So I started writing a blog the other night, canned it, and came back to it again with the intention of letting time dilute my disappointment. Why? Well the first effort was just too doom-laden, hairshirt-wearing, chest-thumping and – overall – it was a miserable read all round. I didn’t enjoy writing it so I added one and one together, made two, and realised that nobody of a sound mental disposition would much care to read it either. So here we are again, hopefully a bit more sanguine.
At this point, I’d take Bacary Sanguine.
Safe to say though that Wenger is not enjoying 2012 a whole lot, and let’s be frank here, he’s not the only one. Arsenal have barely swashbuckled at all this this season, with the second half at Chelsea about as good as it has got (and it was good – van Persie dovetailed nicely with Walcott, Santos announced himself on the scene and the result was five goals away from home). Swashbuckling used to be our trademark. What is our trademark now?
A bright few months followed – those we should not forget when we stare down the barrel of the last three games – but taken as a whole, the whiff of backwards is in the air. And it pains me to write that. Eight league losses and thirty-five goals conceded tell their own story. We’re making mistakes all over the place and confidence has evaporated – again.
My take on the booing, before I move on once and for all, is this: It was spontaneous and, like many of these things, it had more to it than meets the eye. The frustration with the way we are playing has been building up again for a while, so just when we did start turning the screw (and scored a lovely goal), removing Chamberlain took the wind right out of our sails, even if medically it was the right thing to do. I don’t think the booing was for Arshavin at all.
There’s also frustration at the weaknesses in the squad going unaddressed. There are probably a few other frustrations besides.
So I suppose it was the culmination of all that plus a bit more. Sometimes these things happen – like the chant at the end of last season, after drawing at Fulham, when the away fans urged Arsene to flash some of our hard-earned cash. I know it’s counterproductive to boo, but I find it hard to criticise, if I’m honest. Football is not just like a trip to the cinema, it’s an all-encompassing passion. Most of us live and breathe it, take it far too seriously and let it affect the rest of our lives. I know I do.
It does leave us in a pickle though and a fair wedge of the opprobrium – fairly, for I am no blind apologist – has begun to fall on the boss’s shoulders. I’d be lying if I haven’t at any point been worried about where we are going under him but I’m more worried about salvaging a season that, let’s be honest, has hardly fizzled out completely. We are not dead in the water. We are fifth, and still in both the FA and European Cups.
I also have huge sympathy for Wenger from the point of view of injuries (which, for the sake of argument, let’s not blame him for). If we had two full-backs, Arteta, Wilshere and Gervinho we would be a different team entirely – of that there is no doubt.
I also sympathise with his assertion that we don’t now need a full-back. If (ah yes, the mighty ‘if’) we really are only ten days from having Gibbs and Sagna back then there’s logic to that argument. Of course, had someone come in on Jan 1st to cover in the interim, there’d have been some logic in that too, but Gibbs+Santos and Sagna+Jenkinson is under almost all circumstances a well-stocked full-back larder. My frustrations with the defence are less about the personnel (there’s strength in depth and experience, when the wind is going in the right direction), and more about the lapses in concentration.
So where am I going with this? I dunno, quite, but what I do know is that I don’t want to grump out for the rest of the season, so after a few wild days on the moors of gloom, I am back and thinking happy thoughts.
And allow me to let you into a little secret: I enjoyed watching Mertesacker playing up front*.
*But I did grow up watching Niall Quinn.