I've delayed writing about anything to do with Arsenal, due to the potential of producing a rant regarding the shameful antics that took place at Old Trafford on Sunday. The game, for me, was a turning point, a realisation that my deep thoughts could be surfaced with reference to the uncertainty of the success that Arsene Wenger’s job is bringing to the club.
As a fan, personally I look this Premier League season dead in the eye and laugh at it. I laugh at it, in the sense that Arsenal should be walking this; the title should already be in our grasp, the bus parade should be planned, and the ‘Champions ‘16’ jerseys should already be floating around the Emirates. It is the biggest opportunity we have, and most likely will have for a long while but of course, Arsenal being Arsenal; we’re finding it hard to resist the temptation of our deep love for fourth place and annual mediocrity.
Many will report we have a chance in regard to the downfall of last season’s rivals. Manchester United getting comfortable with life outside of the top four, Manchester City’s anxiety at the back without doting skipper Vincent Kompany, and last but certainly not least, the Chelsea's parting of the ways with José Mourinho. However, the headache for Arsenal is now the threat of top four newcomers, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City.
For me, I look at the players that line-up for the two, and I would not place them above Arsenal in terms of individual quality, I look on the sideline and see two extremely charismatic, fearless managers with the club at heart and a healthy relationship with the club and the players on the field.
In essence, that is what a football club looks for; an ambitious manager, committed players, and owners that have the success of the football team as a priority. That is what is spurring the sides up to the summit, and that is exactly what is sending Arsenal down.
The Abramovich Effect
Very few like the sudden pumping of money into a football club, but it’s worked for Chelsea; you have to credit Abramovich’s deep interest into the success of the football team, over the financial success of the club. He’s always at home games; the same applies for most owners to be honest, all excluding Arsenal. When was the last time you saw Stan Kroenke at the Emirates? Do the board even acknowledge the football side of the club, I mean; it is the sport that is bringing in the money.
I don’t want to form a comparison with Chelsea, but they have a supportive board so for this, I will. Mourinho won the league at Chelsea last season, extremely efficiently; no one had any doubts who the best team in the country were.
This season, Mourinho did not perform to the standard that Abramovich deemed as acceptable, so he dismissed him. Despite the wonders that Mourinho provided Chelsea with, he did not carry the football club to further greatness, and so was not worthy in Roman’s eyes to continue to manage Chelsea.
In the eyes of the majority of fans, and in the eyes of many not associated to the club, Wenger has not performed to the standard of Arsenal Football Club. No league title for 12 years, only a trio of FA Cups on top of the annual absolute embarrassment in the Champions League. This leads to the assumed conclusion that the objective every season that the board place in Wenger’s hands is to finish in the top four, securing additional funds and a potential shot at the Champions League (more money).
Is this acceptable? Absolutely not. Arsenal charge the highest ticket prices in the league along with the highest season ticket prices, with this, the least we expect is the reassurance that the ambition every season is to win the Premier League. This is not the case, which carries me to comment on the heated debate as to why Arsene Wenger’s job is secure.
If Wenger was at any other club in Europe, you’d expect the situation to be along the lines of: “He was fired five years ago due to a continual cycle of mediocrity and lack of ambition.” With Arsenal, a fair few fans would not be surprised if he was to be offered an extended contract at the end of another severely displeasing season. Why? Because the financial side of the club is healthy, the fans are paying the extortionate prices, and we’re keeping our status as one of the four best clubs in English football.
This lack of ambition is filtering through the club, from the expectations of Wenger, to his expectations of his players, evident in three notable performances this season that indicate the massive lack of ambition and commitment at our club:
Losing 1-0 to Chelsea at home: No fight, no aggression, and no desire to win the game.
Losing 3-2 to a massively weakened Manchester United: No fight, no aggression, and no desire to win the game.
Drawing 1-1 with Tottenham at home: No fight, no aggression, and no desire to win the game.
I’m going to place my focus on the topic around the performance at Old Trafford on Sunday. The only way the performance can be summed up is as spineless. When the team sheets were released, we were all laughing and thinking, “Lovely, three points at Old Trafford to keep us in the title race!” Deep down, I think we all knew what was coming. The issue wasn’t entirely the loss; United deserved the win, from the kick off. My issue was the lack of commitment to the club all over the pitch.
We scored two weak goals without even trying, and we conceded three weak goals without even attempting to defend. United had two midfielders playing at centre back, imagine if these eleven professional football players had actually focused on the game?
Theo Walcott completed two passes in the first half, attempting four. This is a player that has represented Arsenal for ten years. There was no fight whatsoever. You look at the 0-0 draw at United during the invincible era, the team as a unit.
I’m not in any way condemning the actions of Keown, but there was a fight, a real aggression to win and to battle for the sake of the club. Every single player in that squad realised how lucky they were to play for the badge on their chest. Where has that elite mentality gone? It is honestly upsetting.
As for solutions, for now, Arsenal must beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Without Tony Adams and Keown in the dressing room, screaming at players how this game is not losable...there is a reluctance to place hope in any result against the charasmatic young Spurs squad. If we fail to win the league this season, Wenger must go.
If we do win the league, a massive change must be made. Firstly with the board, the club must become one with the fans. It’s all easier said than done, but nonetheless, change is the only solution, anyone can recognise that.