Back to the drawing board.
To be honest, the drawing board would be an improvement on the losing board, where we find ourselves time and again after another false dawn. Collaps-o-Arsenal© is not a fleeting blip, it’s endemic, and the most worrying thing of all is that Wenger seems entirely powerless to remedy it.
So it’s hardly surprising that there’s been another major outbreak of introspection among Arsenal fans. These on-field failings have been happening for years, and they are not abating. There is an unpleasant whiff of decline in the air.
There comes a time when even the most ardent Wenger fan has to ask whether the real problem lies not with defensive training, or with a mysterious lack of concentration, or with a lack of quality players, but with Wenger himself. I don’t want to draw that conclusion, because my respect for his achievements at Arsenal is pretty much limitless. I am desperate for him to find the elixir for sound defending and steely concentration. And then to pour it down the throats of his squad.
But that’s the question more and more people are posing, myself included. He’s been asked several times already this season, after bad defeats, whether he’s going to resign. That in itself is unprecedented. This is certainly the lowest point of his Arsenal tenure. Can he turn it round? He hasn’t yet.
He’ll get more time, as he should because he’s earned it, but I don’t believe for a second his position is unassailable. He’s not made of teflon. We are seventeenth in the table, have conceded 14 goals in five games and have the worst goal difference in the league. What is the club’s ambition this year – fourth place? It is of course early days, but it looks like a tall order at this moment in time. Would the club be prepared to pass on Champions League football for a season while Wenger sorts things out? They might well do. Who knows.
We don’t want for decent players. Sagna? Excellent. Mertesacker? 75 caps for one of the best national sides in the world. Szczesny? One of the most exciting young keepers I’ve seen in ages. Koscielny? Improving. Vermaelen? Class. Arteta, Wilshere, Gervinho, van Persie – the list goes on.
But taken as a unit, things are not consistently working. Haven’t been for ages. Nobody, I suspect, fears us anymore. They probably simply sniff a good opportunity.
That’s got to change.