By Mac Byrne
In what is becoming a traditional end of season scenario; drinking establishments, workplaces and gatherings up and down the country are filled with gooners demonstrating a head-shaking mix of amazement and frustration known as ‘getting the Arse!’
With the recent lack of serious transfer activity coupled with the rhetoric emitting from the upper echelons of the Emirates, one could be forgiven for thinking the club and its shareholders are secretly satisfied with the Manager for hitting their off, if not their on-the-field, targets. The demand for a good run in the League and the cups along with perennial qualification for the Champions League seems to have masked the gradual failure of the team to really compete on the pitch at the highest level.
However, six barren years for a club of Arsenal’s size and history has exposed this facade, creating discontent from both – ironically – players and fans who see this as stagnation rather than progression and who are becoming increasingly frustrated that Arsenal’s Invincibles have become invisible when the trophies are being handed out.
Arsenal’s ‘Barca-esque’ style of play is admirable – if a little long winded – and has long been lauded as the Premier League’s version of ‘total football’. But what is missing – and what even Sky Sports commentators have had reason to question this season – is the team’s one dimensional, often predictable (Plan A) strategy, not to mention the extraordinary lengths they will go to score the perfect goal when what is really required is a good old fashioned punt, tonk or dink!
But Wenger’s insistence on signing unknown players he can shape to this style of play has left the bones of a quality team woefully short of experience and more to the point, winners! The longer the barren run continues the more increasingly flawed this policy appears to be. The Carling Cup Final capitulation at the hands of Birmingham City, and the ensuing collapse of a previously promising looking season epitomises the rot that has set in. The Wembley wobbles even more galling given the defensive excellence on which the Gallic master bases his game.
Indeed, with no end to the trophy drought, the rumblings of discontent have become roars, with even captain Cesc questioning his Manager, stating “…I imagine there will be a moment when you have to decide – do you win things, or not?” “It’s true that Arsenal have got a reputation of a team who play beautiful football, but don’t win anything. We won the FA Cup when I got here and we reached the Champions League final. We did not win but Barcelona beat us with a man over and late in the game. But from 2007 on I started to say, ‘We don’t win but we play very well’.
“After that you realise that it doesn’t work. You enjoy it, during a part of the season, like this year, when we were in four different competitions. And you say, ‘Here I have it all’. But then you cannot make the final step and it is here where a decision has to be made: to go out to win or to develop players.”
Which all leaves the man in charge in somewhat of a quandary; stick to his principles – potentially upsetting and losing quality players, as well as the support of the fans – but trust that success will follow – eventually – or admit ‘defeat’ and change the policy?
With recent reports suggesting he’s about to spend – and spend big – it would appear the Professor’s patience has finally run out and it’s time to develop a Plan B! Time will tell whether this is more red and whitewash churned out by the Arsenal board to appease unhappy supporters or the first clear indication that they can see storm clouds gathering; the first ‘raindrops’ being this season’s 4th place finish which means the gunners will have to qualify for the Champions League next season. Proof, if it were needed, that they are sat on their Arse whilst the competition moves on.