A Season In Review: All or nothing…
You know what I think so here is Club Captain Consolsbob with his end of term report…
A season that promised so much ended in disappointment. A team that looked to have overcome their doubters crumbled at the critical time. Arsène stands accused of having lost the ability to inspire and shape his charges into winners.
Where does that leave us? Have we, the fans, been wrong to believe in and proselytise for an approach to building a team and playing football based on sustainability and style? Is the future not Red and White but Red, Blue and Light Blue? Have the pundits and media gurus been correct in writing us off? No leaders, no winners, no hope. Spend.
The response of many to our failures has been in line with the media attitude. It has been pure vitriol in places. The rage, anger and spittle-flecked outpourings have been sad to witness. A condemnation not just of some of our supporters but of a society spoilt by ridiculous expectation and greed. The same fans who accuse the team of lacking guts show all the decadence that brought an effete Rome to its knees in the face of some gritty barbarians.
For these people Wenger must go and the side needs rebuilding.
For others, it’s a matter of faith in Arsène and his ‘project’. Building a team that will dominate the Premiership without the spending of large sums on ‘star players’. A few more tweaks will see us right for the next campaign. In a monumental clash of fiscal and footballing philosophies, it’s the war that must be won, not a few battles. The naysayers comprising the ‘big spending’ clubs, a supine and opportunistic media joined by a vociferous fifth column wearing Arsenal colours must be defeated.
This would seem to be the essential debate that defines the club at this time. A debate that both weakens and exposes it to the machinations of the media and splits its support.
This is wrong. There has been such a conflict, it is behind us. Arsène won it. To continue such a ‘cold war’ is unfair, unreasonable and destructive.
Consider. He has maintained a competitive side at home and in Europe on very little money while the move to the Emirates was made and the consequent debt paid down. He has produced sides that largely play beautiful football that, at its best, can sweep all before it.
For me, these were the requirements and achievements that showed Arsène to be a great manager. That showed that you don’t need to spend hundreds of millions to compete at the top. That you don’t need to play kick and rush or ‘in your face’ football if you don’t have much money. Done, dusted, over.
The outstanding issue is how this team fared and what happens next. Since the move from Highbury, we have not won a trophy. This team has come up short but this was not a sign of anything except that they were not good enough this year. It’s just another season, perspective is required that takes into consideration the whole of Arsène’s reign and its circumstances, not just the last few years. Priorities change.
The team have failed to do their talent and ability justice. In that, their critics and the media have good grounds for their views. They have failed, not through a lack of ability but a lack of determination and drive. A serial failure to respond when the going got tough. Interestingly, the standard of football dropped at the same time. The end of the season saw little champagne football, still less a side able to grind out the results that would have delivered the Title.
Arsène must take a large degree of responsibility for this. They are very much his team. He has defended and cosseted them. The tactics are his. The team selection is his. I can’t remember an Arsenal side in recent years that so clearly had a ‘First Eleven’; the squad was little used except in cases of necessity. Did tiredness play a part in their failure? Possibly. Does that suggest that Arsène didn’t trust his squad players? Probably. Does that mean that this squad was not as strong and deep as we have been saying? Almost certainly. Should he have strengthened further? I think so.
None of this makes the development of a Title-winning team any less likely than a year ago. Nor does it mean that Arsène is past his peak. In the long term, it’s business as usual.
All or nothing? All change or the maintenance of a low spend, ‘youth’ culture until final victory? Neither, not for me and probably not for Arsène and Arsenal Football club either.
The reality is that the manager has always added players in the close season when required and when available. He will do so again. The evolution of this team will continue. No revolution in the marble halls.
We are entering a new phase for the club. A new owner and a different financial situation. If Arsène spends more than usual this year, is that a sign of his recognition that his strategy to date has failed, a reflection of the changed financial situation or the need to address particular squad fallibilities?
Pragmatism will guide the strengthening of the team, as it has every year. The availability of the right players and the right money will determine how many join and how many leave. T’was ever thus.
In particular it seems likely that Arsène will act on the perceived weaknesses of this team and that will be reflected in the summer’s activity. Some current players will not be a part of a Title winning Arsenal side, their time has gone, most though, will form the backbone of the team for years to come.
This is not failure. No supporter should expect his team to win a major honour nor that every team built will be successful. This is football.
Arsène will not be our manager for ever. He has delivered more success than any previous Arsenal manager and has moved the club into a position where, for the first time, we are a major European club. I want his remaining years to be spent winning trophies. I want him to retire garlanded in laurels. I want it Red and White.