This season was supposed to be ‘the one’ finally for Arsenal after the barren years of financial constraints that Arsene Wenger had to work under while other clubs with their oil rich sugar daddies threw money around like confetti at a wedding. But it has been one disappointment after another so far and the fact that it looks like being a club with much less money than us that is crowned champions this year makes it all the more frustrating.
There is still time for Arsenal to rescue the campaign and lift the EPL trophy in May and I’m sure that all Gooners will be Geordies for the night when Newcastle take on Leicester tonight, but it will take an epic comeback like the one produced by the Arsenal side of the late 80s, the one in the film Fever Pitch that blew a promising position and then went on a late run that culminated in a title decider on the last day at Anfield.
The man who scored the first of the necessary two goal against Liverpool in that game, Alan Smith, has usually been a staunch supporter of the current boss but after seeing us capitulate once again yesterday and get knocked out of the FA cup by Watford, Smudger seems to be rapidly losing faith in the Frenchman.
In a column in The Telegraph our former striker pointed out how we keep making struggling sides look good and how the players just do not appear to have that burning desire that champions need. And despite still saying that it is too early to call for Wenger to be sacked, Smith says that the blame for a team’s lack of character or fight must ultimately lie with the manager. It appears that even former Wengerites are now wondering whether it really is time for a change.
He wrote, “It has been going on for too long, this weakness of spirit that means the side falter whenever push comes to shove. Forget about the Cup. Two wins from the past nine league games is no kind of reaction to this crucial period, nor the form to back up Wenger’s claims, repeated in the aftermath of defeat, about “great spirit” and “a strong attitude” within the camp.
“And excuses about finances no longer wash when Leicester and, even worse, Tottenham show no signs of collapsing on the home straight. In fact, were one of these two eventually to triumph, it would be an embarrassing indictment of Wenger’s failure to build a team capable of going all the way.
“After all, it isn’t Leicester or Spurs who have twice shelled out fortunes to tempt players away from Barcelona and Real Madrid. Yet even with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil on the firm, the Gunners look short, still some distance away from the tough, cohesive unit required of champions. For that, the buck can only stop with the manager.
“It is Wenger who decides what kind of character he wants in the dressing room, Wenger who works with those players on the training ground. But whatever he does in the week, it hasn’t stopped the team continually losing its shape in the heat of battle. In Watford, remember, they faced a team that had practically forgotten how to score, with only two goals to show from a poor six-game league run.
“At the Emirates, however, the visitors looked like a side transformed, really dangerous on every counter-attack, as if those previous problems had just been a bad dream. Thanks to Arsenal, they found space and time where none should have existed, just as Manchester United did a couple of weeks back.
“Worse still, Wenger shows no sign of addressing this infuriating fault, much less fixing it. After so long in charge, I doubt he is capable of changing his ways. Quite probably, this is how it will be until he leaves.
“Despite all this, the old banner still hangs at the Emirates. “In Arsène We Trust”, it defiantly cries. But if Arsenal’s season now dribbles to a sad close, that trust can surely be extended no further.”
When people like Smith are calling for time, does Wenger need a Fever Pitch style title win to save him? And have the players got it in them to produce it?