The football season is barely underway, and things already feel like they’re falling apart.
Usually I have a few things to say about gaming and movies, but I’d like to express some thoughts around one of my other obsessions: Arsenal.
Today Arsenal lost to Liverpool away 4-0. It was by no means a unicorn moment, it was not an aberration, even though it was utterly abhorrent. Honestly, I was expecting a loss. I was hoping it wouldn’t be this devastating, but it was. I thought maybe it would reflect last season’s 3-4 or something. Not this.
A lot of people are baying for Wenger’s blood. “Wenger Out” is trending again.
Let’s be realistic. That’s not going to happen any time soon. I think things would have to get extremely awful for him to get fired before his brand-spanking new contract until 2019 expires. Look at how things got toward the end of last season, at the worst period in Arsenal’s recent history. The owner didn’t care then, and he won’t now.
I love Arsene Wenger. He is simply no longer the right man for the job, and the current evidence suggests that he hasn’t been for some time. He has done a lot for this club, but to be a bit trite: “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain“. The expiry date is off, and we all know the board and owner will do nothing as things currently stand.
Today’s selection was indicative of the shitstorm to come. Once again Wenger “indulged” Ox, playing him at right wing-back, putting Bellerin and left wing-back. Lacazette and Kolasinac were both left on the bench, in a decision that will haunt my nightmares this week. Welbeck was started behind Sanchez, boggling the mind as to what was going on. The partnership of Ramsey and Xhaka continued, unabated. The only morsel of positive team selection was the inclusion of two actual, bona fide centre-backs. So much for that, right?
Let’s start at the top. Why the hell is the manager accommodating a player who has rejected the latest contract offer. Sell him, it’s okay. It’s clear now that Ox and Arsenal’s paths are splitting, and the manager needs to accept this. We can live without him, and I wish him the best wherever he goes. Why was he started? Anyone could have told you that selecting Bellerin at right wing-back and Kolasinac at left would have been preferable. Why was Sead left out? We needed our tank today.
Honestly, it feels like Wenger is sabotaging the 3 at the back formation. His selection lately has been all wrong, non-centrebacks playing in that position, right-sided players played on the left. It’s as if he’s engineering the moment he can change back to 4 at the back and say: but see, that formation wasn’t working. Of course, I think I might be slightly paranoid. And I’m not as concerned about our formation as I am by our ability to perform at the highest level anymore.
Why would a manager self-sabotage like this? The post-match fallout included the usual contrite messages from the club and player. The quotes from Wenger enraged me somewhat. He says our performance wasn’t to standard. No shit Sherlock. When your team selection is that poor, on a team already lacking form and confidence, what could you possibly expect?
I by no means want to sound like I think our problems are as easily fixable as the change of a formation and playing the right players in their correct positions, although that wouldn’t hurt.
As an Arsenal fan I’m vacillating violently between apoplectic anger and morose depression. This was one match, but it’s indicative of the deep-seated issues at Arsenal at the moment. This isn’t “more of the same”. This isn’t a cycle. This is a downward spiral.
We won’t fix this in the transfer window, what there is left of it. I don’t know how we’ll fix it. I’m sure there will be some kind of upward swing. The players will rally, the manager will put another band-aid over the continental rift, and things will be fine for the 10 matches needed to finish in the top 10 at the end of the season. There are familiar elements, but this is like walking down the hallway in P.T. Things get progressively grubbier and scarier every time you walk down the hallway. When will we turn the corner and see the scary dead lady? Who knows.
As an Arsenal fan I will stick by my club, but I’m also going to wait this out. I’m going to have to accept that things are simply shit now. Maybe the next manager, when (if) he comes along in 2019, will be able to pick up the pieces and start the process of rebuilding. Hopefully we’re not too far-gone by then. I would really like to see Arsenal win the league before I turn 40. I don’t see it happening before my 30th, that’s for sure.
The facts are before us gentlemen: we are a formerly big club. We are no longer. A big club would have a new manager by now. A big club would have been decisive in the market and would have tied down their star players before the last 12 months of their contracts started. That, or sold them and replaced them as needed. One day I hope Arsenal can be a big club once again, but until then I will accept where we are. I’m not happy with it, but I do want to stay sane.
I expect we’ll all wake up tomorrow, and maybe it won’t sting as much. Maybe I will look back on this post as a strong reaction to a single game, but I don’t know anymore. How many times will be allow ourselves as fans to be burnt without learning?
One last thing: don’t see this in anyway an attempt to take away from Liverpool what was a great performance. I look at that team this season with envy. Blistering atatcks, high-octane football. Are they perfect? No, but they’re worlds better than we are.
In the end, I know this is just football. But I am a fan after all. I’m a Gooner for life.
Wow. That’s quite depressing.