After the agony and maddening frustrations of the defeat to Manchester United on Sunday, I found it hard to muster the energy to be angry following another calamitous night watching the Arsenal. The Swansea defeat merely reinforced the deficiencies in the Arsenal team at the moment with the team lacking cohesion and concentration that is needed to win the title.
Whereas on Sunday I was absolutely fuming with the performance from Arsenal at Old Trafford, on Wednesday, I found it all a bit saddening. It’s sad to see what’s become of the team this season after the position they were in after Christmas. It’s sad to hear the abuse the players were getting from some fans on Wednesday. It’s sad to see Arsene Wenger suffer when he’s put so much into the club. It’s sad to feel like you’re in an uncomfortable atmosphere where frustrations are spilling out from the stands. It’s sad that the same mistakes are happening season after season.
On another day, a similar level of performance from Arsenal might well have been good enough to win the game. Any of the three shots that hit the woodwork might have sneaked in, the referee might have spotted that grabbing a player round the neck is generally a foul, the linesman might have seen that Ashley Williams was offside when he scored. But that level of performance isn’t good enough for a team supposedly chasing the title. You can’t play at a level where, it everything goes your way, you might beat a team in the lower reaches of the table. You have to play at a level where they haven’t got a chance to even establish themselves in the game, let alone win it. Arsenal didn’t do that on Wednesday and got deservedly punished.
It’s incredibly difficult to watch Arsene Wenger struggle, a man who has given me so much joy as an Arsenal fan through his style of play, the players he bought to the club and the trophies he’s won. It’s hard to watch your heroes failing, but there’s no denying that he is failing with this squad. Regardless of any other players he could and should have brought in, with the players he has, the club are failing this season. They should be alongside, or above, Leicester and they should have made lighter work of the Champions League group stage. It’s not just one or two players he’s not getting the best from either, it’s the majority of the first team.
I don’t like the way the season has nose-dived because this isn’t how it was meant to end with Arsene Wenger, but if Arsenal keep playing as they are currently, it’s how it’s going to end. I desperately hope that for his, and the club’s, sake that things improve, but optimism is hard to come by at the moment.
But this is the Arsenal, and I’m certain that most readers (and certainly the writer!) of this blog still love the club in the crazy, irrational, way that football fans do despite the recent results. Saturday is the North London derby, and whatever the last three games have brought has to be ignored. This is one of the two games in a season where the players have no excuse for not turning up. The joy of football is that while things can be sad and slightly depressing, there is always hope. Admittedly, there’s not much of it going into Saturday, but there’s always some, and a win at White Hart Lane is the one sure-fire way to make most things feel right again.
We might not have any title hopes left, so we just have to take things game-by-game and just see where it gets us. If it doesn’t get Arsenal very far, then serious conversations have to be had in the summer at the top level of the club.