Baby Steps Forward, And Giant Steps Backward

Regardless of your allegiance and loyalty to Arsene Wenger, or your frustration with the Frenchman, the end goal and ambition should all be the same. We all want to see Arsenal challenge for the Premier League, and when I say challenge, I’m not talking about just putting pressure, or being 21 points adrift from the summit of the league standings 19 matches into the season.

When Thierry Henry went to his knees and kissed the immaculate pitch at Highbury, that was not only our farewell to the place we called home for decades, but it also appears to have been our farewell to title challenges, and a legitimate winning mentality, from top to bottom.

There were promises of competing with the likes of Europe’s elite not only on the pitch, but also from the perspective of our bank statements.

Truth be told, all those promises seem to be the equivalent of us telling our kids that Santa is real. And even when they are old enough to truly understand that a fat guy riding a sled comes sliding down the chimney you don’t even have isn’t realistic, they still convince themselves somehow, someway, it’s possible. Those kids are us Arsenal supporters.

For years, we’ve been told that we’d spend big, we were heading in the right direction, and we were just about on the brink of going from a possible contender, to a legitimate contender. Unfortunately, we aren’t legitimate contenders, and to be honest, I think we aren’t even possible contenders anymore. Those days are behind us, and we are left with figuring out how the hell we can get ourselves back into the contenders lounge. At the moment we are outside looking in through the windows, but still trying to convince those outside with us that we should really be inside.

Off the pitch, we are left scratching our heads about contract negotiations. Arsenal shouldn’t have to beg any player to stay at the club. You either want to be there, or you don’t, and if it’s that difficult of a decision, well then the gentleman upstairs who make significant amounts of money should make the decision for you. Here are the offers we have for you from other clubs, we’re accepting this one. Thanks for your service, and good luck. Instead, we are stuck in the uncertainty of trying to beg and convince adults as to why Arsenal is the right club for them. Why are they holding the club ransom?!

Now we not only have drama off the pitch, it ends up causing problems on the pitch. If you think the players aren’t affected by the Ozil and Alexis situation, you my friend likely still put cookies out for Santa. Or how about Arsene Wenger’s contract negotiations?! Why does it all have to be a secret? We all knew what the outcome would be. We aren’t idiots, but clearly the executives at the club think that’s the case.

As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, I respect Arsene Wenger and everything he’s done for the club. I’m still not entirely convinced he’s the only problem, but, I can admit he is one of many.

The fact that the players are capable of putting in performances as we saw in the FA Cup final, the Community Shield, or even the passion from the Manchester United match tells me it’s not only Wenger. He clearly is still capable of motivating the players, but, are the players also able to motivate themselves?

Whatever Le Prof says before the match, there’s no excuse for mental lapses. He’s not the one telling players to leave Firmino alone at the edge of our box, with Arsenal up 3-2. He’s not the one telling players to bomb forward and completely leave gaps for the opposition to exploit. Sure, he has a hand in the team selection, and he tends to complicate that at times, but regardless of what the manager says or doesn’t say, there are basics when it comes to playing football, of which we tend to lack at times. Like I said, we can blame Wenger for some of it, but the players have to take the blame for some it as well.

With the changes in the backroom, is anything going to actually change? After all, Stan Kroenke is still the majority shareholder, and Ivan Gazidis is still the Chief Executive at the club.

I’m not convinced that any signs or rallies will really pressure the club to change. Until the mentality at the top changes from getting into the Champions League to winning the Premier League, we will continue to go through these frustrations year after year. Winning will remain to be second on the list, behind being profitable. Incredible performances from time to time will continue to make us momentarily forget about how inconsistent we are, and how far off we are from those at the top. But hey, the club is profitable, that’s what matters right?!