If Jim Henson were still with us, Kermit would kick Robyn off the stair and begin his rap. It would begin about the prejudices he faces through being green, turning that into an anthem of defiance. Then the lyrical path weaves through Brexit before finishing in the cul-de-sac of being an Arsenal supporter.
And it is a cul-de-sac; or if you don’t think it’s currently a dead end street, it’s certainly a road to nowhere.
Saturday’s defeat is no easier to bear this morning than it was at the final whistle. The season continues uninterrupted on its bumpy road to a conclusion outside the top four. That was always our final destination and I know not of any tears shed that we won’t reach the promised land.
You can kid yourself if you want, that this objective is still on but I don’t think Liverpool or Tottenham will drop enough points to offer up the opportunity. Nor do I think we’ll take enough points to make up the ground even if they did.
The decline is far from temporary and the claim years ago that Arsène wouldn’t leave us with a squad in as bad a shape as Ferguson did at United returns to haunt us. We’ve already plummeted the Moyes depths without a change in manager.
Comparing this situation to that of Rioch is spurious; the Scot was doomed before he took over with Wenger always coming in, even if he’d won the Premier League title. The question to be answered this summer is whether the Frenchman walks away of his own accord or Arsenal pull the plug on his reign?
There’s been precious little sign of either happening and to Ivan’s chagrin, his claim about ‘best manager for the job’ haunts him at every turn.
A Proper Pea-Souper
Wenger’s future dominates the skyline. Smog hangs over the club but as spring blossoms, it will become clearer. A decision must be made this summer if the farce of last season isn’t to be repeated. Who am I kidding; it already is on the pitch.
I will be surprised if he leaves in the summer. Having made a great play of never breaking a contract, to turn around and do so would be a volte-face of giant proportions. The only thing which may cause that to happen is PSG. Unai Emery will probably face the chop this summer with or without the Champions League and the owners of the French club appear to hero-worship Wenger as much as our own board.
Which begs the question: why would Arsenal renew Wenger’s deal? The board’s timidity is the key factor. Too many men who lack the courage to contemplate a new future. With good reason; they don’t have the football experience to appoint a new man or hold him to account in the future. The next appointment is all on them; little wonder they’ve brought in a director of football (relations) to make the decisions for them.
Beyond that, it is all about the value of Kroenke’s investment. There are no overwhelming football reasons for Wenger’s continued appointment. Would winning the Europa League and/or Carabao Cup be enough? They are trophies, shiny tin pots to put on the shelf and maybe we need to appreciate them more. Modern football, however, demands the Premier League and Champions League; anything else is understated.
The FA Cup for years suffered the same dismissal as the League Cup. Little attention was paid to it until Wenger needed to win something and Hull were beaten. Now it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
Even a Paranoid Android is More Fun
I’m not knocking the FA Cup nor would I sneer (anymore) about the League Cup. I’d like the Europa League; you may view it as the European League Cup but I quite like the idea of Arsenal winning a European trophy; it’s been too long and frankly, we’ve always spurned the opportunities presented to us (2000, 2004, 2006, 2009, since you ask).
However, does that warrant a new deal? As I said, modern football demands the league and we’re a long way from challenging for the title. One fundamental criticism of Wenger which won’t go away is that he’s lost the ability to build a squad.
Maybe the new management team structure will help in that sense. Wenger may like to portray that he is in charge, that there’s been no change to his role, but there has. The last window and the strong Dortmund influence underlined that. While he remains in charge of the first team away from transfers, referring to “the Greek lad” just emphasises that Wenger had a player foisted upon him. It won’t be the last.
The work the club carries out in the summer will be the strongest indication yet of Wenger’s future. If it is a major overhaul of the squad, the contract renewal will follow shortly after. A lacklustre summer, while half-expected, is an indicator that he is seeing out the final year of his contract. In that scenario, the presumption must be that an announcement would come in the autumn or Christmas time.
We shall see. For the moment, we bumble along, devoid of inspiration, leadership and enthusiasm. That’s what happens when you lose to Spurs.