Morning all, the world is gradually righting itself as the Arsenal squads moment of redemption comes into view with the visit of Schalke to The Emirates. Only Borussia Monchengladbach of the German sides to visit Arsenal, have emerged victorious whilst Bayern retrieved a two-goal deficit to draw. The other eleven have all seen Arsenal win. In normal circumstances, a repeat of 2001s win over tomorrow’s opponents might reasonably be expected. Schalke’s win at Dortmund combined with a horrible performance at Norwich has changed that landscape with a certain nervousness involved.
Some good news is needed and it arrived in the shape of the Under-21s win over Everton. Jack Wilshere’s performance as reported – even allowing for the Arsenal-tinged hue – was a boost but more than that it is the fact that he, Sagna and Frimpong have all emerged unscathed. It isn’t that the trio are the saviours, they just offer options which are sadly lacking through injury. It is suggested that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is not as badly hurt as initially thought although he remains a doubt for the visit of QPR at the weekend. It seems more likely that the first weekend of November will see the manager have his first choice squad available with that also being the date noted for Tomas Rosicky’s return although whether this is just to training or for match selection remains to be seen.
The matches before that encounter with Manchester United offer the opportunity to undo all the wrong which has been done with the defeat at Carrow Road. The reaction has been too wide-ranging and dismissive of the squad, too many people relishing the scenario of the club failing once more. An indictment of their personalities that they enjoy the club losing more than victories. If a run of defeats builds then that is of concern; if a run of wins takes its place, will there be a rush to proclaim this as the best Arsenal squad ever? I doubt it because it is as ridiculous a suggestion as the claims that this is an appalling squad; neither viewpoint withstands scrutiny.
It has raised the question of Arsène’s future. There is more of a sense of the endgame approaches for his reign, simply through age. It might not be a question that anyone wants to face up to but yesterday was his 63rd birthday – belatedly best wishes on that. Speculation grows that Pep Guardiola is thinking of ending his sabbatical from the game with the natural inclination in the media to put him into a club where the style of play was similar to that of his Barcelona teams. The club’s finances suggest such an appointment is not too fanciful although quite whether Guardiola would be happy with the wage restrictions in place remains to be seen.
It isn’t a fanciful notion to talk of his departure, he cannot go on forever and has made it plain in the past, that he has no desire to continue managing into his 70s like Ferguson or Robson before him. In that sense, I think Summer 2014 is a natural break with his current deal expiring and his 65th birthday approaching. The decision will come down to whether he still has the energy to continue as well as believing that the squad at that point can do likewise. I do not think the board has any inclination to relieve him of his duties but more importantly, there is no sense that Kroenke has that view either although his silence on just about everything Arsenal-related makes that almost impossible to judge. Will he be here for the AGM on Thursday? That would mean he might attend consecutive Arsenal matches, almost unprecedented during the KSE Ownership era. In fact, I can’t think of any time when he has attended two Arsenal matches in one week.
Anyway, back to the manager. Frequent judgements are passed on his declining silverware returns since moving to The Emirates. My own view is that the coming campaign will go a long way to deciding whether his future in his own mind, whether the squad still needs major surgery or if a little outpatients treatment. If it is the former, can the ailments be cured in one summer?
Perhaps a win or four over the next fortnight will give him a better idea. That and some contracts being signed.