Do the decent thing and quit now
On Christmas Eve I posted my annual reflection on the year gone by. It being just a couple of weeks after the Bradford debacle I wrote the following about the lowest point of 2012:
They say it's darkest just before dawn. Let's hope that things get no darker for a long time to come
Yesterday things got decidedly darker for Arsene Wenger. He picked a team that should have been more than capable of dispatching Blackburn Rovers. I can see why others are saying he should have played Wilshere and Walcott etc from the start and I am often an advocate of that. However, with Bayern Munich ahead of us I felt it was an understandable move for a change. And, as I said, that team should have had more than enough about them to beat a side which is even worse than the one that got relegated last season. Those players undoubtedly let down the Manager, but he was the one that picked them. He was the one who failed to motivate them. He was the one who didn't have any tactical plan to change things when it was obvious Blackburn were really quite comfortable. He was the one who took 70 minutes to realise that Gervinho shouldn't have been on the pitch, or Chamberlain, or Rosicky. He is the one who has signed no back up option at centre-forward. He is the one who has programmed his players to continually pass the ball square and backwards when faced with a packed defence. He is the one who has decided that this team does not need to practise set-pieces, either attacking or defending. He is the one who has allowed an egotistical and serially error-prone young goalkeeper to be the unchallenged (and uncoached, it would seem) number one at Arsenal. He is the one who has overseen a decline from the greatest team English football has seen (built by him) in to a side that is now headed for its ninth trophyless year (summarily destroyed by him). He is the man who demanded Arsenal move from their beautiful stadium to a soulless bowl, inhabited by Johnny-Come-Lately tourists rather than died-in-the-wool Gooners, in order that we could "compete". If someone could tell me how we are competing I'd be glad to have that debate with you.
There were two things in the game yesterday summed up the way Arsenal have slipped in to mediocrity:
The first came as the corner count started to rise and Arsenal got their first corner on the right hand side. Nobody went to take it. Thomas Vermaelen had to instruct Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to go and take the corner. That is the level of preparation that Arsene Wenger gives his players. It had clearly not even been discussed who would be taking the corners. Is it any wonder that our set-pieces come to nothing when the players don't even know who's supposed to deliver the ball? As for the quality when the corners were taken we might as well just not bother. Only one was remotely dangerous and Abou Diaby (who is being unfairly singled out today - he was one of the better performers yesterday, constantly let down by a lack of options ahead of him) forced Blackburn's goalkeeper in to his only save of note.
The second one came in injury time at the end of the game. Mikel Arteta picked up the ball on the halfway line and every other Arsenal outfield player was in front of him. However, such is Arteta's determination to keep up his pass completion rate he chose to pass the ball square, straight to the fourth official. There wasn't the slightest thought from Arteta that he ought to get the ball forward and let Arsenal try and attack properly. It's probably not Arteta's fault. The Arsenal players are told to pass, pass, pass. And when they've done that they have to pass again. It's frustrating and utterly infuriating to watch. But we've been watching it for so long now that you just know it's going to happen. The idea that Arsenal play exciting football is a myth and it has been for about four years now. There are times when they can turn it on and play with pace and power. Believe it or not that Arsenal is far more effective than the one we have to put up with most of the time.
I notice today that Kevin Whitcher, editor of The Gooner, is advocating a vocal response to Arsene Wenger at games. He wants Arsenal fans to turn on the Manager during matches. I am not in favour of such behaviour. When the game is going on it is our job to support the team. To sing songs and chant things that are against the Manager would be counter-productive to the team. However, I can see why some now feel that such a high profile show of disdain with Arsene Wenger may be necessary to effect change. As I was leaving the game yesterday I certainly didn't hear too many people willing to defend Wenger. I fail to see how anybody who actually attends matches ever could. It strikes me, and I may be wrong, that those who genuinely choose to defend Arsene Wenger are either kids who have only ever known the Club under his control, or people who live a long way away from North London.
I'm nearly 34 years old. In my lifetime the longest we have gone without silverware was the first eight years of my life (I was around three weeks old when Alan Sunderland got the winner against Manchester United). That being the case, I do remember what it was like to be mediocre. I do remember the feeling that winning trophies after barren years brought us. That feeling never lessened in the years of success under George Graham and then Arsene Wenger. In the mid-90s I watched a team that was awful but, because it could defend and had a goalkeeper worthy of the name, could win trophies. Even in 1995 when Graham was sacked, and we stared relegation in the face, we got to a European Final and were beaten by a freak goal in a game we ought to have won. Right now I see a Club that is heading back to the mediocrity of my childhood. I'd rather have that mid-90s team, with the chance that they might get us a cup or two, than the one I watch today. I know what it's like to be crap, and to not challenge for trophies. I don't want to go back to that (in fact we already have got back to that if the truth be told). As far as I'm concerned the way to arrest this slide in to the abyss is by removing Arsene Wenger from his position. I'm more than grateful for the wonderful things he gave us, but it is time to move on. And for anyone who says "who do you replace him with?" I simply point to Wenger's salary of £7.5m per year - the answer to the question is "whoever you damn well want" with that money on offer. The picture below, rather sadly, sums up my feelings on Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
It's a very sad day to be a supporter of Arsenal Football Club.