two years for the club to ignore the structural changes that are needed. It allows them to say “ahh, let’s worry about this another day” and in two years from now it feels like we’ll be in the same situation. Because the board are institutionalised too. They’ve had the same thing for so long that they don’t know how to do anything different and so are in a state of paralysis when it comes to driving the club forward and making difficult decisions. And it is a difficult decision. Pulling the trigger on a man who has delivered to much during a time of change at the club won’t be easy, but if we really want to emerge from this stasis, then it’s a necessary pain that the club has to go through.
But they have to get over their own malaise first. As for us fans, we’re powerless to do anything, which is why we feel so much more worse about our club right now. Somebody has to act for us. Something’s got to give. And it needs to give now.
Catch you tomorrow.