A point against another team in the top six can’t be considered a bad result, can it? Arsenal had the better of Everton, created the most clear cut chances and really (with the aid of a more clinical striker) should have won. What does it mean for the two clubs now? For Everton it probably means the top four is out of reach, but as they’ve hung around in sixth place seemingly forever, I’m sure they’ll be happy with keeping above their fading and much bigger-spending neighbours in the red half of the city. For Arsenal in the immediate future it takes things out of their hands. If Chelsea and Spurs win their games in hand and match Arsenal thereafter, then Arsenal finish fifth. And fifth is not where Arsenal need to be. For the record, though, I think Spurs will drop a few points and allow Arsenal back in to their ‘rightful’ top four place.
There’s been a dilemma for Arsenal fans for several years: would we rather have a trophy or a Champions League spot? Many would now choose a humble League Cup if it meant hoisting something shiny and silver, but given all chances for that are gone for another season, we’ll take fourth place, thanks very much. But the problems don’t end there. Dilemma number two: even if we get top four come May, should we stick with a manager who consistently delivers a top four place but nothing else for eight long years, or do we jump into the unknown? (I know; we Arsenal fans are spoilt. About 89 other clubs would happily swap positions. That’s a discussion for another time.)
Do we keep Arsène, hoping that he might splash out some of the vast cash pile Arsenal have accumulated and restore our former glories, while still having the safety net that he’ll always scrape into the top four anyway? Or do we give a new manager the cash pile to spend on the basis that someone should? These end of season parades with the bank statement are getting dull. So keep Arsène and be relatively successful but probably without an actual trophy, or ditch him, spend a load of money and possibly be very successful – or possibly less successful. If you don’t spend big money in football these days you won’t win things. The problem is that spending big money doesn’t guarantee success, it just improves the chances.
The plain fact is that the current Arsenal team is not good enough to win the League. What it needs is a stronger spine: more solid keeper and at least one central defender, and top class centre forward. The team needs money spending on it, but it doesn’t need someone to come in and throw everything away and start again, it just needs the current manager to be a bit bolder in the transfer market. The money is there. We all know the money is there, it’s plainly visible in the accounts. This is the frustration for Arsenal fans: we’re never so far away from success that we give up hope and say let’s start again from scratch, we’re always a couple of very good players away from a great side.
Being a football manager is easy. Being a good football manager is much harder. You can’t easily define the ideal manager because really at best there’s only an ideal manager with a particular set of players. As Arsenal fans we’d be foolish to throw everything away by getting rid of Arsène Wenger too soon, when with a little boldness and relatively minor changes we could be genuine challengers again. By that I mean just spending the money in the bank. Not worrying if the asking price is £2m higher than your own valuation, and dithering until another club steps in and makes the decision for you.
Alex Ferguson spent £24m on a 29 year old striker last summer. That was not a long-term investment, but it was enough to provide a season of goals and the momentum to win back the title. The financial benefit of being champions of the most widely watched league in the world is easily worth £24m. This summer Fergie will probably do something similar, and next season his team will still be challenging. They won’t win the title every year, but they will be challenging. If Arsenal and Arsène had followed the same policy of speculating (just a little) to accumulate, we could still be fighting for first rather than fourth. We’re not even talking about spending money that isn’t there, JUST MONEY THE CLUB ALREADY HAS IN THE BANK! That’s the frustration of being an Arsenal fan.
One thing’s for sure: Arsène Wenger is not getting sacked anytime soon. The only person who could make that decision is Stan Kroenke, and he has no interest in getting rid of a man who keeps the pounds rolling in. Even if Arsenal don’t finish in the top four, the only person who would make Arsène Wenger leave Arsenal this summer is Arsène Wenger. So I’m resigned to ‘only’ having another season of Champions League football to look forward to. Still, those trophy parades can be such a crush, and late May is a great time for a holiday.