Yesterday was the sixteenth anniversary of Dennis Bergkamp’s goal at Newcastle. You don’t need pictures to already see the glorious pirouette in your mind. The unending spiral which snares Arsenal cruelly exposed in these moments.
Comparing Arsenal of then with now is nothing but an exercise in self-flagellation. It causes you pain and achieves nothing. Wounds never heal; a constant flow of salt intensifies the self-inflicted anguish.
The wreckage of the club is laid bare in this morning’s back pages. While the broadsheets are not beyond some creative storytelling, it’s pretty obvious that the tales told to the likes of David Hytner are true. Painfully so, for they chime with many of the questions we’ve been asking.
Arsène and his coaches don’t come out of it well, but then neither do the players. It’s a story of who loses more and the tide is turning against Arsène to the extent that another Round of Sixteen exit is likely to see an announcement of his departure this summer at the very least. Ivan’s 2011 words haunt the Frenchman at every turn,
“Ultimately Arsene is ultimately accountable to the fans — they ultimately make judgment. If you are seeing the relationship between the fans and the manager break down over time that is unsustainable”
Not only the fans but the players. Forty minutes the dressing room door remained closed on Thursday night following the final whistle. During that time, Wengertold the players they were playing for their futures. The summer is to see a big clearout, he told them, and many wouldn’t be here any longer. Himself included is the unspoken part of that conversation.
This followed a team meeting on Tuesday. Players holding team meetings without managers or coaches is nothing unusual. We hear of other clubs doing the same, of previous iterations of the Arsenal squad doing so as well. An honest assessment of the state of play is good and the body language of the players on Sunday and Thursday suggested that it was a good idea.
We’ll Bring the House Down
The leaked conversation doesn’t paint anyone in a good light. It’s pretty obvious the relationship between players and manager/coaches is broken; “We are a big club,” one player is reported to have said, “but we need more help from the coaches.”
Crumbling psyches crying for help met with the answer which underlines that when Wenger goes, without exception the whole of the first team coaching staff follows him out of the door. “It’s not going to happen,” came a voice. “We need to find the answers ourselves.”
The fabled football status of a manager losing the dressing room. Not a situation foreseen at Arsenal; the squad adore the manager so the received wisdom declared. That fallacy is laid bare this morning; the end of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal world is nigh.
Despite this, two away wins and the 2018 which leaves us dumbstruck, will be forgotten by many. As celebratory notes of the ‘fightback’ fill the air, we’re left wondering if there are two Bloomingdales in this town.
It’s time for a revolution at the club. No more hiding from the board; Josh Kroenke, in favour of change last time round, carries the weight of powerbroker now. This might not be a good thing; his track record with the USA franchises is mediocre at best.
An energetic coach, one to reinvigorate the squad and the club. Apathy holds sway at the court of King Arsène and there’s a feeling that he is Canute now; the tide of change is one that he cannot hold back, no matter how hard he tries.
My Friend Stan
Change will be involuntary. Wenger made it clear he honours his contracts, conveniently forgetting previous attempts at walking away. Arsenal doesn’t owe Arsène Wenger a living.
The lack of comparable opportunities at elite clubs drives his refusal to countenance an early departure Bayern, PSG, Real all want success in Europe and Wenger has no track record to substantiate any claim in this arena. He’ll get you into the Champions League but never win it. The same goes for the Europa League.
International opportunities will arise this summer, they always do after a World Cup. In his dotage, this suits Wenger. The day-to-day strain is gone and for many countries, qualification for tournaments is success. A template for Arsène if ever there was one.
But it is the here and now which matters. If the manager and coaches respond correctly, we’ll see a vast improvement on the pitch. Problematically, I don’t believe they know how to respond. Genuinely, how can they start coaching defensive tactics now? That begs even more questions, deeper scrutiny. While going back to basics is often the answer, why is it taking a team begging for help and dismissing those in charge to change?
This isn’t the nadir; we will go lower.
Which is where the board and owner step in. Arsenal Football Club sold us a move to the Emirates as ambitious. Now it is contemptuous of supporters in allowing this situation to drag out through the back pages. It is obvious that the players are no longer playing for the manager.
Stan makes this call. Yes, the board and senior management recommend change but he must be sold on the replacement. That part of the equation has yet to happen.
The revolution will be televised.