Monday, August 1, 2011

Bad Mood Rising

The cynic in me is tempted to say that the draw with NY Red Bulls at the weekend represented the end of Arsenal's hopes of silverware for another season.

But seriously: jeers at the end of a friendly game? Has the world gone mad?

Arsenal's fickle followers are finding new ways to voice their disapproval. It seems ludicrous that a draw in an essentially meaningless game can have any negative effect, let alone provoke such discontent, but that is a measure of the mood around the club. The supporters are clearly angry that there has not been more pressure on Wenger to succeed from the board, and they are compensating by voicing their own doubts about the manager.

The games against Boca and New York did showcase failings that are frustratingly familiar, but the booing was about so much more than that. There was talk as the summer began that Arsenal would be active in rebuilding a malfunctioning team. So far, with the new season closing in, that talk has proven empty. It has been a struggle getting rid of the unwanted players. And as for bringing in new blood, Wenger seems to be falling back on the old option of waiting to see which of our stars leaves, and for how much, before searching for replacements.

People would feel a lot better about the possibly impending departure of the skipper if a player of similar, established quality had already been brought in. Hell, if Wenger's ambition was really, as he claims, to keep players like Fabregas and Nasri, the best way to do it would be by buying more top class players.

By refusing to do so, for whatever reason- idealistic stubborness, lack of funds- he can surely only reinforce the desire Fabregas and Nasri to seek a new start.

The manager is on shakier ground than ever before, as illustrated by the behaviour of the fans at the Emirates Cup. It was unsavoury, sure, but it's an apt example of just how pissed off a lot of people are.

Wenger is not acting as sure-footed as he once did. His desire is to exact the right price from Barcelona, but if the debacle drags on until the end of this month, who will win the game of bluff? Is Wenger really going to hold the boy against his will? For another season lacking in real promise at Arsenal? Barcelona may well be playing a clever game. Wenger does not want an unhappy player on his hands, no matter how talented that player is.

What, then, of the Nasri situation? It seems the manager is willing to keep him another season, then lose him for free. That suggests that, with Fabregas gone, Wenger does not see adequate replacements on the market and feels that losing Nasri too could lead to collapse.

But is Nasri the kind of character to pull up his socks and try to inspire a team he knows he will soon leave? I have grave doubts about that. And Wenger would only be postponing the problem of replacing him. And would have less money with which to do so.

They used to say Arsene Knows. It doesn't seem likely that the boss, or anyone around the club, knows quite what's in store for the coming season. But there's a bad mood rising, and the fixture list has thrown up a difficult start.

In the recent past, Arsene Wenger would have been astronomical odds to lose his job during the course of a season. Those days are over. The team that can't handle pressure will have to deal with it from the get-go in this camppaign. Can they dig the manager out of this hole? Can he take his head out of his own?

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