This time, it really feels like the end

Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City

The thing about saying “it feels like Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal reign has reached its end” is that I’ve definitely said it before, at various points over the last five years. And it never has been the end of Wenger’s reign, because – remarkably – he’s been the one who decides his own fate, and he has always found a way, to date, of changing the narrative or convincing himself he’s still the man for the job.

And that’s the thing: he still thinks he can do it. He said it again last night. After Sunday’s game, he called for “perspective”, but with seven defeats in 2018 already, just three away wins in the league all season, a dismal away record against the top six (just two wins in over 20 games stretching back to 2013-14), and a European record at the knockout stage that over the last seven years has been an embarrassment, the bigger picture tells its own story.

But it does feel different now. Over the years, Wenger’s made an art of turning things round just when they seemed to be smothering him – those recent FA Cup are a classic example – but even that skill appears to have deserted him now. We’ve had one or two excellent performances this season, but they’re very isolated. The real consistency can be found in the mistakes we keep making: the sames mistakes we’ve made for years.

And many fans see it for what it is: a team that, in league terms, has been at best treading water and at worst in slow decline for a long time.

Last night was just no surprise. A team that is laced with attacking talent will only get so far if you don’t supply it with chances, if it can’t reliably and consistently defend, or if structurally it loses its way mid-match so readily.

The changes haven’t worked

It’s not that he hasn’t tried to do something about it – just that it’s not working. Rather than sticking with what we had, the club twisted in the summer and then again in the January transfer window, breaking our transfer record twice. We offloaded our three top scorers from last season and brought in fresh faces to kick-start something new. Now, I wouldn’t want to equate the quality of our recent transfer moves to the last signings George Graham made (Kiwomya, Hartson) but both cases, it now seems clear, were last throws of the dice.

It didn’t work for George Graham and it looks unlikely to work now for Wenger. The squad is unbalanced and has lost its way. It’s miles off where it needs to be, both in terms of personnel, and when it comes to mentality and organisation. The need for change has been clear for a while, the players needs reinvigorating, the way we play needs a total overhaul and the fans need it too. The empty seats or fans leaving in droves mid-match is a sign that something’s very broken.

And so to the finale

A fairytale ending – as much as there is one – would be for him to announce he’s leaving then for us to go on and win the Europa League. But the prospect of a European trophy seems incredibly remote at the moment, especially as two-legged ties require concentration, tactical maturity and defensive nous. This is not a smooth-running machine, right now.

The sad reality is that, Europa League or not, Wenger’s course is surely now run.

There are people saying he should go now, but I’d hate for it to end that way. I want to send Wenger off as he deserves to be sent off – with respect, and with thanks for a remarkable and at times quite brilliant tenure – at the end of the season.

It’s time for a fresh beginning.

All change at Emerick’s Stadium

It’s hard to remember a transfer window like it. Two players in, five out, one superstar signed, one sold, another nailed down to a new contract – leaving us with an attacking line-up that has been comprehensively rejigged in a footballing blink of the eye.

I know the goals have dried up this season, but we’ve essentially sold all our goalscorers from last season, bar Ozil, in the hope that their replacements – Lacazette, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan – will spark a change in fortune.

Is it risky? Not so much: we’re bog average for the most part, languishing as we are in sixth, and staleness is all around. Something needs to change, and that won’t happen by tweaking round the edges. Whoever’s pulling the levers of power behind the scenes – and it’s hard to argue now that it’s uniquely Wenger – clearly feels that a harsh wind needs to blow through the club.

Given our astonishing inconsistency – veering from the disciplined (cup semis) to the lazy, disinterested and disjointed (Bournemouth, Swansea – take your pick) – something fundamentally wrong permeates this team and has done for too long.

So starting with the attack, it’s being changed. And I do suspect this is the start – with the rest of the work kicking off in the summer, possibly under a new manager. If you look at it that way, it’s more exciting than seeing it as a month of desperate rearguard action to make up for Alexis wanting out.

Where does this leave Wenger? ‘Gone in the summer’ wouldn’t be an extreme position to take, though with this club being this club, and with Wenger being Wenger, you wouldn’t want to dip into your pockets to back up a claim like that.

The biggest moves of the day for us are of course Aubameyang in, Giroud out and – this blindsided me – Ozil on a new deal.


Aubameyang is our most expensive signing ever at £56m, who joins us with a phenomenal scoring record. Assuming we can feed him chances – a wild assumption right now – he should throw the cat among our attacking pigeons. Good day to you, Sir!


Mesut Ozil – OK, he’s here already but this is exciting and he’s definitely LANS. I didn’t see this one coming at all, but it just goes to show you what blowing your salary ceiling out the water can do – and what signing some other big players can do to perceptions. I’m really pleased by this. Yes, at times in this side he can feel like an icing-on-the-cake player, but when he purrs he does things nobody else in this side can. And let’s all drool, if we will, at the prospect of him feeding our brand new frontline.


Olivier Giroud – I was hoping we’d at least get a lap of honour at the end of the season for this goodbye, to be honest, but the gods of transfers decreed him to be the key to unlock the panoply of moves that led to Aubameyang deal. A fine servant, underrated in many respects, with excellent technical ability and a strong line in beards. I wish he hadn’t gone to Chelsea but there you have it. He slowed our game down (even more!) and had clearly fallen out of favour, but he always had a goal in him. Good luck, Oli.

Oh, and Mathieu DebuchyYou still here, blood? Should have left ages ago and had a rotten Arsenal career thanks to circumstances beyond his control. He’s gone to St Etienne, who have gone a bit downhill since Only Love Can Break Your Heart.

We’ve veered from committed to disinterested this season and back again with consistent inconsistency, and we’ve been boring to watch far too often. I’m not sure I really care where this January revolution has come from. All I know is that something needed to change – and changing, it appears to be.

Bring it on.

A new broom is sweeping Arsenal’s attack clean


Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace

Thanks to the attacking instincts of our defence, and the brilliant feather-light touch of Ozil, we swatted Palace aside in 22 minutes yesterday – then throttled back and watched the world go by. Stamping our authority on a game – how I’ve missed that.

We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our post-Alexis future, though most teams will be less welcoming than Palace. That’s not to put a negative slant on 22 minutes that were fluid, exciting and ruthless – and the rest of the game where we largely kept a shell-shocked Palace at arm’s length – so let’s put that on the record. But trickier assignments will be round the corner.

A 4-1 win in most circumstances would be the talking point for several days, but such is the state of play at Arsenal this January it’s already fading into the background. There’s stuff rumbling along in every nook and cranny if you look hard enough.

Fixing the attack

One of the most interesting changes is what’s happening to our attack. Since the summer we’ve sold Ox, Walcott and now Alexis – with Giroud potentially following them. That’s not just tweaks – it’s a complete clearout.

It’s classic Wenger too (or is it – more on that in a minute). We have a defence that can’t keep clean sheets and, at times, is all over the place. We have a midfield that lacks brute power and numbers – so let’s remodel the attack! It certainly has the stamp of Wenger all over it, but such is the intrigue at the club at the moment that you have to ask yourself how much of this evolution – or is it a revolution? – is coming from elsewhere within the club.

You’d be within your remit to wonder, too, how much of this is blind panic having mismanaged so much of what’s preceded it. Reaction, not proaction. It would be a fair conclusion to draw.

Whatever the cause, things are changing fast this month. Faster off the pitch than on it – and I’m all for it.

While Mkhitaryan gently weeps

We’ve said goodbye to Theo, we’ve waved adieu to Coquelin and now we’d bidden adios to Alexis. On the other side of the revolving door we say ‘Bari galust’ to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who can play behind the striker, or on the wing. Who will he displace? Probably Iwobi at this stage, though your guess is as good as mine.

Whether he’d have come to Arsenal in other circumstances is a moot point, but that’s how football works – circumstances dictate moves – they always have done.

I’m sad to see Alexis go and I will not lie. He’s been a pleasure to watch and was precisely the kind of player Arsenal needed. High intensity, hugely driven and a lethal goalscorer: a real stardust player in a team that hasn’t seen many of those for some years. 80 goals in 3.5 years is very decent indeed. He was a big-game player, with many of his goals coming in big games on big occasions. Yes, nitpick if you want. He was careless with the ball. He was a bit disruptive. But I’d have a player like him in my squad any day.

Of course, reading between the lines, it’s damning that he couldn’t fulfil his ambitions with us, though it’s nothing we haven’t seen with our own eyes. He’s also going to earn eye-watering amounts of money, which only a few clubs can currently do. We aren’t one of them.

Thanks Alexis for all you’ve done – and you’ll forgive me for hoping your best and most productive years were with us, not with your new employer.

Yin and Aubameyang

But that’s not all! Given that Wenger hates the merest whiff of player dissent (Szczesny dropped for having a tab in the shower, and was Walcott ostracised for saying ‘they wanted it more’?), it seems surprising that he’d entertain the thought of signing someone like Aubameyang. There are mixed reports about whether he’s really that bad a character – but he’s no Walcott.

And maybe that’s no bad thing, frankly. This squad could do with different characters. Either way, pitching for him makes sense as we need someone with some of that lost stardust, and he’d definitely provide it. And we need to show our current squad – many of whom are stalling on new deals –  that Arsenal’s relative decline is not inevitable.

Would Giroud go the other way if it happened (still a big if)? It would make some sense – and would complete a huge turnaround in our attacking options.

Even if it’s by accident rather than by design, these are shaping up to be interesting and exciting times.


We’re banking on Jack’s loyalty

Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal

I enjoyed that – well, most of that. Reverting to a back three (having previously reverted to a back four having converted to a back three in desperation at the back four not working – do keep up) seemed to give us a bit more attacking oomph, if not any additional defensive prowess.

I’d be complaining had we let in more than we did, but as it happened we pipped it thanks to a couple of dominant performances further up the pitch: in the middle from Jack Wilshere, who’s reaping the benefits of a few consecutive games, and Alexis Sanchez, who appeared to wake up from some form of mental hibernation to wreak mayhem. Combined, it was more than Palace could handle and it made for an entertaining game. That makes it two exciting to watch, if defensively wobbly performances in a row, so excuse me while I go for a lie-down.

At threes and fours

I’m not convinced going back to a back three answered many questions about the general competence of our defensive set-up. Chambers was the wild card, and given he’d not started a Premier League game all season I think he did OK.

People always say “you should grasp your opportunity when it arrives” but it’s easier said than done. I mean, obviously if you trip on your shoelaces, score an own goal then get yourself sent off in the space of 10 minutes then you’re not likely to be asked back. But players need game time to really grasp their opportunity, and that means more than one cameo appearance after six months in the wilderness. So that’s a long-winded way of saying Chambers did just fine, but needs to play more.

One, two, free

Where did I get to? Ah yes, the subject of this post. I know the contractual situations of so many Arsenal players is a boil that Wenger has so far been unable to lance, but it’s becoming quite acute now. In three days, Wilshere, Alexis and Ozil could all negotiate free transfers for the summer. On last night’s performance, that’s essentially our three best players.

We’ve known about them for a very long time. Alexis, despite Wenger saying he wasn’t for sale, was almost sold in the summer. If there was a buyer in January, and a replacement for him that could get us all excited and lay down a bit of a marker of our ambition (you at the back, stop tittering), then much as I’d rather keep him, I wouldn’t rule that one coming to pass in January.

Ozil, I suspect, is happy to stay until the summer then move onto pastures new. And that’s what I expect to happen.

Wilsh he or won’t he?

That leaves Jack, who I suspect is also playing a waiting game. Wenger is making positive noises, but the whole thing is so ludicrously late that Wilshere now holds every single one of the cards. I doubt it’s happened this way by happenstance either – it’s high-stakes for him if he gets another injury, but if he stays fit, waiting to the bitter end opens up his options and his earning capacity. Sometimes, it takes two to not sign a new contract.

So now we’re essentially banking on his love of the club to tie him down to a new deal – on terms that he can largely dictate.

I know he’s a huge risk to any potential buyer, and that he’s only just now reaching the level required to play week in, week out. But on last night’s performance there would be plenty willing to take that risk. Imagine if he left in January, or in the summer, and managed to keep this up? It would be sad to see and it could easily have been avoided.

I’m not the Arsenal bean counter, and I’m also aware you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. But of all the three whose contracts are winding down, is strikes me that his is the one that could have been done. He’s a bit of a talisman for the fans – an Arsenal fan who wears his heart on his sleeves. It was worth a gamble.

Giving him a new long-term deal sooner might have backfired, and it might yet – but I think it would have been worth a punt and the risk involved, and it wouldn’t have bankrupted a cash-rich club like Arsenal. Instead, we’re where we are now.

I hope Wenger’s positivity on this front is justified. Let’s see.


It was a game that had it all. Define ‘all’.

Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool

After last night’s game, Wenger joined Kelly Cates and Gary Neville on the grass at the Emirates (maybe the camera-on-a-string had run out of batteries) to chew the fat on a match that had it all. I use the word ‘all’ as it’s sufficiently ambiguous and can be taken to mean ‘zero defending’ or ‘a baffling lack of understanding of what to do’, but I urge you to let your imagination run wild with your own take on what ‘all’ might infer in the context of last night.

He described how our dismal first half performance was ‘psychological’; a hangover from the Utd game (to which as Arseblog says, reasonably and with an admirable lack of beating around the bush, “Get over it”).

He then went on to lament how we were “a little bit naive defensively” to let the third goal in, at which point my eyes rolled round my head like a waltzer, I scratched my beard contemplatively and wondered to myself: where have I heard all this before?

Arsenal in a nutshell

What you have in that one interview is the essence of every Arsenal side since about 2006. Beset, on and off, by psychological issues and serially incapable of taking a grip on a glorious situation.

Add to that the sheer incoherence of what we were doing before that four-minute splurge, and you’ve got it all. Liverpool have a game plan that involves breaking at pace and countering lethally. It really works, though we can be thankful that their defence gives ours a run for its money when it comes to individual errors.

Our game plan these days is harder to ascertain. What were we trying to do? Bizarrely, it looked to all intents and purposes that for the first 25 minutes we were firing long balls over the Liverpool midfield. We couldn’t keep hold of the ball for love nor money and how we went in at half time only one down I do not know.

Back from the dead

Then came their second, and it seemed to be all over. Step up our saviour – Mr D. Fensive-Error, who conspired to draw us level (though props to Sanchez for his determination and to Xhaka for firing off that howitzer), before Ozil applied the icing on the least likely cake by chipping it in, via the ground – though it’s so good that even now I can’t quite work out how he did it – to give us the lead.

It was a turnaround in fortune that would have had Lazarus nodding in approval, but did it last? Did it Sheringham.

So 3-3 it ended, a game that couldn’t have been more late-era Wenger’s Arsenal if it stood up, put on a long tubular coat and sang a sea shanty called ‘Too Much in the Wanting Zone’.

Exciting? It was, from beneath my duvet (pre-Christmas flu – joy to the world). For all its faults, and they were manifold, there were goals everywhere, in short bursts and against the run of play, and it was a febrile, Friday-night, Christmas-fuelled atmosphere that reminds you how the Emirates can be when it wants to.

Take it at face level, and it was the kind of game that has the Premier League’s marketing men drooling. No doubt to have been in the crowd during those four minutes will stick in the mind for a very long time. Damn you, Christmas flu.

Just don’t look too objectively at where we are, where we’re going and what that performance says about the general state of things at the club, and we’ll all be fine 🙂

Merry Christmas to you all. I’m off for a stiff lozenge.

Christmas time, Mesut O and Wayne

Arsenal v Newcastle 151217

Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle

Firstly, an apology. After the World Cup of Christmas songs (congratulations to the Pogues for pipping Wham to the post) I had my heart set on inserting a cheesy Christmas song into the title of this blog post.

It’s a terrible pun

Yes, yes, I know. But here’s the pun-manufacturing thought process: Obviously the word ‘Christmas’ would fit the bill here for obvious contextual reasons. Then with Ozil having scored, I was thinking Mesut this, Ozil that (“The Mesut wonderful time of the year?”). And then the Mistletoe and Wine lightbulb went off, and goddam it wouldn’t go away even though I hate that song, though for the life of me I couldn’t make the last bit work. But lo! – manna from heaven! – I read that Wayne Rooney thinks Wenger should have sold Ozil in the summer. So there’s the angle I needed, folks, to make it sort of work – I have nothing to *actually* say about what Wayne Rooney thinks about selling Ozil, because we didn’t, and I’m glad, but I’ve shoehorned it in anyway.

But the goal was good

Onto the game. Let’s start with the tortured subject of the aforementioned tortured blog post title. Because it would be the highlight of any game, let alone one without that many highlights. Beautiful technique, and it was the kind of game that was going to need something special to break the deadlock. Overall, Ozil had a fine game: languid, understated – not exceptional, but very good.

That aside – it was all peak late-era Wenger Arsenal, with the kind of wastefulness we’ve grown used to. Players always looking for the extra pass – you know the drill. Once the goal went in, the win never looked much in danger because Newcastle were so poor, especially in attack, but the inevitable period of nerves duly arrived thanks to only being a goal up. Still, we survived that and scuttle up to fourth in the league.

More oomph needed

A little bit flat, to be honest, and the crowd responded to that lack of intensity by largely keeping shtum. It wasn’t off-your-seat stuff, but then these days it only ever is in short bursts, or for the odd game.

Easy to blame the crowd for sitting there semi-mute, but it takes two to tango, which is why the noise level finally rose when Maitland-Niles (playing very well at left-back) shot off on a mazy run that ended with the side netting rippling. You see, the formula for getting us excited isn’t that hard: take the bull by the horns and put the opposition under some real pressure.

Take a few risks, run at them. Run at them! Play like we did against Spurs! Ozil did something similar later in the game, and the decibels rose again. Look, you can’t boil down the essence of football into one word, because it’s a hundred things at once, but for me going to the ground and getting a buzz of adrenalin from seeing my side assaulting the ramparts of the opposition like a stormy sea against the harbour is one of the things I love the most. And we don’t see that enough at the moment in my humble o. The storms are few and far between.

Up for grabs in the middle

Jack deserves a shout, because he played well and in Ramsey’s absence that slot is his. I’d wager that Xhaka’s the one who needs to worry, because he was his usual lackadaisical self. To that suggestion I will merely say ‘yeah but Wenger’. That’s to say, Jack might deserve to play but second-guessing Arsene is a mug’s game and he remains pretty loyal to Xhaka.

So a win’s a win and there were bright periods, but it was the kind of Arsenal performance that gets us relegated to about fifth on Match of the Day.

A 6/10 kind of a day, with special nods to Ozil for scoring a glorious goal, to Maitland-Niles for being young and being bold and doing well, and to Jack for slowly getting better and doing some simple things well.


AOL: service providers

Arsenal Spurs 181117

Arsenal 2-0 Spurs

Well stone the crows – wotcha Arsenal!

There was a heavy dose of pessimism in the air in the run-up to this one; or if not pessimism, at least more anxiety than usual. All but the most myopic of us have seen Spurs improve in recent seasons, and we’ve also watched the Arsenal be their usual inconsistent selves. That might explain it in a nutshell.

Shimmying down the aisle to my seat, it was immediately apparent that it was one of those days where the Arsenal roof, in all its curved and comforting glory, had once again failed the good citizens of row 8. It doesn’t happen often, but you look up and see a roof that seems more than capable of putting on a show, then you look down and see rain, and you shake your first and mutter ‘Why I oughtta’ to the useless lump of cantilevered steel.

All I hoped was that the roof letting in the rain wasn’t a metaphor for what we were about to see.

So what would we get for lunch this time? It’s the classic Arsenal club sandwich – take your pick from fillings of winning unconvincingly, overdue brilliance and downright awful.

Fortunately, yesterday we dined on overdue brilliance. It was a little cagey at first, with a hairy moment when a defensive header went the wrong way (never a wise move) into the path of Kane, but fortunately nothing came of it. There was a lot of probing but a lot of solid defending on both sides.

Then just as I was prepared to laud a decent half that we could build on, we scored. I’ll be very Wengeric about this when I say I couldn’t see the free kick: you rarely can see the nuances of decisions from row 8, damp or otherwise, that happen down the other end. Not that it ever stops me claiming otherwise, you understand. Anyway, in it floated to a clearly onside Mustafi – I can see everything down the other end from where I sit, so I know what I’m talking about – who looped a glorious header in off the post.

Pandemonium! Then moments later, or so it seemed, we had number two. It was a Davor Suker-ish 45 degree finish from Alexis – risky to get your foot under it, but lovely when it works. There might have been some songs at this point questioning if the opposition would ever be any good. I may have joined in.

In the second half, with our tails up, we went up a gear. Solid at the back, where Koscielny and Mustafi were magnificent, we probed from wing-back and started taking advantage of the gaps being left as Spurs tried to get back into the game. It’s this kind of stage where Alexis and Ozil can be particularly brilliant, and they didn’t disappoint. There was one period of play – maybe 15 minutes, maybe 25 – when Ozil was the puppeteer pulling the entire team’s strings. Everything he did was brilliant and both he and Alexis – ably helped by the willing Lacazette – ran themselves into the ground.

What a shame two of that three are leaving. But that’s a discussion for another time.

We should have scored more, to be honest, but managed to see the game out with relative ease to mark out first win in eight north London derbies. And how good that felt, after all the stories of power shifts and first XIs filled with the token Arsenal player.

But let’s not get carried away with ourselves. Just as Spurs need to win something before the accolades can be justified, so too do Arsenal need to be more consistent to prove it’s not just your classic Arsenal cycle of boom, bust and somewhere in-between. Inconsistency is our age-old weakness.

Of course, I’ll enjoy this one till the cows come home. But how we could do with this being the start of something good, and not just an outlier.*

*Says he for the trillion-and-ninth time.

Up the rip-roarers!

More Wowzil, less Woezil

Cheap shot for a stupid headline? You know me.

But having watched Mesut Ozil dismantle Everton – I wouldn’t say single-handedly, but he was bloody good – it was a gentle reminder that he’s a rare talent indeed.

I say gentle reminder, because from time to time I lose a bit of faith in him. I think it’s fair and reasonable to say that – if the circumstances aren’t right, if the opposition play differently, if his flowing highlighted locks waft in the wrong direction, then he doesn’t always play like he did at Everton, and nor do those around him. I don’t think I ruffle any feathers by pointing that out. I’m not doubting how many miles he runs or his professionalism.

But when he *does* play like that, ‘ooof’ is the only word I can currently come up with.

At which point my mind races off to the prospect of what a regular trident of Ozil, Alexis and Lacazette might be like, and how exciting it might be.

And then the wind of reality blows and my mind tacks to the prospect of it all breaking up as soon as January… but let’s not go there.

Let’s hope it’s glorious while it lasts, eh? And that tomorrow the massed ranks of the Swansea defence don’t dis-Everton Mesut Ozil. Because that was good, and I’m going tomorrow, and I want a bit more of that.


For more on this and other stuff, tune into to this week’s ArseAmerica podcast. It’s the end of an epoch – if six years can be considered an epoch – as you will find out if you listen through to the end.

I’ve taken my eye off the ball

When I was a mere stripling, Arsenal was my be-all and end-all. If we lost I’d mope around all weekend, and if we won I’d be bouncing off the walls. I’d pore over league tables, cut out clippings from the papers, crouch over my portable radio and gen up on Arsenal’s history. I couldn’t get enough of it.

It meant so much. I remember driving back from Birmingham after the FA Cup semi-final replay in 1999 and I don’t think anyone said a word to each other. Just the sound of rubber on tarmac mixed with a bad dose of the black dog. I’m fairly sure I didn’t say a word to anyone for a day after that, either. I imagine I was terrific company.

Back then, when I heard apocalyptic tales of people who’d given up going to Arsenal, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to do that. I’d bend over backwards to make all the home games, even if it meant inconveniencing the plans of others. That was what you did.

But with age, I see how drifting away from the thing I once besotted over could happen. I can now see why people stop going to Arsenal. I’m not saying I’m there yet, but on the renowned Stillman Scale (which really is the only way of measuring this) where zero is forgetting there was a game on, and ten is Tim Stillman, I’d say I’ve gone from about an 8 to a 6.

I can’t put it all down to age, though with every passing year I do appear to be getting older. Not even breathing in the steamed essence of Tomas Rosicky can halt that. It’s happening, folks.

But age does have a habit of putting things into perspective, and as for responsibilities – well, there’s no getting away from them. And there’s no doubting that Arsenal means a bit less to me than it once did. The big games, the big days, the cup finals – those stick long in the memory. But the rest of the season disappears from my mind in short order.

I don’t watch Match of the Day as much, and there are several games this season that I confess have entirely passed me by. I haven’t even watched the goals yet.

And – do you find this? – I can’t even concentrate through a live match because I’m constantly picking up my phone. Social media is brilliant with football – but it’s also ruinous. Put your phone down man! Somehow I find that hard, because when Ospina ambles across his penalty box like a new-born foal for the fourth time, all I want to do is megalol on Twitter. Before I know it, I’ve missed 5 minutes of the match. Oops. Maybe I should sign up for the Twelve-Tweet program with Twitterholics Anonymous. Anyone with me?

Then there’s the team. This version of Arsenal – running WengerOS 4.3 – while far from terrible in historical terms, can be rather… humdrum. It’s not the upgrade we were hoping for. It drains the battery quicker than it ought *bludgeons metaphor with a mallet*.

Current status: winning without wowing. Nothing so very wrong with that I suppose, but it’s hard not to compare ourselves to the current frontrunners, isn’t it?

We’re nestling roughly where we expect to nestle at the end of the season – 4th to 6th – with little expectation of being whisked off on the wings of a title challenge. This is a subject that’s been run into the ground, so there’s no need to go over it now – but it does affect my love of the team at the moment. Shallow? Maybe. But true. Thousands of empty seats suggest it’s not just me.

All of these factors (in summary: getting a bit older and being a taxi driver for my children, combined with the team not being the Invincibles) mean I’ve only made one match this season – Bournemouth. I think it was 3-1 but I can’t remember who scored. Was it Steve Williams?

Like I said, I’m not planning on giving it all up anytime soon. I still love it, I like the routine too much and I like catching up with my mates.

But I’d dearly love to get a bit of my mojo for the team back. I’m quietly confident my attendance is about to pick up (circumstances swinging back in my favour), and maybe – for what is there without hope – now that the team has stabilised we can get a taste for ruthlessness.*

This has turned into a bit of a middle-aged ramble, hasn’t it? But this lack of connection – or more accurately, lower level of connection – is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s based on numerous factors, not all related to the team, and it’s been slow-burning for a few years now. Maybe I’m just over-dramatising a perfectly normal chronological pattern for football fans. Or maybe I just have to be honest and admit that – shock, horror – I really am a few stops further down the line aboard the Stop-Going-To-Arsenal Express.

*This may or may not have been said before

Ox pinched, Alexis punched, and no returns

After all that hot air, there goes the summer transfer window. In a market where some teams have spent upwards of £200m, we’ve snuck in with a tidy profit of £30m. Now, I know it’s not all about how much you spend, but for a club that has pots of cash already, and is on a downward trajectory, it hardly reeks of ambition, does it?

Yesterday we let Oxlade-Chamberlain go for £40m, which is decent business under the circumstances. He said he wanted to go to Liverpool as it was “right for the next stage in my ongoing development”. He needs a bit of moulding, but Liverpool have got him at the right time, and if I were him I’d have done something similar.

Another player who wanted to leave was Alexis. He didn’t get his wish as Arsenal couldn’t find a replacement. Apparently, we bid an almost ludicrous €92m for Lemar, but Lemar either turned us down, our pursuit was too lukewarm or it was all a bit too late. So Alexis stays.

I’m a little torn about this, though overall I’m happy he stays. I’m mostly torn because we’ve now got a player on our hands who doesn’t want to be here, whose teammates know he doesn’t want to be here and who knows the club was only too happy to offload him at the right price. But overall, I don’t see him downing tools, and we get a 30-goal player – someone all oppositions are genuinely fearful of – for either 4/5 more months or for the whole season.

We let a whole cavalcade of other players go, but in terms who might have actually played, it was only really Gabriel, Gibbs and possibly Lucas. Is our squad severely weakened by this bizarre summer? Not really – Chambers replaces Gabriel as 4th choice centre-back, Kolasinac has replaced Gibbs and we’ve massively upgraded our goalscoring options. Oxlade-Chamberlain was not irreplaceable as he didn’t want to play RWB (or LWB) and was often shoe-horned in anyway.

That being said, it’s never that simple. For me, the perception we have given in the latter stages of this window is of a club that doesn’t know what it wants, and that can be scavenged for talent. Instead of strengthening significantly in the anticipation of a concerted assault for honours – these were the noises being made after Wenger signed his new deal – we’re an unbalanced team with unhappy players and are already on the verge of abandoning the back three that brought us some respite (and a glorious afternoon at Wembley) a few short months ago.

On top of that, we’re still a team capable of the kind of switch-off disaster that we saw at Anfield, and let’s be honest, that’s not going to change either. Not now, not with Wenger.

So where does that leave us? Wenger is already embattled after a dreadful start to the season, the fans are disillusioned once again, and quite what we’re realistically hoping to achieve this season is a mystery. Poor squad management has bitten us hard, there are questions over the board’s input in all this, questions about finances and whiffs of power struggles too.

All this needs to be dispelled and turned round. Coherent tactics and team selection would be a start. Seeing an increased threat from Lacazette and Alexis – backed up by Welbeck, Giroud and Walcott – would soothe the frustration. The midfield marshalling the defence would be a novel and welcome development.

And so to Bournemouth.

For some late night ramblings to try to make (more) sense of it all, check out today’s Arsecast.