Arsenal have undergone their routine disastrous, title jeopardising form in the winter months.
The dip in Arsenal’s form can be regarded as routine, as this pattern has been evident for at least five seasons now. In fact, the story of Arsenal’s season can be told before pre-season even kicks off.
A taste for mediocrity
Arsenal’s footballing calendar begins with a strong pre-season, which usually includes a pre-season trophy.
The season starts slow, a few wins, a few draws in September.
Then comes October, the month of the Arsenal. ‘We’re going to win the league’ type of form, star players star, a top team is defeated and the fans are reminiscent of how it felt to have a title challenging team.
For most, November is a winter month, for Arsenal fans, November translates to chaos. Draws, despicable losses to far less adequate opposition, the problem is, this spell usually spans from November to February - title hopes turn to top four hopes, and Arsene Wenger is the worlds most hated man.
Of course, it usually comes good, an encouraging run of form see’s the red side of North London triumph over the white side, as Arsenal get comfortable into a league table position above Tottenham Hotspur. All is forgiven, and the cycle repeats.
However, this year seems different, for all the wrong reasons.
A change in routine?
Everything seems to be going wrong at the moment for the gunners. With inconsistency off and on the pitch, it seems to have caused a high disturbance between the relationship of the fans and the club.
Arsenal are in deep trouble, and it can’t be said that this wasn’t expected. For many years, the club has been in a subtle decline, of course this statement will be argued with the frequently raised point of the building of the Emirates Stadium. It must be wondered if there will ever be an expiry date on this counter argument, as eleven years later, Arsenal seem to be going backwards.
It is difficult to pinpoint a direct cause of the issue at Arsenal, many opt to point the finger at the man on the touchline.
The situation surrounding Arsenal fans and Arsene Wenger is momentarily ugly. The banners are making appearances around the many grounds of the league and overseas, however, these fans do have a right.
It’s increasingly difficult to express an opinion in football, because someone will always argue otherwise. To express a negative opinion on your own team is another level of difficult. No football fan wishes to criticise their team, and so often, fans view their beloved team through rose tinted glasses. The issue at Arsenal is that now, the situation is still ugly through tinted lenses.
Arsene Wenger cannot be held accountable for all the issues at Arsenal, but for some, he is of course responsible.
Firstly, Arsenal’s record in games with the top six is far from acceptable. Their record in games that have meaning, whether it be a crucial time of the season where Arsenal have the chance to capitalise on the mistakes of those above them, or in Champions League games - Arsene Wenger’s men seem unable to show up.
Is it a psychological barrier? Are the players being motivated?
There is no doubt that Arsenal have the capability to beat top teams, as displayed on the odd occasion over the past few seasons, the Gunners can sweep teams of any size to the side when they wish to.
The most recent bullet in the body of Arsenal was the humiliating defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday evening. Confidence was low before the game, a win would’ve restored some much needed faith in the fans and the players also, who must too be feeling disheartened by recent disappointment.
It was a big game, and for fans, it’s easy to forget the situation and get pumped for the game - until the team sheet was released at approximately 4pm on Saturday.
The most alarming matter was the dismissal of Alexis Sanchez from the starting eleven.
Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal’s lifeline on many occasions since he signed two seasons ago, so why bench him?
It is unheard of to demote a star player to the bench for a critical game, at a critical point of the season, away from home and against a top side.
Wenger was stubborn in his response to critics who questioned his bizarre team selection, which added more fuel to the fire.
It is perhaps Wenger’s reluctance to accept blame and take responsibility of his teams failure that particularly aggravates Arsenal fans.
Rumours of his time at Arsenal coming to an end have been circulating recently, yet Wenger has reassured the press that he will make the decision when he will leave. This alone sparks an issue with the club.
Problems from the top
Arsene Wenger seems to have an unquestionable power at the club, of course, when you have served for as long as he has, a lot is in your favour.
Despite the success of the past, our last title coming over ten years ago, Wenger’s record with the Gunners since has been far from what was expected when he first came to power in the 90’s.
The new wave of football has hit Arsenal, sadly not on the pitch.
Stan Kroenke’s money motivated power over the club has held a rain cloud over the Emirates Stadium. Wenger is under no pressure from those above him, and has a new contract with a wage boost to prove that.
At any other club, it could be pondered whether a manager could go ten years without a title - or even seriously challenging for one - and still be considered the top man for the job.
While Arsene’s Arsenal future is in his hands, the futures of others is unknown.
Arsenal are not the club they used to be. No fan wants to hear it, and no fan wants to believe it, but there is no denying it.
Teams do not fear lining up in the tunnel, shoulder to shoulder with Arsenal anymore. Lesser teams maybe so, but they no longer bring the fear factor to big opposition.
The club itself seems to be lacking a controlling factor, a sense of power.
Arsenal have struggled massively to keep hold of their more crucial players in recent times, and it looks like now the time could come again to lose one or two.
Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez have installed happiness and belief into Arsenal since they were signed, however, it seems now that Arsenal have not been channelling their happiness back to them.
With both players believed to be undergoing contract negotiations, added tensions have stalled such talks as Arsenal have began to decline this season.
Refused wage demands, lack of confidence in success and the inability to potentially deliver these players with a Premier League or Champions League medal has left fans questioning whether they will be here next season.
While the club mustn’t lose these players, they shouldn’t be made to feel too superior to the rest of the team.
The attitude of both Sanchez and Özil has sparked a worry over their futures in red and white. A subtle hint of arrogance is displayed at times on the pitch through body language.
Football is a team sport, while some individuals are more valued than others, the game will always be played as a team - results must be reflected as a team effort or lack of.
The club shouldn’t allow it’s treasured players to play games with them, viewing Arsenal as a stepping stone to success with a bigger club - yet some clarity must be resolved in the situation.
How do Arsenal respond?
Arsenal are in a less desired position, and seem to be in trouble from top to bottom. The board lacking desire in the footballing department, Wenger’s inability to take blame and adapt to the modern style of play, and the player’s lack of motivation and togetherness on the pitch.
Top four is a must for Arsenal at the very least, yet the Gunners are in position to miss out as it stands. As teams above them are improving, Arsenal still seem to be squandering.
Arsene Wenger’s team must believe in miracles tonight, as they play in potentially their final Champions League game of the season. Following their disastrous 5-1 loss in Munich, the Gunners will require a 4-0 win over the Bundesliga leaders, Bayern Munich, to progress.
Could it be a wake up call and a kickstart to their so far demoralising season? Arsenal fans will hope so.