I am not interested in another column about “Here’s what’s wrong with Arsenal”. There have been literally hundreds of them - here, on other blogs, probably generated at random among people at your bus stop because “What’s wrong with Arsenal” has seemingly permeated every single available pore of the soccer world recently. So I’m not going to rehash all that, because we all know and it’s boring and unchanged by now.
What I am going to rehash, though, is the fact that Arsene Wenger’s legendary stubbornness, which was once quite an asset if you’ll recall, is now very much a poisonous, decaying liability to the club. In a press conference yesterday, he was inevitably asked about his future, and whether he would see out his contract. His answer, regular as the tides, was
“I am just amazed that I have to always answer things that are exactly the same,” Wenger said, when asked about his future. “I am here for 21 years. I turned the whole world down to respect my contracts. So I am still amazed that I still have to answer these types of questions.”
Apparently the concept that his team is playing terribly in the 21.5th year of his tenure doesn’t really enter into his thinking - he has a two year contract, and he will “respect (his) contracts” as long as there are contracts. Which is admirable, sort of, but it also wasn’t really the point of the question. He also pointed out that he has, in the past, turned down offers from Real Madrid and PSG, as if that were somehow relevant to the situation at Arsenal right now.
In a new twist on his tone-deafness, though, he, amazingly, called for some perspective after the Cup final loss:
He reminded his audience that Arsenal had not lost to a team at “the bottom of the league in division five”
/ steps away from keyboard
/ takes deep breath, counts to five
/ gets back to keyboard
Look, Arsene. Nobody really expected your team - or expects any team this season, really - to beat Manchester City in a Cup final. There’s no shame in losing to this year’s City team. But again, that’s not the point. The point is, after they gave up a goal, your team was insipid. Your team showed up for a Cup final and got steamrolled - it doesn’t matter by whom. Your job, your almost literal only job, on a Cup final day is to make sure that doesn’t happen. It happened. So now questions are being asked, and rightfully so.
He crowned his performance at the presser with this gem:
“My job is to focus on performing and my job is to perform. It’s for other people to judge me. It isn’t for me to evaluate that.”
As a reminder, Arsene, it is - and I know I’m overusing this word, but it’s appropriate here - LITERALLY the job of the press in situations like this to judge you, and this is how they do it. They’re passing a judgment on you, and giving fans information to do the same, by asking questions about your performance, and subsequently how long you’ll be in the job. If you can’t see that, or worse, can see it and still answer like this, that’s just another arrow in the PLEASE GO NOW quiver.
And to the inevitable “what do you want him to say” question, well, hmmm. How about “anything but that”? I mean, I get that Arsene’s probably frustrated with the same line of questioning after every game, but that’s part of the gig - you want different questions, give people a different thing to ask questions about. Don’t do the same thing week after week after week and expect that things will just magically be OK and that nobody will ask the inevitable questions.
There are 11 games left in the Premier League season, and however many more in the Europa League. 11 more weeks of this, and then we get the will-he-won’t-he of the whole “contract review” process. So it’ll be a minimum of three more months, and in all likelihood 15 more months, of FC Groundhog Day.