Sam Allardyce losing the England job he coveted for years in a matter of 67 days has to be one of the most marvelous football stories I have ever heard.
I know that is mean spirited, I know we’re supposed to be above such pettiness.
I’m sorry that I take such pleasure in the swift demise of a man who routinely sent his Bolton teams to smash the Arsenal up. I’m sorry that I’m enjoying greatly the fact that a man who kept bragging about his brilliant record against Arsène despite only winning three games (ever) has been brought down by his own braggadocio. I’m sorry that this man who once claimed he could manage Real Madrid has been caught out by his own stupidity.
Obviously, I’m not sorry at all. Having been at David Baddiel’s excellent show, My Family: Not The Sitcom (you must get tickets, if you can) on Saturday night, I know there should be inverted commas all over my repeated, and insincere “I’m sorry”, but it would look terrible.
It seems that now Allardyce is out of the picture, the FA might turn again to Arsène Wenger – remember, he was their first choice? Nine months from the end of what many are expecting to be the Frenchman’s last Arsenal contract, he would seem to be a logical and ideal candidate.
I wonder about that. Apart from the fact that nobody could demand Arsène the England manager “Spend some f___ing money!”, I don’t see that job would have much to interest Arsène.
An increased media spotlight? Check.
Increased abuse when things go wrong and – let’s face it, this is England – they will go wrong? Check.
Working with your players 10 weeks of the year as opposed to 42? Check.
Does that sound like a job for the workaholic Wenger? I don’t think so.
And that’s before you factor in the encouraging shoots of optimism paradoxically blossoming the further we fall into autumn.
As I’ve already mentioned, I was watching David Baddiel on Saturday night. This meant that I missed Arsenal’s emphatic 3-0 victory over the team who, more than any other, have come to represent our bogeymen in the last 10 years. Five years of suffering at their hands and I miss this exhilarating victory because I had tickets to go and watch a Chelsea season ticket holder. Oh, life…
It’s okay though, I was just happy we won. Anyway, before I digress too far… Arsène Wenger, by all accounts, got exactly the performance he would have wanted, has been looking for for years, against Chelsea. If Arsenal are capable of doing what they did to Chelsea, okay, Chelsea without John Terry but Chelsea will be without Terry forever soon enough, then what else may be possible?
What is important, clearly, is that Arsenal take this Chelsea performance as a step up the mountain, not the actual summit itself. Coming up to six years ago, a younger Arsenal team than this one handed Chelsea a Christmas battering. Yes! This is it, this is the blueprint going forward, we all thought.
Then Cesc got injured, Birmingham happened and that team disintegrated. I mention this only to emphasise that, as Kevin Pietersen sourly noted on Saturday evening, we are only in September and a lot can happen between now and May.
Arsenal fans carrying on like they've won the league. Just remember, you're going to come 4th. So shoosh!
— KP (@KP24) September 24, 2016
I know it sounds obvious, but for us fans, the players, the manager, it is important to remember that. And keep on remembering it. I’m sure that our Champions League fixture with Basel will keep us honest. Football has a way of doing that, doesn’t it?
That said, I do look at the team Arsenal Wenger has assembled and wonder just how likely it is he is going to want to walk away next summer. Clearly, much will depend on how the team performs, but it’s starting to look like maybe the manager knew what he was doing during in the summer after all.
Shkodran Mustafi is bedding in nicely alongside Laurent Koscielny. Not only did Diego Costa not get a sniff of our goal on Saturday, he never even got a sniff of provoking a reaction from our centrebacks.
Francis Coquelin gets injured on Saturday? No problem, off the bench comes Granit Xhaka to stake his claim. Typically, now we have options of genuine quality in central midfield, Coquelin’s injury is only expected to keep him out for a couple of weeks. Mohamed Elneny, that central midfielder we all enjoyed last season? Didn’t even make the bench on Saturday and that with Aaron Ramsey still on the comeback trail.
The performances of Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott in the wide positions allow Alexis to flourish as the spearhead of our attack. Crucially, that mix of creativity and pace gives Mesut Özil (new contract? Yes please) more room to play in, and runners to play to.
Olivier Giroud now seems to be very much the Plan B option.
Quietly, it feels as though the most competitive Arsenal team we have had for ages is bedding in. Less dependent on key men staying fit than in the past, perhaps more to the point, we can now definitively talk about men and not boys.
There is a long way to go, sure there is, but if you were Arsène, looking at this squad would you walk away from it? For England?
I think you know the answer.