For all the talk in recent weeks of Leicester City losing their nerve, there was an air of inevitability that Tottenham would be the ones to stumble. West Bromwich Albion by all accounts, were far better than their visit to north London last Thursday. Who knows, perhaps they were stung by the criticism of what can at best be described as a lacklustre performance. I’m sure Pulis called it far worse in the dressing room.
The Foxes can, of course, still cock it up but Tottenham have to win every match to even be in with a shout of being crowned champions and three points at Stamford Bridge is far from guaranteed. I wonder if Mauricio Pochettino will keep on about mathematical possibilities for the next week or two?
But no amount of mockery over their failure to last the course, can disguise the fact that they have, for the first time since 1996 or whenever, outperformed us this season. We’ve gone over the reasons many times and it doesn’t get any easier to talk about and more to the point, there’s no catharsis in doing so.
Arsène and Arsenal are the only ones who can do anything about the season, rectify the shortcomings and ensure that they don’t happen again. There’s not much of a track record in that in recent years, I grant you, but hope is what keeps the football world turning for supporters.
Wenger’s summer is busy. Away co-commentating once more, he has to run the rule over players of interest whilst others talk to their clubs. There’s some suggestion that signings will happen late in the transfer window as players wait for Arsenal to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. World-class players have that luxury; being very good, to my mind at least, doesn’t afford you that opportunity. Sign and help it happen ought to be the mantra.
And that’s just the new players, the ones to strengthen the squad. God knows what Arsène will do with the ones whose confidence is totally shot. It seemed inconceivable six to eight months ago that Theo Walcott would be sold. Injury had inflicted itself on his world once more and omitted from the side upon his return to fitness, he is bereft of confidence as his recent cameos have shown.
How that has come about isn’t clear. There’s less of him in the media but not being seen as a solution centrally or on the right when the team was out of form won’t have helped. Like Olivier Giroud, he’s been given a fairly definitive snub in that sense and looking at the current squad it’s hard to see where both of them fit in at Arsenal in the future.
Arsène has made it clear that Danny Welbeck is his preferred central striker, as strong as Giroud in the air, he has Walcott’s mobility. Sign a new striker in the summer and it’s not hard to see both of them leaving, with Welbeck fighting for the starting XI place, Walcott, despite his lapse in form, will be the easier of the two to sell with the ‘homegrown’ element in his favour.
Giroud? He needs a good Euro2016. One goal in his last twenty appearances, even allowing for the ones as substitute, grabs the headlines for the wrong reasons. One of the papers articulated it better: he’s got the third worst record at the moment, of all Premier League strikers with that run. It’s horrendous for someone for who had scored nineteen goals prior to that. His position as Plan B isn’t in immediate danger with the transfer window closed but there’s no guarantee at all he’ll be here next year for that role. Not unless he can’t be sold, which is the same problem with Yaya Sanogo.
The question is whether Arsène has the will to deliver this time. A big spending summer can be interpreted either way: the sign of a genuine attempt to rebuild the squad, this time quickly, or one last hurrah at the title. A vanity exercise. If it works, much like Ferguson at United, no-one will care the reasons why until after the event.
I just can’t see it happening. Three midfielders going and the same number of forwards? That’s half-a-dozen new faces needed, beyond the three he’s previously quoted as being the optimum number. It’s going to be an aggressive transfer market this summer with the big clubs looking to spend heavily as well, leaving Arsenal looking like they are slow to react if they wait. Can the club react any other way? It certainly doesn’t seem to be set up for decisive action.
Maybe they will prove us wrong. Maybe but I’m not holding my breath.