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Monday 20 March 2017

Deux Avions Arsène

            I was so depressed after Saturday's miserable capitulation to the Baggies that I was tempted not to bother adding my own contribution to the resulting inevitable tumult of Arse bashing, at least not until I'd allowed some time to try and put matters into some proper perspective.

            From my point of view, confirmation that our club is so far up kack creek that we've reached an absolute nadir, is evident when our fans start taking their cues from the self-aggrandising antics of the over-entitled Mancunian masses. 

            Never mind "Two Jags Prescott", we've now got "Deux Avions Arsène" as we endured the tortuous disunity at the Arsenal being embarrassingly played out in the West Midlands' skies Saturday lunchtime, for the hilarity of the Hawthorns' crowd and all the local Yam Yams.

            If it wasn't bad enough that the WOB had crowd-funded the fly past with their "No Contract #Wenger Out" banner just before KO, when such needless expense might've been put to far better use to feed the swollen bellies of all those starving babes in Africa, the battles of the skies was joined with the appearance of a second plane, twenty minutes later, trailing the AKB's "In Arsène We Trust #respectAW" ensign (with the more amusing t-shirt alternative "In Arsène We Rust" available online).

            Rumours abound that this second stunt was funded by a firm that's run by our chairman's family and as if to emphasise their superior status, compared to the brief fly-by afforded by the WOB, this second plane seemed to linger overhead for the remainder of the first-half, just to ensure their message was seen. Admittedly the score was only 1-1 up until half-time and I'm certain the response would've been far more emphatic after the final whistle, but if one wanted to take a temperature of the Gooner mood on the terraces, the reaction to the first plane was mild curiousity, with the almost obligatory raft of mobiles appearing to record the event, whereas the second plane resulted in a brief chorus of "Only One Arsène Wenger".

            Obviously, all the usual suspects amongst the publicity-seeking Gooners produced their customary "Wenger Out" and "Thanks for the Memories" banners at the final whistle, thereby providing our humiliated side with an excuse to skulk off into the dressing room, even quicker than would've been the case, if they weren't confronted with the dilemma of them not wanting to risk being seen to condone the WOB. Moreover, Saturday's abysmal display only served to reaffirm what appears to be an increasing consensus on the terraces that there's absolutely no evidence of the sort of commitment from the players to save the gaffer's bacon.

            Nevertheless, although the WOB's social media white noise might be by far the loudest, I remain of the opinion that, much like myself, the vast majority of Gooners feel uncomfortable at the prospect of Wenger being hounded out the door. Much like a doctor's hippocratic oath to do no harm, Arsène is certainly not intent on "killing our club" and has devoted the past twenty years to putting the Arsenal on the map. In truth, Wenger's only crime is his culpability in seemingly not being able to appreciate quite how stale the circumstances have become in London N5. And surely the real blame for this is down to the complacent suits, who've grown so content with the club's full coffers that they are neither inclined, nor have the cajones to proclaim our emperor's stark bollock nakedness.

Never mind Wenger, is Bouldie earning his keep?

            If the headlines on the back pages of Monday's tabloids are to be believed, the board have bottled it and have chosen the path of least resistance, with a contract renewal. Although this would be likely to result in absolute uproar from the Gooner masses, perhaps from the board's point of view it enables them to continue to postpone actually having to do their jobs, by replacing Wenger with the entire apparatus of football management structure that will be required, when he eventually chooses to let go of his all-encompassing reins. Additionally, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is more than a little trepidation amongst the suits at the Arsenal. Failing immediate success for the manager who fills Wenger's shoes, the finger of blame and the clamorous ire of our fan base will rapidly point in their direction.

            When I go back through weekly missives written as the league campaign reaches the finishing straight in the vast majority of recent seasons, I fast lose count of the number of occasions upon which we've witnessed such half-hearted displays that I've been moved to state that one could be forgiven for wondering which of the two team was chasing a top four finish and the side with little but pride left to play for. So when viewed in isolation, Saturday's miserable defeat to the Baggies was little different to many of the unimpressive performances that we've endured in the past at this time of the year, aside from the fact that previously we've often benefited from the likes of West Brom being that little bit more distracted by the summer holyers and remembering to buy their Factor 10 from Boots than our unmotivated lot.

            Yet whether it was the fact that we've ended the weekend in sixth place, behind Man U, on equal points with Everton and enduring a whole NINE point chasm between us and our neighbours, or the circumstances of Wenger's uncertain future and Özil failing to even bother turning up at West Brom (supposedly suffering from a hamstring strain, when gossip might lead one to conclude that Mesut's nocturnal acitivities are far more likely to cause a groin strain!), which might imply that our two world class stars are about to engineer their exit, there's a definite "end of days" feel to this campaign that's distinctly different to the way in which we've grown accustomed to seasons petering out in the past.

            Never mind Wenger, perhaps it should be Bouldie getting the "tin tack" considering our set-piece defending was so unbelievably criminal, against a side that's scored half their goals this season from such routines. Moreover, I don't usually set much store by statistics, but to my mind, only two shots on target from 77% possession and not one of these after the 33rd minute, this screams to me of a side devoid of any real appetite. Most poignantly to me was the sight of our statuesque midfield, as they were bypassed for the Baggies second goal, where not one amongst the likes of Xhaka, Ramsey, the Ox and Theo appeared willing to bust a gut to get back, but were content to leave our defence struggling to cope. Similarly, our alleged zonal defending at corners is perfectly designed for players who are unwilling to take responsibility and eager to apportion blame elsewhere.

Closest Xhaka comes to working up a sweat!
            I can take getting beat by the Baggies and in the great scheme of things, even the spectre of finishing out of the top four wouldn't be such a disaster. Finishing below Spurs would be mortifying and might result in me having to turn my phone off for the entire summer, but to gift them this crumb of comfort only once every couple of decades wouldn't be the end of the world. What I can't accept is watching an Arsenal side simply settling for their fate, without even showing us fans the respect of putting a proper shift in.

            Then again, is this so surprising, as I can't help but wonder how it sits with his team mates that Mesut is an apparent law unto himself and can seemingly swan off, whenever he gets the yen. Whatever happened to the whole squad travelling to matches whether on the teamsheet or not, to at least feign support for their colleagues? Meanwhile, I see all the complaints about Alexis being too greedy and not being a "team player" and it's true, he's increasingly guilty of running with the ball and being reluctant to pass. But in his shoes, I wonder if I wouldn't be exactly the same. Again in the first-half on Saturday Sanchez was the single only player in yellow willing to make the effort to try and make something happen, rather than passively passing the ball around, waiting for the opposition to present us with an opening. 

            When Alexis is the only Arsenal player willing to take the opposition on, why on earth would he want to go past someone, only to lay the ball off and see it end up going back past the halfway line, for us to begin yet again. As just about our only player who demonstrates a "winning mentality' it should come as no shock that he's growing increasingly resentful of being surrounded by team mates who've grown so accustomed to settling for ending up amongst the "also rans"!

            Seeing the decidedly uninspiring but industrious likes of West Brom's Livermore getting an England call-up, I wondered if Theo Walcott might feel like he had a point to prove on Saturday. Yet aside from being caught on the ball in his own half, I can barely recall Theo being involved in the 65 minutes he spent on the pitch. It's wrong for me to single out individuals from such a lamentable team showing, but this was symptomatic of a side that plays as if they've been so immersed in Arsène's cocoon of "unbelievable belief" that they expect victory to be handed to them on a plate and can no longer remember how to go about earning it.

            No matter how concerned I might be about what the future might hold in a post-Wenger era and in the likely absence of Özil and Sanchez, the prospect of more of the same is far more mortifying. I'm sure that like the vast majority of others, I wish Arsène would hurry up and bite the bullet, so we can indeed #respectAW and bid him the fondest of farewells. Even if he's able to galvanise this squad into providing him with a fitting send off and heaven forfend, a 4th place finish and an FA Cup win, which result in him changing his mind, it's likely to prove a whole lot more enticing than an argumentative, ten-game wake.

            As it stands at present, the thought of facing City at Wembley and then going to our last ever game at the Lane the following weekend fills me full of dread and as humiliating as it would be to lose both these encounters, at the very minimum, I need to be going to both games believing we're capable of victory, instead of willingly walking into a masochistic car-crash!



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