Arsene Wenger’s magic hat has long been usurped by the sleeping bag coat of doom, his preferred method of protecting himself from the elements and at times the bitter resentfulness pouring from the stands around him. Yesterday we may have seen the man at his lowest ebb, boos ringing around the ground long before the sound of the final whistle as Miguel Michu not only stuck the knife in late on but twisted it, pulled it out and rammed it back in just to make sure of things. Fans fleeing the ground early is certainly nothing new at Arsenal’s posh new home but yesterday most left before the final blow had even landed after witnessing Swansea run rings around Wenger’s ‘jaded’ men. A shrug of resignation that his team were simply outplayed at home post match was a sign of the times.
Before embarking on the question of whether it would be better if he assumed a different, less pressured position at the club at the seasons end let us all accept the fact it simply isn’t going to happen until at least 2014. The man who loves to underline the fact he never breaks a contract off early has again rejected the notion his time may be up in the front line of football management and he has committed himself for another two years. He is fiercely loyal and still confident in his training methods and ability to build competitive teams and he forever will be, the evidence of the past six or so years suggests the polar opposite however with the current campaign representing something of a nadir.
Equal points away from both top and rock bottom of the league this is the first time in my Arsenal supporting life I have seen a team with such little energy, enthusiasm, talent but above all else identity. One thing that needs to be made clear is that questioning Wenger isn’t an act of treason and doesn’t instantly overlook all the good he has done, in these most uncertain of times the Arsenal fan base has been whipped up into a frenzy unable to find answers and solutions for the current plight which aren’t ‘sack the board’ or ‘Wenger out’.
Most seem to want to take sides and vilify everyone from Squillaci to Peter Hill-Wood but what about the idea that both the board and the manager could be guilty of accepting mediocrity and insisting on waiting for a better tomorrow. I remember having Charlie George lead me and a group of wide eyed Arsenal fans around the plush new stadium back in 2007, stopping and sitting in the ‘diamond club’ and informing us that Arsenal were in a position to be the biggest and richest club in the world in a couple of years. Ivan Gazidis who was hailed upon arrival in 2008 as the hardnosed businessman unwilling to accept slipping standards only yesterday came out and pedalled the same line six years later, the promise of tomorrow has been too long in the tooth with Wenger now staring blankly at the remains of a project which has spectacularly failed him.
The board and the manager appear to be far too at ease with each other’s performance levels, scratching each other’s backs with almost code like references regarding money available for transfers. The hysteria surrounding whether or not we qualify for a Champions League position is almost comical at this point, just what does it mean to be part of a competition we have no realistic designs on winning and how can such importance be attached to the £25 million participation fee? We have received near enough this sum of money for our last four player sales and have enjoyed this substantial packet every season; do we see anything resembling acceptable squad investment? Do we f**k.
What is clear is whilst this is not his most talented group of players they are better than what they are producing currently and the manager clearly cannot raise them for the occasion. The two draws and a defeat since beating Tottenham 5-2 underline the fact it was a clear anomalous result largely down to the idiocy of a player we know all too well. Tactics and player selection are now at their most questionable with Wenger’s decision to select one of, if not his poorest signings ever in Gervinho as centre forward being the subject of utter confusion and anger. Giroud who has finally stumbled upon some goalscoring form is now the sole striker at the club with Chamakh failing to make the bench and Bendtner on loan at Juventus, these are the decisions the manager oversaw as well as selling his captain and star striker.
The players look ‘tired’, ‘physically jaded’ and ‘lacking a little sharpness’ due to the fact the squad is thin on quality so the good players we have can barely be rotated but more than all that they appear to realise things are not working and their heads are drooping from the off. I have no doubt they all have a massive respect for the manager but do they actually believe they can go out and win games at the moment? Because they don’t appear to. Podolski is playing like the player I had feared he was rather than what his early form suggested, Jurgen Klopp’s admission that he passed up the opportunity to sign him due to his inconsistency is making perfect sense. The German is going through games with barely any involvement or willingness to take risks.
The emergency loan of Thierry Henry last winter worked wonders but would be almost insulting to his squad, the fans and the player himself to try it again. It’s hard to suggest a clear way out of the mess we find ourselves in, anger is natural after just five wins in 15 games and it’s extremely difficult to aim too much of it towards the man who created the Arsenal the fans sing about ‘wanting back’, maybe ‘we want our Wenger back’ would be more appropriate.