Only Arsenal could go from a season that had the potential to be the best for nine years, to one that could have the biggest car crash ending in Arsene Wenger’s reign. If things don’t improve in the last five league games, and Everton overtake Arsenal and move into the top four, this could be the beginning of the long farewell for the manager.
If Arsenal finish in the top four and win the FA Cup, I think Wenger will stay. Finish in the top four and not win the cup, or not finish in the top four, and I don’t think he’ll sign the new contract. Whilst I understand Wenger wants to be sure he can take this team forward and doesn’t want to commit when there’s a lot of uncertainty left in the season, the lack of clarity about the manager’s future does seem to be unsettling the team.
I still can’t work out this Arsenal team. The second half against Manchester City was excellent, yet the the performance against Everton with the same players was so one-dimensional and pathetic. Everton were lively, looked to do things at pace and were direct without just lumping the ball up Romelu Lukaku. Whenever Arsenal got the ball, things went sideways with no-one looking to move forward from midfield. Even Tomas Rosicky wasn’t making his normal driving runs forward.
Injuries are the obvious answer to the slow, one-dimensional attack as this team are completely different with Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey because they actually get their heads up and look to go forward. Indeed, when Ramsey made his long-awaited return from injury, Arsenal looked more dangerous as the Welshman looked to break forward and create something. However whilst he was playing as he was in the first half of the season, no one else was on he same wave length. There was a reverse pass Ramsey played at Goodison Park that ran harmlessly out for a goal kick as no Arsenal player ran into the box to get on the end of it. He played exactly the same ball against Hull back in December and Ozil was there to score. All it needed on Sunday was someone else actually wanting to break forward into space and make a difference.
However the injuries don’t explain how Arsenal can go from being so positive last week to being so useless on Sunday. There really has been a lot to like about the Arsenal team this season, and there’s a core of a squad that has the potential to seriously challenge for the title, but they are doing their best to unravel it at the moment. It’s not simply a case of blaming Giroud, blaming Wenger, blaming Vermaelen or finding anyone to be a scapegoat. The whole team just isn’t functioning as it should do, especially in the big away games, and everyone has to take a lot of responsibility for it.
The FA Cup next weekend does offer a getaway from the random league form Arsenal are in at the moment, but the pessimist would say it’s another chance for this season’s fall off a cliff to reach peak speed as it plummets to the ground. Defeat at Wembley to Wigan next weekend really would create a feeling of the end for Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal. However, a win could be the boost the team need to get the league form back on track to ensure Champions League football isn’t nicked by Everton.
There will be 50,000+ Gooners at Wembley next weekend with a confusing mix of excitement at a big day out and crippling anxiety about an embarrassing defeat that is not impossible with this squad. Win the remaining games this season, and top four with 75+ points and the FA Cup would represent some sort of improvement. When you don’t know what Arsenal team will turn up from week to week, that’s hard to envisage at the moment. Hopefully I’ll have a pre-Wembley burst of optimism later in the week.