Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It's a sad, sad situation

Footballistically, of course things could be worse for Arsenal and Arsenal fans. We could be Aston Villa. We’re still likely to be in the Champions League next season. We play in a fantastic stadium and get to watch the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez play for our club. It could be an awful lot worse.
But that logical, glass-half full, sort of thinking isn’t a rationale that comes easy to football fans. Supporting a football team is a glorious illogical past-time, and even though many fans of other teams would love for their club to be in the position Arsenal are in, the current situation is getting too much for some Gooners, and understandably so. 
The draw with Crystal Palace merely compounded the frustration. It was a game Arsenal should have won easily and should have seen out when 1-0 up in the last ten minutes. But there was more slack defending, poor game management and naievity and Arsenal threw away more points. For Palace’s equalising goal, Gabriel has to make a tackle on Emmanuel Adebayor as the striker runs down the left. If it’s a foul and a yellow card, fine, it’s stopped a chance of scoring and at that time in the game, you accept the card. Instead, Adebayor was allowed to run, set-up Yannick Bolasie and his shot snuck past Petr Cech when it shouldn’t have done. 
It’s these moments that sum up why Arsenal fans are near the tipping point at the moment. These are good players making basic mistakes, playing without their brains and not playing to their potential. There have always been these moments in the last ten years of Arsenal’s 3rd and 4th place finishes. In that time, the one constant has been Arsene Wenger. 
I’m finding the failings hard to watch at the moment because I’ve always been a great supporter of Wenger. No-one can argue that his heart isn’t in the right place. He lives and breathes for the club and has given it so much. The style of play, when it works, is superb. His willingness to give youngsters a chance stands the club out, just look at the excitement surrounding Alex Iwobi. But we’re in a position now where the greatest manager in the club’s history is having everything he says or does twisted and used as some sort of stick to beat him with, which is incredibly saddening. When he does leave the club, be it this summer or further on in the future, there’ll be fans actively celebrating.
Wenger comes across as a man of great integrity, and as someone who has given so much to Arsenal and has been let down pretty significantly by plenty of his players this season, it’s sad to see the abuse he is getting. There’s no doubting that he deserves criticism for the way his team have thrown away the title this season, but the abuse some write and say about him is painful to see. 
This feels like the closest Arsenal have been to a managerial change since Wenger arrived, just because of the immensely negative feelings around the club. Whether it turns out to be the right decision or not, something is needed to freshen up the club. It’s either a change at boardroom level, managerial level, a big overhaul of the squad or a combination of the three that needs to happen this summer. 
The ground won’t be near to being full on Thursday night for the visit of West Brom. That’s in part because of it being on a stupid night of the week and it being against a Tony Pulis team, but it’s mainly because fans are exhausted and fed up. Not just because of this season, but because of the last ten years. The Emirates is a sad and frustrating place to be at the moment, and if something doesn’t give this summer, those feelings will likely continue into next season.