There’s nothing left to cling to – it’s time accept that Arsenal are a fading force.
There’s a habit amongst Arsenal supporters now to place every result within a bigger context than just the season. Every dropped point isn’t just a step further away for the top of the table, or from fourth place, or from whatever Arsenal are challenging for at the moment. It’s a step further from being a top club. Defeat is no longer brushed aside, but indicative or larger, deeper issues.
You get the feeling after some games that nothing Arsenal do will be good enough.
After the 3-1 defeat to Manchester City, that feeling is completely justified.
Like many fans, I’ve long since progressed past the point of anger at these types of performances and results. This is what Arsenal are now.
If anything, I shouldn’t have any expectations for these types of games, in the same way that you wouldn’t expect, say, Southampton or Everton to get a result away to a big club.
There’s nothing there that suggests Arsenal can win those games.
Realising this is upsetting, because Arsenal shouldn’t be in that position. It used to be that you could find some good excuses why the club wasn’t competing at the top of the table.
We weren’t able to compete financially and couldn’t sign the best players.
We had a young team that needed more experience to get better.
We just needed one or two signings, but were on the way up. Our time would come.
We don’t have those excuses anymore.
Arsenal are one of the highest spending clubs in the world. Over £200m has been spent on players since 2013.
The club dished out huge fees for Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Shkodran Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette and still had enough left over for even more signings if they had wanted to be really adventurous.
These aren’t young, developing players, either, but supposedly top class players approaching their prime or in it. The squad has plenty of experience. Yet you’d be hard pressed to say we’ve improved in those four years.
So what’s the excuse now?
The truth is, we can no longer externalise our problems.
Arsenal’s current decline is down entirely to their own inefficiency and incompetence.
Pep Guardiola has spent plenty of money to improve City, but their improvement is as much to do with his coaching and development of players.
The same can be said about Tottenham.
Wenger used to be this type of coach, but the game against City just showed up all his failings. Tactically and technically, his team looked so far behind Guardiola’s it was laughable.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that everything good and admirable about the club has been eroded.
The club used to find bargain youngsters and make them better, but now I see the likes of Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi, who haven’t improved at all since their breakthroughs.
The club used to play attractive, possession football, win, lose or draw. Now, it can barely keep the ball under pressure.
The club used to spend its money wisely, but now it’s being squandered on mediocre talents.
It wasn’t the City game that made me realise all of this. Rather, it just reminded me of where we are as a club.
It’s a harrowing feeling, made all the worse by the reality that nobody is doing something to make this better. That sounds completely ridiculous, but I can’t arrive at any other conclusion when the same problems keep appearing on the pitch.
The club rolls along in ignorance, deluded that Wenger is still the man to make it better, that everything they’ve done has been constructive, and they can do nothing more. Meanwhile, in reality, Arsenal slip further down the table and become less and less competitive.
One of the best feelings in football is excitement. Manchester City are exciting. Tottenham Hotspur are exciting. Arsenal are just predictable in all the wrong ways.
If this defeat was just a blip on the road to bigger and better things, or if there underlying qualities to be excited about, I could accept it.
Unfortunately, it’s just painful reminder that we’re a fading force with precious little to cling on to to keep us alive.