In recent years I’ve lost count of the number of times that those of us in my continually expanding match day friendship group, have uttered the words “I’ve had a great day out, other than the game”. Unfortunately, those occasions have become increasingly more frequent and instead of being an enjoyable hobby, watching us has evolved into more of a chore of late.
At this juncture I am sure some readers will be thinking ‘if you’re not enjoying it, why do you still continue to go?’ and the answer is simple. I love this club and attending games is ingrained in me. None of us, who regularly express our desire to see change at the club, have ever said that we believe we have some form of divine right to be successful either.
Winning games and being entertained in the process, is a bonus. I’m completely aware of that and whilst I can financially afford to and I’m physically able to, I’ll continue to go. The camaraderie amongst those I go with makes it worthwhile and it’s long been about more than just a game of football. I’ve always said that you have to suffer the bad times, which are all relative to the club in question, to fully appreciate the good ones.
I’m not a naive upstart who isn’t aware that the club has faced far worse hardship over the years either. I fully appreciate that with the exception of the five teams sitting above us in the league table, every other club in the country would happily trade places with us right now. However, taking into account the resources that the club has available, the majority of our supporters expect both the team and the manager to have performed far better than they have been and rightly so.
It has always puzzled me why Wenger’s past achievements, such as the Invincible season, are still being used as an argument for why he deserves to remain as our manager. Whilst I recognise that going a season unbeaten is a magnificent achievement and one that we’re all immensely proud of, it is now over a decade ago and has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to his ability, or the lack of it, to manage the team in the present.
Dennis Bergkamp is regarded by many as the greatest player to have ever worn the Club’s shirt but you wouldn’t want him in our side now, aged forty-eight and past his best, would you? Although based on some of our recent performances, you have to wonder if he would do any worse. In managerial terms, Arsene is past his prime and shouldn’t retain his position at the forefront either.
In typical Arsenal fashion, we took a step forwards with wins against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, only to follow those victories up by taking two steps backwards against Swansea. In a performance that served to further illustrate the importance of having Jack Wilshere in the team. Without him we appear to lack desire and natural leadership and his presence seems to encourage the other players to show more fight. He’s also one of the few players who actually wants to play forward passes.
It was impossible to take any positives from Tuesday’s game. When we get outclassed, I can accept losing but I can’t accept losing games through a total lack of desire. Truth be told, despite the possession statistics, we looked a poor side. Our build up play is slow and predictable, we do nothing but pass the ball sideways and it’s now reached the stage where Alexandre Lacazette appears to have stopped bothering making any forward runs.
When a striker goes from being one of the most prolific in Europe to a peripheral figure who is completely disinterested and devoid of confidence, it has to be a concern. After our previous defeats this season, some of our supporters foolishly pointed the finger of blame squarely at the feet of Alexis Sanchez. Following the recent departure of this supposed disruptive influence, I wonder who those supporters are blaming now? The referee perhaps? After all, it’s usually anyone but their beloved Arsene.
It’s time these supporters looked closer to home because you can’t make deficiencies disappear by ignoring them. Petr Cech is way past his best and David Ospina is not the answer either. Whilst Ospina is younger and more athletic, he couldn’t catch a cold and anything above head height causes him a problem. At twenty three years old, maybe it is time to give Matt Macey a chance? He might make mistakes but he’s young enough to learn from them. The same can’t be said about Cech and Ospina. If he’s not up to it, at least we would find out.If any indication is needed to demonstrate just how poor we are defensively, we’ve now conceded as many goals as West Brom, who are bottom of the league, have. Our defence is often caught ball watching and doesn’t get any protection from the midfield. I’ve said it for a while now, Laurent Koscielny’s injuries appear to have taken their toll and Shkodran Mustafi always seems to have a calamitous mistake in his locker. Hector Bellerin’s gone backwards and couldn’t cross a ball if his life depended on it. Unfortunately, they aren’t being helped by having a manager who is incapable of buying a recognised defensive midfielder and we lack any real width too.I’ve seen some supporters say that we had a ‘great’ January transfer window. I was happy to see us replace Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. However, we failed to address our defensive deficiencies and also strengthened both Manchester United and Chelsea in the process. Granted, you could say that we made the most out of a difficult situation where Sanchez was concerned. I would say we got ourselves into the situation in the first place by not selling him in the summer though.I’ve been an admirer of Aubameyang since his St. Etienne days and anyone who knows me personally will tell you that he’s been my dream ‘realistic’ Arsenal signing for years. It saddens me to say that the current situation at the club has dampened down some of my excitement about his arrival though. On our day we look like capable of beating anyone, trouble is, at times we also look capable of losing to anyone. Often in the same game.As highly as I rate Aubameyang, unless he can play in goal, at centre back, in defensive midfield and manage the team, I can’t see anything changing. Of course, I hope I’m wrong. I never thought I’d say it but I now no longer care whether Wenger’s exit is a dignified one, I just want him gone. A sad situation considering the admiration that I once had for the man. Particularly in the first half of his tenure but sadly, I think he’s gone beyond being deserving of that now.On a final note, it appears that many of our supporters hatred towards ex players, now exceeds their hatred towards our bitter rivals Spurs. After Spurs’ victory over Manchester United in midweek, some supporters were celebrating the result, seeing it as getting one over on Sanchez. Is that what some of our fanbase has become? It’s embarrassing and pathetic. If only these supporters put as much effort into supporting the players who still play for us as they do into hating players who have left.In the words of Idina Menzel, let it go…..