To say that Arsenal and its fans have had an eventful week would be an understatement.
Captain Granit Xhaka goading fans after being booed, taking off his shirt and walking directly down the tunnel after being substituted. Leading goal scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being harassed outside of his car for not giving a fan an autograph, and head coach Unai Emery facing a fan revolt unseen since...well, a couple years ago.
The Banter Era that we all thought died with the departure of Arsene Wenger is like Michael Meyers. Whenever you think you’ve killed him off, he just comes back stronger, lurking around the corner with an oversized knife ready to puncture your chest cavity in the most painful way possible.
Arsenal are a club in crisis, and the end doesn’t look anywhere near. There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and for a club that is looking to rejoin Europe’s elite, this week’s unfortunate events could not have come at a worse time.
This summer saw Arsenal’s recruitment take a turn for the better, with the acquisition of, among other good buys, one of Europe’s most coveted attackers (breaking the club’s transfer record in the process). But with the club’s recent, um, adventures, that summer of excitement and renewed hope could be a one-off occurrence.
Fan treatment of Arsenal players, mixed with the prospect of Arsenal missing out on the Champions League once again, could lead to a club-wide exodus.
Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have less than two years left on their deals, and would more than likely look to other opportunities across Europe to be able to compete at the highest level during the last years of their careers.
Mesut Özil, Dani Ceballos (who would return to Real Madrid), Lucas Torreira, are just a couple other cornerstones of the squad who could leave North London this summer.
And why would they stay? Özil is being frozen out, Ceballos would have other options, and Torreira is being left on the bench, and played out of position when he does get minutes. Combine that with the manager not fitting into what Arsenal players and fans are used to, not to mention the treatment of their contemporaries, and you start to see the mess.
Upamecano? Aouar? The young players that Arsenal should be going after would be smart to take a second look or ask for a second opinion before even thinking about joining Arsenal. No young player or employee for that matter, wants to spend their formative years of their career in a toxic environment with unrealistic expectations. I know I wouldn’t.
It’s a deadly cocktail that could propel Arsenal into a further depth of despair. And the worst part is, it might get worse before it gets better.
For Arsenal to get better on the pitch, and for fans to ease up, the team has to play better. And to play better, you either need new ideas by replacing the manager, or bringing in better players. And with the Arsenal hierarchy showing patience when it comes to Unai Emery, it looks like bringing better players in is going to be the antidote. That’s not going to happen if this continues. It’s becoming a vicious cycle.
For a long time Arsenal fans pointed to Arsene Wenger as a beacon of class that illuminated over the entire fan base and club. He’s gone, but the scars and wounds of his last couple seasons are still there, and the vitriol that got Wenger replaced has reared its head once again. Our attitude and outlook is laid bare for all to see.
Arsenal as a club are nowhere near the standard that was set 25 years ago, and some would even say 10 years ago, when reaching the latter stages of the Champions League felt like a formality. Players have other attractive options across Europe that weren’t there in past decades. And if Arsenal fans want to continue to see promising talent keep coming through London Colney, like Nicolas Pepe, William Salina, and Kieran Tierney, then treating them with respect and supporting them as human beings is a small step that could go a long way. Get behind the boys, because you never know when they could up and leave.