The fear of mediocrity at Arsenal

With two days behind us since the Bayern defeat and two days stretching out in front of us until Villa visit the Emirates, I’m in a reflective mood today. Reflecting on what we currently have with this Arsenal squad and what might become of the team come the end of the year.

We’re effectively out of all competitions. We have serious question marks over the ability of a number of players. Many of us have issues with the structure of how the club is run and the apparent ignorance of the owner to take any kind of lead in driving the club ‘Forward’. Heh, ‘Forward’ is looking like some kind of twisted irony right now, because we haven’t moved anywhere but sideways at best for some time now. Some blame the manager, but I believe the issues are much more than skin deep at the club, so much so that it’s impossible for me to accept that he is the sole root cause of our current issues.

You must know by now that I have long held a belief that Stan Kroenke is sticking around until the club can renegotiate its commercial deals and he can pull out of the club with a vastly inflated share price in just over a year and a half or so. You must also know by now that I see the ageing ‘board’ as nothing more than an old boys club; content to sit in the directors box and enjoy the trimmings but incapable of driving the club towards where it’s potential truly lies. So to say that this is all the fault of Arsene I think is to miss the point. He is to blame for many misgivings, but he shouldn’t be shouldering the blame for all of the problems.

Yesterday, as I was on my way back from work, I started to try and picture a ‘worse case’ scenario for the end of the season. Perhaps it’s endemic of how our season has declined – hope wise – that I automatically started to think of the worst possible outcome for the club rather than the best. But by doing it, I build a quite low foundation of expectation and so as D-REEM said, things can only get better. Anyway, I was trying to picture what would be the worst thing that could happen to Arsenal this season, and what would that mean for next season and for the club. I came up with this:
– defeat to the Spuds
– an inability to catch them on points by the end of the season and a fifth/sixth place finish
– Arsene announces that it’s the end and he doesn’t feel he can perform at the highest level for Arsenal.

Now, that all sounds a bit depressing, I grant you, but is it the worst thing that can happen to a football club? Have we ever not been in the Champions League? Obviously the answer to both of these questions is ‘no’, so given that we’ve had it worse than our current plight, why is everybody so frustrated? Why is there the in-fighting amongst gooners?

I think for me it is a few things. Firstly, we see examples of other once dominant English teams that are now languishing in the middle of the table. Liverpool are the most obvious example, but Aston Villa were a side that only five or so era ago were challenging us for fourth. So fans like me look at those two teams and worry about what will become of Arsenal should we not qualify for the Champions League and all of the wealth that it brings. I think that is where most of this fear of not being in the Champions League comes from. The fear that I have with this current owner and board are that despite all of the educated guessing in terms of cash reserves from educated people within supporters groups like the AST, the board have effectively padlocked the cash to cover the fact that we may not be in the Champions League. That cash then gets used to ‘top up’ the wages of the existing squad and ensure that we don’t feel the strain of not having the Champions League cash.

There are people that will counter my fear above with the retort that ‘we don’t spend the cash anyway, so what difference does it make?’ and I can certainly see that point, but without the cash and without further investment in the playing staff it looks even more unlikely that we’ll be able to get back to the top table of not just English, but European football. The fear is that a succession of failures will put us in the position Liverpool are in, where their squad is so average apart from one or two ageing players, that they effectively have to start again and again. And I firmly believe that with this board and owner that is a very realistic future. I know the addition Premier League TV money comes in at the end of the season, but it comes in for every team, so it doesn’t give us any kind of additional footballing advantage when it comes to buying the best players. Which is another fear. We may not buy the best players and pay top dollar at the moment, but with no lure of Champions League football I fear that it is yet another excuse as to why we don’t go in for players. The club has enough excuses at the moment, we don’t need them to throw another one on the fire to see how hot it burns.

But what of Arsene? Would it be the worst thing in the world if he left the club? Personally, I’m getting to the stage where I wonder whether it would be best for all involved. Get a fresh perspective in and give Arsene the break he probably needs. But again, my fear is that if we continue to spiral downwards in terms of the squad and our league position, that we have to start looking at managers that are at the Roy Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers level. Somebody even asked me yesterday if I’d consider Roberto Martinez as the next Arsenal manager. ROBERTO MARTINEZ. Let me allow that to sink in for you for a minute…..

Quite often I don’t really know which direction my blogs are going to go when I write them. I just have thoughts about Arsenal and want to get them down on proverbial paper so I can reflect and review later on, and I suspect this blog has sort of moved into that realm, but to try and bring this back into some form of structure I’ll go back over my general thoughts in some form of summation:

I don’t fear Arsenal not being in the Champions League.

I don’t fear Arsenal without Arsene (although as little as three years ago that was certainly not the case – it shows how much we have declined) any more either.

What I do fear is that with this current board and management that we will descend into the bowls of mediocrity in the English game and find it very difficult to recover. I really hope we’re not seeing the start of that.

Until tomorrow people.