There’s been a whole additional 24 hours that have elapsed since the pathetic and limp exit to Villareal in the Europa League and I gotta tell you folks, I feel a lot better in my own head, compared to how I have done over the years. Not about Arsenal and the position they are in, of course, but just in terms of me ‘getting over it’ in terms of a defeat or cup exit. Five year’s ago it probably would have taken me at least three or four days before I started to not think about everything; replaying the game in my mind before I went to sleep, waking up in the night and not getting back to sleep because you are subjecting yourself to the torture of the game being replayed in your mind like some sort of saved file of doom that isn’t erasable in the internal hard drive that is your brain.
I remember the Champions League final vividly. It took me a week to get over it. Going back further and the Paul Gascoigne semi final of the FA Cup in which we lost to the Scum 3-1 in 1991. I’ve got so many examples of times in which I’ve found it hard to process, compartmentalize, then eventually realise life is too short and moved on. I don’t know whether it is age – i’m 38 now and so perhaps have gone through enough heartache that I have the battle scars of supporting Arsenal and are therefore more immune to the pain a little more than I used to be – or whether it is just that everything about Arsenal is dislike-able at the moment and so I am becoming a bit ‘meh’ to it all.
The owners are dis-likable.
The Exec Team hasn’t really done anything to make them more like-able.
There are so many players that are dislike-able.
The style of football is dis-likeable.
Then I come to the manager. This is where it becomes very difficult and some weird cloud seems to fall upon me. When things went south under Unai Emery it was easier for me to drive a mental wedge between myself and my support of Emery; his communication skills weren’t great (although you have to applaud him for trying, it just didn’t work), the football was random and without any kind of idea or identity, plus he was an outsider. With Mikel Arteta he was a like-able player, he was captain, he’s an excellent communicator and so many people in the game talk about how much he knows his stuff.
Yet his actions over the last 18 months are that of a man who hasn’t learned his lessons and whilst he spoke yesterday about ‘analyzing’ things internally and would not go in to detail as to what he meant, many are taking that to mean a big summer clear out. I’d absolutely be up for that and it is talk like that – if backed up by actions – that makes me wonder whether or not if backed we might as well see what happens in the summer.
But then I come back to some of the stuff that ISN’T going to be solved by the purchase of new players. His over-reliance on some of the turgid older players who have put us in this position this season should be a black mark on him. I was listening to the Arsecast yesterday and Arseblog spoke about how Nicolas Pepe has only played 30 minutes more this season than Willian. How is that even possible? A player who has delivered zero goals and zero creativity, against the Ivorian who was our top scorier in Europe and most of us agree has looked much better since the turn of the year. Yet Willian still has the appearances and minutes under his belt to be one of those who has played more than most. IT is decision-making like that which makes me waver and that is all on the manager.
But it’s other things too. The systematic and dreary build up play that has us playing at walking pace for so much of this season is a tactical development brought by this manager. He doesn’t want to go from A to B unless his team have stopped, considered the consequences, pondered a bit more, then moved on. That has allowed teams to low-block us out of games all season and our own inadequacies have result in us being either hit on the counter when we do eventually venture forward, or give away stupid goals that have cost us points and trophies.
Then we have the substitutions. It’s something we all knew was a part of his style that he needed to work on, but he hasn’t learned his lesson and some of the late subs being made in games as recently as Villareal or even the Newcastle game (bringing Partey on for six minutes at the end – what was all that about?), show that he isn’t as quick a learner as we thought.
And here’s the reason why I think we should be considering a change of manager now; if he isn’t learning these things quickly i.e. in 18 months, how long are we going to wait around before something ‘clicks’ and he supposedly turns into this super elite manager we had all been banking on?
The more and more I think about it, the more I think that Arsenal are basically his testing ground for a young manager to make his mistakes in prep for future roles, and at a club like Arsenal that is thoroughly unacceptable. With all due respect to these teams, we aren’t a Brentford, Leyton Orient or Crewe, we are one of the biggest football clubs in England. Yet we are blooding a young guy so he can learn his lessons and go and win trophies elsewhere for someone else. That’s even if he CAN evolve into this super manager everyone has projected him to be.
And this is why everything feels cloudy in my head this morning, because I like the man, I feel invested in the man, I am SO desperate for this to have worked, yet all of the signs I see with my own eyes tell me that it won’t. The decision making has not been good for a while from Arteta and I’m not sure I want to return to the Emirates to see another season of dross like the one we’ve just had.
I will, of course, because I love my club. I’ll be straight in there from the beginning of next season assuming I can get in with the revised rules on sporting attendances. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be happy if we have another series of performances like we’ve endured over the last nine months.
It’s not very fun at the moment and whilst Arteta has somewhat come out fighting yesterday with some of his comments, those words feel a little hollow right now. We need action.
Catch you all tomorrow.