Deep breath… Go! I’m back and I’m sporting – against my better judgement – a positive hat at a jaunty angle. I think it looks rather dapper.
I might be the only one though. The groans – resignation, anger – around the ground and the introspection amongst Arsenal fans since Saturday tell you all you need to know about the state of play. I’ve digested much of the opinion and I’ve blasted my way through several braces of podcasts. I can’t remember things ever being this gloomy in the Wenger era. I certainly didn’t fancy writing about it on Sunday. After all, I’ve written about it before, many times. All the words are below here somewhere, perhaps in a slightly different order, but here nevertheless.
A neutral putting their head round the door might wonder what all the fuss is about. We have an abundance of talented footballers, and we are second in the league. As a snapshot, you can see their point. But the bubbling frustration is very real. It’s borne of seeing the same mistakes, or omissions, or deficiencies, again and again and again.
But things are what they and I for one need to change the record. I’ve had enough being miserable. I just can’t do it anymore.
At the moment, I don’t want to guess who we might sign in the summer, think about what close season changes Wenger needs to make or debate his own future.
I just want a performance on Sunday. Not a scraped win after 15 minutes of late pressure, but a 90-minute passion play. Tactically sharp, high in tempo, fast, unpredictable. Is that possible, after a month-long slump? Well why not? Somewhere, deep in the recesses of history, we’ve seen them do it.
The pressure’s really on Wenger – he’s clearly feeling bruised by his players and he can’t be immune to the wider dissatisfaction – and how he tackles this latest malaise will be very, very interesting.
Some early thoughts
We’re not scoring enough goals, and goals are the raw currency of form. But at least Wenger has started to throw strikers on, and earlier than he ordinarily would. By the time Arshavin scored against WBA in the 70th minute, we had had three strikers on the pitch for nearly a quarter of an hour. And against Blackburn we had the same three strikers – van Persie, Chamakh and Bendtner – for the last 15 minutes. They spurned their half chances but at least van Persie didn’t look so isolated.
So I know it’s not fashionable these days, but how two strikers from the start? We need goals and we have strikers. Our five-man midfield relies on Song and Fabregas being in top form, and neither are.
At the moment, it’s not about a lack of first-choice personnel. Against Blackburn, we had as good a team out as we could have. They just didn’t play, looked down, lethargic, flat. This is Wenger’s biggest puzzler. Does he read the riot act? Does he need to be more subtle? If the chance of staying with the league leaders wasn’t motivation enough, what will be?
Overall Honestly: I’ve not enjoyed watching us since Barcelona at home. But I don’t subscribe to the theory that this team is a busted flush or a failed experiment. It’s never that black and white. We’ve hit a dismal rut of form and need to drag ourselves from it. Yes, something’s gone awry, the team needs changes – some new players in and some underperforming ones out – and Wenger needs to look at himself too, but we have the nucleus of an excellent side and we are second in the league. We shouldn’t forget that.
Was that positive enough? I am giving this glass-half-full stuff a good go.