Alex Salmond and his band of merry men are not the only losers in Scotland’s vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. The chances of Mel Gibson’s career receiving an unlikely resurrection with telephone calls from Barcelona or Vlaaneren diminished; there will be no face painting on European shores for him this summer. As for the builder who quoted on completing Hadrians Wall, the sharp intake of breath which preceded, “He’s left you in right state with this one. Who was this cowboy?“, proved to be too deep and no riches will be made by anyone other than the banks as a result of it. Some things never change.
Which is what many are saying of Arsenal. Phil Connors is not the only one reliving the same time, we are as well. It’s just ours in nine months long. Less if you split the season down into its constituent parts with only seven matches remaining in this season’s Champions League if history is anything to go by. Five should events take a turn for the worse although looking at the standard of the Europa League, there is no reason dropping into that shouldn’t bring more silverware to the club; even the good teams are bad.
We are not the only ones whose navels have been subjected to intense scrutiny in recent days. Even winning on Tuesday hasn’t been enough to stop Liverpudlian entrepreneurs listing their lint on Ebay. Is it a signal of a collective failure on the Premier League, declining standards leading English club into misery and despair? It’s too soon to declare a state of emergency but it has not gone unnoticed that three of the opponents were German; telling? Not really, Chelsea were awful, better than Arsenal and City were narrowly beaten. A reflection of the state of the games? If that is so, what does Everton’s demolition of Wolfsburg tell us?
But focus is on Arsenal here today and a Good News Friday, it is not going to be. The club are expected to confirm the extent of Mathieu Debuchy’s injury, with the likelihood of a return before Christmas low. The irony is that Debuchy was arguably the summer signing that Arsène got right in that he was an experienced replacement for Bacary Sagna; the absence of the promised replacement for Thomas Vermaelen has left the club exposed to the fates.
However, “it is, what it is“; that doesn’t absolve the manager and his staff from working toward a solution on 1st January. Not that I hold much hope of the necessary additions this season, it’s Groundhog Day remember. More than three months until then and any number of twists and turns as previous years have shown. What is imperative is that the malaise which afflicted Tuesday’s performance is wiped from the minds of the players. The only ones who can do that are the players and staff, surely they have addressed it since then, privately as well as professionally.
There is an expectation of that. Expectation has become a dirty word in football, supporters are not allowed to have expectations any more unless it suits. Like all things really, in all walks of life. But there is an expectation of a positive response, that the season will explode into life. It based on the eternal quality of all supporters; hope. Expectations based on hope are the flimsiest but this one is durable. No matter which way the wind blows, the reed that is the footballer supporter bends with it, returning erect until each final whistle is blown where it stands proud or slumps, bent but not broken.
Managers and players are the same and whilst the foundations are built on the daily basis of training. Perhaps their hopes stand on a flimsier base than ours; they know how good or bad things are. Football has always been based on dashed hopes and dreams. Arsène spoke recently of players he missed out on, United outbid Arsenal for Ronaldo on a £12m deal whilst Drogba joins a list of what-might-have-been that includes Cech, Ibrahimovic and Yaya Toure.
It’s important to remember that not all of those being missed are his fault, signing players becomes a question of judgement more than anything and sometimes they get it right, sometimes wrong. Every manager has his weak points and I think it is a measure of popularity as to the overall view of that. Good times and an indulgent laugh is expressed when talking of Wreh or Stepanovs. Harder times and Park is a brickbat to be taken.
Arsène is not alone in dropping rickets, every manager through history got it wrong at some point in the transfer market . The problem is that it’s now which matters in football for the majority of time. Every manager has their near misses as well and is left wondering what might have been had talks proved fruitful and not collapsing. It is interesting that he viewed Lauren as his best signing, and the Cameroon international is often overlooked when talk turns to The Invincibles. He would feature highly in the best right backs in the club’s history certainly, and Wenger’s assertion underlines that quality.
Wistful thoughts; The Invincibles. A glorious past, a benchmark by which the manager is judged, one to which he should aspire to return. Can he do it? Not this season but getting close would deliver the Premier League title. When, well, that’s the question.