You don’t need me to tell you Arsenal have struggled in the league lately. Rushing headlong towards third place just over a month ago, with talks of maybe seeing a fresh St. Totts in the air, Arsenal promptly dropped three of their last four in the league, and are starting to look like those people who train their asses off for a triathlon, but then their bodies give up on them. They then have to crawl the last 200 yards of the marathon, because they know they must finish after all that work, but they can’t summon the physical strength to finish on their feet.
The difference between those people and Arsenal, though, is that we can be proud of the triathlete - it’s that never-give-up spirit that makes the crawling across the finish line pretty inspirational to watch, at least for basically non-athletic me. Arsenal, on the other hand, are starting to resemble a clown show. Nothing has changed from last season, or the season before, except the manager and a few of the players, and we find ourselves, yet again, in a position of hoping they’ll get their act together in enough time to secure a top four spot so they won’t have to depend on the dice roll of a single-elimination tournament to return to the Champions League.
But don’t worry! Arsenal know what’s going on! Just listen to Sokratis after the game yesterday:
“We are not stupid. “We know that we didn’t play good. We have to win all the games and be there.”
Setting aside for one moment the grammatical/self-awareness nightmare that was his following the phrase “We are not stupid” by saying “we didn’t play good”, here’s my issue. Knowing you didn’t play
good well and actually, yanno, starting to play well? Two totally different things. Awareness is fine, but if it’s not followed by action, it’s also somewhat pointless.
The race for who to blame is well and truly on. Unai Emery, as all managers do, blames himself:
After watching his side capitulate at Molineux, Unai Emery said he prefers to be angry with himself when players do not execute his gameplan.
While Sokratis, as players generally do, puts the blame on...the players:
“If we face [Leicester] like this we will lose,” he said. “It is clear. It is not the problem of the coach, the system, it is nothing. It is just us. We have to win the next three games and it is finished.”
While that is admirable, and academically correct, saying “we have to win the next three games and it is finished” is like the old Steve Martin bit about how to be a millionaire. “First, get a million dollars” is kind of where Sokratis is right now. While “win all our games” is a good idea, Arsenal over the last month have shown how not simple that actually is for them.
It is the problem of the coach, and it is the problem of the system. It is decidedly not nothing. It’s a team who has shown no improvement in the last three seasons, regardless of manager or personnel changes, doing what it does - treading water and flailing madly at the end, hoping everything will turn out fine.
So who do I put the blame on? That one’s becoming easier and easier to answer. I blame a lack of investment. While I don’t think Stan Kroenke should turn into Sheikh Mansour and dump billions into his club, I do think Stan could and should invest more. Arsenal are a cash-rich club, and there’s literally no reason they couldn’t spend either some of that cash or - and I know this is a revolutionary concept but bear with me - Stan could inject some more cash into the club that could be used to find and buy new players.
Dude’s a multi-billionaire; he can afford to give Arsenal £200 million to play with this summer without batting an eye. But he won’t, and thus, here we are, sweating out the end of yet another season that is ending like the last few, with us all wondering whether Arsenal will, again, paper over the cracks, or whether they will find out where their new, post-European level is, and settle in there instead.