Arsenal: Fourth at Best

wenger-epa_2860265bLast week I fretted that Arsenal’s squeaker victory over struggling Tottenham was a sign of being on borrowed time. And this weekend, the club celebrated its one thousandth game under Arsène Wenger with a shellacking–its own–from what they had declared, from coach to player, the most important game of the season. It was over in five minutes, with Chelsea’s second goal, and certainly within fifteen, when a red card for a penalty-area handball reduced the side to ten and the consequent penalty increased the lead to three. But to be frank, even the first goal seemed to give Chelsea an insurmountable advantage, and what happened in the next ten minutes just seemed to make it official.1898008_293503987470998_2090666596_n No need to watch any further. End result: 6-0.

So, what’s wrong with Arsenal? To tell you the truth, I think they’re all high. I am not sure what reality they are perceiving (or is it that that they are drinking the same stuff some commentators were–at least before this game). After the essential disaster that was the Tottenham game, they were taking selfies on the pitch in celebration, and their interviews were steeped in pride at how they held on. But such a victory would not have been how Chelsea or Liverpool or Man City would have done it. They score goals, and they would have kept coming, kept punishing, just as Chelsea showed Arsenal this past Saturday. Chelsea’s coach, Jose Mourinho, explained this attitude this way: “We come, the way we used to say in football: ‘We come to kill’ and in 10 minutes we destroyed. After that, easy.”

To be sure, Arsenal are missing a few important players due to injury, each important in their offense: Walcott, Özil, Wilshere and Ramsey.  And even though Chelsea were missing a few too, Arsenal’s mattered more due to their roles. But it wasn’t just offense that was the problem, as evident by the score. Their defense was as wholly as, well, Swiss cheese. There seems to be no midfield to slow and disrupt the other team much less control the ball and push forward.

I am not sure how to fix the mess that is Arsenal, and I am not sure that those who are now sidelined will be the salvation. To the contrary, any team looking this bad with a few missing players must search deep for the issue, and it seems it can only be that a bunch of new players are necessary.wenger2PA_2860044b This seems to be Arsenal’s conclusion too.

The other possibility  that I am drawn to is the metaphor created by the game itself. The one thousandth game for Mr. Wenger was a disaster. It is as if a sign from the universe itself: one (or more) games too many. He has not won any titles in nearly nine years now. He unfathomably relishes in victories that he should not (even an earlier celebrated victory over Liverpool looked shaky, and they too crushed Arsenal (5-1) in the rematch). Remember, standout Van Persie and Nasri wanted out of Arsenal because they did not see a future in the club. And I am beginning to believe, much as you may like the man himself, that there may be something in this. So are others.

Hate to end with a quote by Wenger’s nemesis, Mourinho again, but it really does some it up:

I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it’s not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments – and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot. So I admire the manager and I admire the club.

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