Meeting the press this morning, Arsene wasn’t asked about the sad news of Alan Simpson dying. God knows why; he’d be an expert on the state of British sitcoms because Arsenal’s season is scripted in the finest traditions of Hancock’s Half-Hour.
He was, however, clear that the public pronouncements on his future were premature; he hadn’t changed his view since last week on whether he renews.
As ever, the obedient news hounds tried to play down the extent of the dissatisfaction at the moment. There is, I agree, an element of anger at the back-to-back defeats which ended the title change. Not so, said Arsène, because if it’s over for us, everyone else is in the same cart.
Not quite, say I. We’re twelve points behind Chelsea while others are three points better off. In a way, I admire his ability not to give in, publicly at least. But it comes with a fine line between belief and self-delusion. He knows that there is little chance of us winning the title and that others are holding on by a thread as well.
Tottenham revel in glorious failure, much to our mirth and amusement, but they are closer to the title than we are. Three points closer before you ask. I don’t think they are any better equipped to catch Chelsea than us, with the mental fragility of the past never far away from the surface.
As if Arsenal supporters should be talking about another squad’s mental fragility; we’re hardly shining lights in that department.
Or we weren’t but now there’s been a team meeting, the players are rocking, ready to tear through the remaining domestic and European fixtures. That’s what they’d like us to believe anyway. If we win in Munich, I’ll believe it’s had a positive effect on the season. Beating Hull and Sutton? Do me a favour; we must win those matches anyway; victory is no sign of improved fortunes.
With nary a moment’s hesitation, the questions flew in and the answers focussed on publicly diminishing the dissent on display. Now, as with social media, there’s a danger that the club is becoming an echo chamber of the same thinking. This morning’s PR piece suggests that the club believes that a good run will change views. As I said earlier, I’d agree, but lectures from pundits give the dissent a firmer back. For god’s sake, even Diego Forlan offered a view on Arsenal.
Arseblog this morning takes the thinking of the pundit’s sofa to task over Hector Bellerin’s injury, and for once, I’m in agreement with the many who question the likes of Burley & Co who decide where and when we can air a view. In the absence of silverware, along with making out that the protests are a media construct – “don’t focus on the actions of one fan” – the club’s only card is fear of change. And that’s worn very thin now.
“What matters is not the opinion of people but how we respond,” Wenger observed. “This is a period where we have to stick together and focus,” and that’s exactly how the squad should react. Turning in the performances is the only way to show that they are over a damaging phase of the season and the next ten days is vital to that.
Hull Team News
Will there be a reaction or more complacency? We’ve got a big game next week, ready to distract in the same way that Chelsea apparently did against Watford. God knows how the world will react if we don’t win tomorrow.
Having a blank week in many respects, was the best thing for the squad. Clear the heads and let us tie ourselves in knots. Forlornly, I hope they’ve taken the time to work on ‘Plan B’ of using three centre-backs. They won’t but with Hector Bellerin facing a late fitness test, it ought to be high on the agenda.
Mohammed Elneny’s return is welcome, and his inclusion is almost inevitable, I think. Getting back into the groove and I suspect that he will be in the XI to face Bayern, as well as Granit Xhaka. I can see us going with a solid midfield trio, having learned in the past that going toe-to-toe with the Germans ends badly for us. Very badly.
I’m looking ahead so lambasting the players for doing the same is a tad hypocritical although I don’t get £100k per week for the privilege of being distracted…