Remember the first time you had a crush on someone as a teenager and it was obvious that they had a crush on you too?
Remember the sense of urgency you felt that you definitely, positively, absolutely had to do something about it, but had no clue as to how to go about it? You strongly considered doing nothing in case you screwed it up. Maybe you hoped they might ask you first, saving you the hassle of making the first move.
This is where Arsenal find themselves at the moment – stuck in the middle of wanting to change how things are run at the club but without going through the bother of actually changing how things are run at the club.
They want it to look like a plan is in place, but without divulging any of the details of this plan or implementing a single detail of said plan.
It’s almost Trumpian.
We have Arsene Wenger talking about ‘loyalty’ and ‘respecting a contract’, yet signs-off on multi–year deals for himself whist maintaining a policy of only giving one year deals to players who are entering the latter stages of their careers.
We have Ivan Gazidis telling people he wants to be a ‘catalyst for change’, yet his biggest impact on the club in over eight years as chief executive has been to put some pictures on the outside walls of the Emirates Stadium. Woot.
We have players such as Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade−Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere, all with less than a year and a half left remaining on their contracts, who are waiting on some sort of signal from the club as to where their their long term futures lie. All of them want to be part of a successful team, and all of them would like to be first team regulars. Only Alexis has been willing to say this in public and even then it was in the vaguest of terms.
With all of this reticence behind the scenes, it’s only natural that it makes its way onto the pitch too.
Look how often it takes Arsenal half hour to get going in games over the last season and a half. It’s as if nobody wants to take the risk first in case that it doesn’t come off, making them look bad in front of everyone else and get dropped in favour of someone who won’t take a risk.
If Francis Coquelin doesn’t run to find five yards of space to be available for a pass, then he can’t give the ball away. So he doesn’t make that run, ensuring that he doesn’t give away possession, doesn’t get the blame for when Arsenal lose the ball, and keeps his place in the side because he doesn’t lose the ball.
Of course, without that extra outlet in midfield, Arsenal as a whole play with far less fluency and efficiency, but when players are so focused on not being the one to let everyone down, they don’t take the risks needed to help everyone else’s game flourish.
Wenger has always given his players total freedom when it comes to the way they play on the pitch, but like in a classroom where the teacher gives the pupils some leeway, players will always take as many liberties as they feel they can get away with.
Alexis took a shot from almost fifty yards against West Ham, with the goalkeeper no more than three yards off his line. If Alex Iwobi had done that, he’d have been dropped until eternity.
Alexis knows he won’t be dropped, so he does pretty much whatever he wants.
The same applies to Özil, Coquelin, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi.
They know that when fit, and in Coquelin’s case if it’s a big game, they’re going to get picked.
They know this because despite making multiple mistakes, they keep getting picked again and again.
So we have half a team that knows it has complete discretion in how they play, and another half on tenterhooks because they know if they make one mistake, they’re out of the team for a month, if not longer.
Unless of course your name is Lucas Perez, then it’s anyone’s guess because any time he’s played, he’s done well, and he can’t even get on the bench.
All of this indecision and reluctance to act is at the heart of everything that is plaguing Arsenal at the moment, and the only thing that can arrest the decline is the one thing that Arsenal don’t want to: Make a decision.
If they have already agreed on a new contract with Wenger, then waiting for a good time to tell the fans he’s staying is like waiting for a good time to tell your wife that you’ve gotten the babysitter pregnant. There really is no good way of putting it.
However, if Wenger’s future is announced, then the players affected by it will soon make up their own minds and get that sorted out as well.
If indeed Gazidis acts as the ‘catalyst for change’ and forces Wenger to change his approach by bringing in extra staff to handle transfers, or gets him to commit to changing Arsenal’s style of play, then players again will be left in no doubt as to where they stand, and will no longer be able to coast along as they have in previous seasons.
So, all we have to do is wait for Arsenal to do something, all whilst Arsenal are waiting for someone else to do something first.
I suggest not holding your breath.