It’s that time of year and a combination of our performance at West Brom with Mike Bloody Dean, quashed my enthusiasm for football today. I need a perk, a tonic; a pick-me-up.
If I wrote a review of last year, I might as well copy 2015, 2014, or whatever year of the past decade. It’s easy to pick the low-points which comes as no surprise to anyone. 2017 has been a largely forgettable year with little signs of progress, but overwhelmingly it was numbing.
Bertie Mee, Terry Neill, Don Howe and George Graham all saw their reigns crumble on the back of poor quality football. Supporters were numbed by the weekly fare served up and the end was inevitable, arriving for some sooner than expected. Arsène may not plumb the mid-table depths three of that quartet took us into, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is following their path.
It’s a different board now. While others paid with their jobs, Wenger claimed a new contract. Ivan’s PR spiel of Arsène being the best candidate for the job haunt him at every turn. We know he was spinning a pearl necklace out of a sow’s ear, or more accurately what Stan told him to spin.
Yet if these guys are as principled as they like to say, I’m just surprised that none of them quit over his re-appointment. Too fond of the free match tickets or in the case of Ken Friar, too red and white in his blood to let the club crumble without trying to do something about it.
So I’ll begin the countdown in reverse order, mainly so that you can see how far down the bottom of the barrel I had to scrape to find some genuinely good points about 2017.
10. Huss Fahmy
No disrespect but when you think that a bloke being appointed as contract manager is a good thing, the slim pickings for the year’s high points becomes painfully clear.
Storming into the charts simply because it was the first sign that a quiet revolution was going on behind the scenes.
9. Per Mertesacker Announced As New Head of Academy
This is another good thing. As close to a ‘Mr Arsenal’ as we’re likely to get in this day and age – only Theo Walcott can rival him on longevity – which says everything about modern football.
The BFG has a wealth of experience from which younger players can surely only benefit.
8. Jens Lehmann Appointed First-Team Coach
Got to love him. Nutty as a fruitcake, Lehmann’s appointment is a good thing. An Invincible and a winner who doesn’t tolerate fools gladly. A surprise appointment given Wenger’s aversion to confrontation; maybe Jens threatened him and neither Arsène nor Ivan has the brass balls to tell him he’s no longer wanted.
7. Sven Mislintat’s Appointment
There’s a theme here…
A breath of fresh air in the scouting department whom it’s rumoured has brought in new scouts already. A quiet revolution; a sign, perhaps, that Ivan realised that outnumbering Arsène’s allies is the way to win the power struggle.
6. Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Maitland-Niles assuredness is a rare ray of light from the Academy. Still has a lot to learn, but with the centre of midfield creaking in its defensive duties, is 2018 the year when AMN gets the chance to put his case for inclusion forward?
5. Goalless draw at Stamford Bridge
For a while, we could dream. Stubborn and unyielding, Arsenal turned in a performance in a big away game we hoped for. No Özil, Alexis a late substitute; the future was brighter as the lessons from Anfield were learned.
And promptly forgotten when we went to Watford, Manchester City, and pretty much every away game since.
4. Alexandre Lacazette
Despite the current barren spell, a success in the transfer market. At £52m, you expect the player to settle quickly and Lacazette has done so. Which is surprising given Wenger’s willingness to hook him at 70 minutes on a regular basis.
3. Jack Wilshere
Everyone expected him to break down by Christmas but L’il Jack didn’t. Instead, he quickly established himself back in the side which is a welcome turn of events. Determined to stay at the club, which he can walk away from next year but hopefully, we’ll retain a talented player. And he’ll stay fit.
2. Arsenal 2 Manchester City 1, FA Cup semi-final
Cast as underdogs, Arsenal finished the day in the FA Cup final. City were supposed to walk away with the victory, particularly as we’d used a back three once before. Even the continuing uncertainty over Arsène’s future couldn’t derail the attempt to reach the club’s 20th FA Cup final.
We lost the 1952 FA Cup final when a goal was wrong allowed after the ball went out of play. We reached the 2017 final when City had a goal wrongly disallowed when the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play. What goes around, etc.
1. Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1, FA Cup final
No joy in the Premier League and the Champions League was humiliating, even by our low standards. Alexis took a break from his role as pantomime villain to score the opener as Chelsea were outplayed. Victor Moses saw red for a dive so bad that judges declined to give him a score.
Diego Costa equalised but before that sank in, Aaron Ramsey became the first player this decade to score the winner in two FA Cup finals.
And all was well with the Arsenal world. For 24 hours, anyway.
2017, a year of famine so far as genuine bright spots were concerned. Will 2018 be better?