‘Forward’, urges the new Arsenal crest. After Sunday’s reprisal of the now well-honed Collaps-o-Arsenal, perhaps ‘Sideways’ would have been more apt. Some would argue ‘Backwards’. Harsh? Of couse it is. I’m just not in a particularly generous mood at the moment. But we do continue to live up to our billing as a yo-yo team. One step forward, one step back. Turn it on, switch it off. From afar, it probably looks as if we’re jigging up and down on the spot.
Are we looking ahead at a bigger summer than the Fox-in-the-Box summer of 2001? That close season, we signed five new players (one a huge success, one a moderate success, and three failures, for what it’s worth), and since then – before then, for that matter – I don’t recall such a summer influx. For some of those proceeding years, there’s been little need. For others, there’s not been the wherewithal and for others, the doctrine has been largely to build from within.
This summer, the need is most definitely there to properly put our weaknesses to bed. The wherewithal too, or so we’re told. And as for the doctrine – well if Wenger doesn’t realise we need a new approach, however subtle, then it’s a case of Stewart Houston: We have a problem.
I’m not suggesting for a second that the solution to our infuriating bungeeing between sublime and ridiculous is players alone. I agree that it’s in no small part a mental thing – noticed how even Wenger has stopped trotting out the ‘my players have great mental strength and I am convinced they will show it’ line.
But if the manager is struggling to get his players to treat every game as if it’s Barcelona at home – a worrying thought in its own right – then one way to deal with it is of course to spice things up on the pitch. Inject some new, proven faces, and some competition.
The trouble is, when I take this argument to its logical conclusion in my own head, I get a bit giddy and see myself waving enthusiastic goodbyes to about seven players. Seven in, seven out would be one hell of a spring clean. You’d need an enormous pair of marigolds. But how cathartic would it be?
To my mind, the 6.5% ticket hike has only served to shorten people’s fuses. Many, probably most of us will cough up again, because going to Arsenal is simply something we do.
But it’s fair to ask: What are we going to get in return?
In the meantime, we have the final home game of the season, complete with the lap of appreciation. It’s going to be a seminal dad moment for me: I’m taking my 5-year-old. It’ll be his first game.
Magnificent timing to get into Arsenal, eh?
Then again, when’s it ever bad timing?