I didn’t go to the game yesterday, on account of other prior arrangements and if I’m honest, there was part of me that was quite glad about that fact. Glad because whenever I go along to The Arsenal I do get a lot more emotionally invested than when I stay away from football and so in the immediate aftermath of Europa League being confirmed for next season, the manager’s comments and the chants for Kroenke to go, I wasn’t feeling nearly as wound up with it all if I’d have been at the game myself.
I haven’t even bothered to watch the highlights yet. I could have done when I got home last night but, well, it all just felt a bit futile so I just went to bed.
So I have only heard of Koscielny’s red card, of Gabriel’s injury, of Holding’s penalty concession, of Bellerin and Alexis’ goals, although I have seen Ramsey’s superb curling effort in injury time to secure the points. I’ve also seen some of the match stats and if you take the game in isolation without any context of the season at all, you see an Arsenal team who showed nerve, grit and determination to win a game whilst spending most of it with a one man disadvantage. That in isolation deserves some praise for the players. By the sounds of it most of them deserve a thumbs up for this game.
Of course the one player who doesn’t get said ‘thumbs up’ is the guy who has effectively been our captain this season. The guy who has been one of our most reliable performers and probably one of the guys that if you’d have said beforehand that one player is going to have a moment of madness, it wouldn’t have been him. I’ve seen stills of Koscielny’s ‘challenge’ and I have no idea what he was thinking or doing. On the eve of a cup final to be so reckless is beyond any comprehension I have. The fact that Gabriel is also likely to miss out on the cup final through injury just compounds Kos’ stupidity and we’ve gone from a position of thinking ‘we’ve got some form here lads, for the cup final, too’ to ‘bloody hell lads, what are we going to do about the back three now?’.
Koscielny has probably made our ability to win the FA Cup 10% harder.
And that is what is annoying me more this morning than anything else. Not missing out on the Champions League. Not Arsène’s frankly ludicrous comments about his future and the atmosphere this season. Not that Stan Kroenke is sucking the life out of our club and there’s nothing we can do about it. Nope, my main source of vexation today is Koscielny’s stupidity.
I knew we wouldn’t get Champions League. I’ve been saying it for weeks. These last five or six games in which we’ve won most have been nothing more than confidence building for the final. That’s the best we’ve been hoping for and we’ve got just that. The team are playing more like a cohesive unit and at least we’ll go in to the cup final week ahead knowing that collectively their heads are up a little bit. So for me the issue of Champions League is not as big as others make out. We rarely get in to a position of belief in which we win it, we don’t really attract the top players as a result of our continued competition in it, and there is enough money swilling around the Premier League trough that it doesn’t have as much impact on the club’s need to balance the books as it once did. In fact, going in to a season with a competition in which we’re one of the favourites might actually have a refreshing feel to it.
Don’t get me wrong though, as I’ve said before, we should be using it as nothing more than an opportunity to play the squad players and keep the first team fresh for the league games next season.
As for who will take charge, well that is still up in the air and will remain so until after the Cup Final. Arsène didn’t take part in the ‘lap of honour’ yesterday and I can understand why. The subject of his future is too divisive a topic right now and his absence effectively admitted that. It also admitted that whatever some people might say about the vast majority of fans inside the stadium being being the manager, he himself clearly knows this can’t be the case, or else why wouldn’t he have come out to clap?
No, he knows full well that all’s not well in the fan base and acknowledged that with his comments afterwards about the atmosphere at times. He who has always said that it’s as much the players responsibility – possibly more so – to contribute towards the atmosphere as much as the fans in their performance. Well Arsène, you have presided over this and are the man to blame for the atmosphere as much as anyone. If the fans thought that there was progress, would the atmosphere feel as toxic as it has this season? If the fans all wholeheartedly backed that you are doing this for the good of your club and not now for yourself and your own fear of life without the daily football routine that you have built for yourself? If we felt we understood some of your decisions, would it still feel as hostile?
Of course not. It is hostile because of the uncertainty. It is hostile because of the feeling of the same stuff every season with little sign of change. It is hostile because of the owners clear and apparent apathy towards being competitive. All of these elements have been bubbling away all season and now that everything’s come to the boil, you are questioning why the fans aren’t just blindly clapping a team of players who looked like they couldn’t be arsed two months ago.
I saw what Arsène said yesterday and I got angry for a bit, just like the above mini rant, but afterwards like now I’m just laughing at his own hypocrisy. Arsène Wenger flip-flops as much as any politician who has said something that is now completely the opposite of what he said a few months prior. I view Arsène Wenger like I view most U.K. Politicians i.e. I don’t believe a word they say. Two months ago his future had no impact on the team. Yesterday he admitted that it did. I mean flipping heck, even David Ornstein – BBC inside man at Arsenal – was calling the manager out and citing video evidence to contradict what he was saying. How can anybody believe what has been said by Arsène? How can anybody trust what comes out of his mouth any more?
Yet we’re faced with another two years of this most likely. We’ve got to just sit there and hear “judge me in May” again in August, then when May comes around we have to sit and listen to another “we go again in August”. It’s a perpetual cycle of maddening similarity and there is no immediate end in sight.
Still, we have an FA Cup final to look forward to and despite what many are saying about winning it causing him to sign, I still desparately want us to win it. I want to be in that stadium and feel the elation as we lift the trophy against that horrific excuse for a football team. I want us to have some pleasure out of this season and then above all, when the dust has settled, I want Arsène to get on his horse and ride in to the sunset, so the last of the respect, admiration and love we have for the guy remains in fact.
But I fear he’ll scorch those memories regardless of what the Cup final result is.
Catch you tomorrow.