Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Prophet of Doom says: Apocalypse Soon

A lot of people think things have reached some kind of nadir. I thought so after Wigan. I thought so at different points in the season just past, on account of the manager's oversights, the crap players that play on a frequent basis, the embarrassing defeats to once close rivals.

A couple of days ago I agreed with Mourinho. That never used to happen, but he basically said, Arsenal used to win one way, but they're trying it another, and it'll never work. He's right. Arsene's Arsenal used to have winners and warriors. Now he puts out pampered pansies. That is far too much alliteration for one paragraph.

He has prioritised profits over success (fair enough perhaps, in the short term), but on the playing side, principles over pragmatism. A cut-price team needs a strategy to match, at times. Like when playing against clearly superior teams. Manchester United and Chelsea, in a sub-par season for both, remained totally, achingly superior. And when Arsenal played those teams, the Gunners performed the tactical equivalent of bending over.

One must look for progress, so it is worrying that said trope was carried over from 08/09. Overall, 2010's team is better than 2009's, but don't forget that it is easily worse than 2008's, never mind 2004's. The whole 2004 team was quickly dismantled, and it's not like we've been building since then. We've been building, dismantling, and then building. The team improves, then some of the better players are sold or move on, so we go backwards.

Thus this Summer becomes one of unbearable importance. First piece of bad news is that William Gallas is as good as gone. Some see him as a disruptive influence- and that's just amongst the squad! A lot of fans resent his status as a) an ex- Chelsea player and b) a sulky cry-baby. Sometimes it can pay off to rid yourself of a good player. It did to a great extent with Henry, for instance. But the benefit depends on Wenger repeating his trick from last summer of signing a very, very good defender, because Gallas is after all a very, very good defender.

Other bad news, is only prospective, but we await it in bitter expectation every summer: more high-profile departures. Fabregas, Clichy, Van Persie would fall into this category. Arshavin also, despite his strange and underwhelming performances of late. It is time to consolidate what's good in the squad. There is, perhaps, some dead wood to be cut adrift, but I think Wenger will stand by the douche bags in whom he constantly professes his faith.

With Chamakh on the way for free, and Gallas to depart, he should, quite clearly, sign a goalkeeper and a centre-back of some repute. That is at a minimum.

Another piece of business that should be done is to get another combative midfielder, because to have only one in your squad is suicidal. I will not hold out too much hope for this. But those three signings, and no more major departures, would certainly constitute progress before a ball was kicked next season.

Wenger may be about to leave. I have never experienced such mixed feelings about something. Frankly, I don't think he's the manager he once was. He performs an infuriating, paradoxical double act of hiding behind his project, and simultaneously refusing to lower our supposed targets while this project hinders the team.

Assuming he opts for more "3rd place is a trophy" bullshit, and doesn't aim high this summer (he always will in his words, but it's action and the results that follow that count) what will it mean for Arsenal? If the supporter disgruntlement leads him to call it a day? Who will be in charge in the boardroom at that point? Will there be a lot of money to spend for his replacement? Will Arsenal appoint the right man? Will the players, all of whom were brought here by Wenger, want to stay and play for someone else? Will there be anyone left in the playing staff with a true affinity for the club?

I just want the old Wenger back.

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