And so to the rest of the season. The Premier League has another round to go before the trips to Munich and Sutton United. I’ll make no bones about the latter; losing at Gander Green Lane doesn’t bear thinking about. And won’t happen 999,999 times out of a million; you just don’t want to be around that one time.
With the Southampton match postponed due to their involvement in the EFL Cup final, it means that is the last first team match for almost a fortnight. There’s no reason to rotate the side heavily; it should only be injury and need for a rest that stops a player from being used in the FA Cup now.
The Premier League is gone; twelve points is the double-digit barrier to success and Arsenal is united as one in knowing that from the supporters through to the owner. All he cares about now is a top four finish. Not a problem according to the stats geeks; it will happen. Rest easy, people; the Daily Star said so.
Europe is a pleasant enough distraction but seeing the performance at Stamford Bridge – following on from the Etihad and Old Trafford – soon to be a short-lived one. I don’t have one ounce of confidence that we’ll even get a draw there.
I don’t know why that surprises me; I didn’t think they were going to win the title at the start of the season although, in true football supporter fashion, I still hoped they would do well; better than I expected, even if the bar was set relatively low.
Engage Recovery Mode
Now we’re in the familiar recovery mode. It won’t be a surprise if Hull nick a point this weekend. We have a tendency to take time to recover from a bad defeat and nothing this week will repair the damaged belief of this supporter.
Relaxing back into the familiar territory of disappointment is nothing new; the rollercoaster of a season comes to rest there are varying points; it always has done, it always will. When apathy and disinterest set in, regimes struggle.
You can see that everywhere. If you ignore the extremes which surface or sustain some platforms, even the average supporter is disaffected. The pattern of change at Arsenal is set to continue with Arsène.
Just so long as he doesn’t go ‘direct’ and become a ‘long-ball merchant’, in the way that Mee, Howe and Graham did before him, there’s hope for football as a whole. Route One is the road to despair in football.
This isn’t all about the manager, though. He takes ultimate responsibility – or should do – but the players as well. You can guarantee that a new boss pitching up will see efforts redoubled, and games previously lost or drawn, become handsome victories. Human nature, I suppose.
But I can’t see it with this squad, or not a sustained improvement. Olivier Giroud isn’t suddenly going to chip in 35 goals, Mesut Ozil won’t suddenly see every pass converted to a goal and Alexis won’t stop trying to beat everyone on his own.
Of our group of players, I genuinely believe that only Bellerin, Mustafi and Iwobi – maybe Xhaka and Welbeck – can move to a higher level. The others are at their peak or on the slope downward, with age against them.
No more peaks or troughs, enjoy the Dutch landscape rollercoaster
Some, like Ramsey, Walcott, Ox, of the ‘older’ squad players, might do with a system more suited to them or a manager who can rebuild their self-belief. That’s the view of an outsider looking in, rather than any inside information.
The question that the board must answer is whether they believe Wenger can rebuild the squad quickly with some sharp moves in the summer. Time isn’t on his side if reports of a two-year deal are correct.
Two years isn’t enough time to remould an entire squad; it needs decisive action in key positions this summer and a dynamic approach so that pre-season training is productive.
A major issue is that the boardroom carries the same dangers as social media. It’s an echo chamber; they are all in Wenger’s awe as John Cross’s PR pieces showed that last week. “Never had it so good”? Obviously, as they decided to milk the club level season ticket holders once more.
Arsenal is a club in cruise control. There’s a stretch of road ahead; the leaders are driving it along, listening to their mixtape of Simply Red, Level 42, Phil Collins and the like. There’s no adventure, no ambition, no urgency. It’s all very safe, with no hint of any excitement to come.
They modelled our rollercoaster on the Netherlands landscape; no peaks, no troughs, just water to occasionally dump us in.