Arsene Wenger was a breath of fresh air when he took the reins at Arsenal and success quickly followed with three league titles and four FA Cups between 1998 and 2005. Things changed after that and Arsenal had to try to compete with the best with a limited budget as they invested in a new stadium in an attempt to build for the future. The trophies dried up and the last time Arsenal won any silverware was that FA Cup win in 2005.
There were some close things since then but Arsenal fell away towards the end every season and lost a few cup finals too. Last season started very badly but the team turned things around and ground out the victories they needed in their last 10 games to just scrape into fourth place. It looked like some lessons might finally have been learned and Arsenal had found a way to grind out victories when they needed to.
This season got off to a flyer after the opening day hic-up and Arsenal led the way in the league for much of it. There were a couple of poor performances and results but the team bounced back and continued to take points off the lesser teams in the league. The six goals conceded at City were a worry but at least Arsenal scored three and City were stuffing everybody at home at that stage.
I consoled myself with the thought Arsenal had got their tactics wrong that day and would not make the same mistake again. When Liverpool beat them 5-1 it was obvious that those lessons might not have sunk in and the 6-0 defeat to Chelsea might well have been the lowest point to date of Arsene's almost 18 year reign. I thought it couldn't happen again and Everton weren't as good as those teams, but I was proved wrong on at least one of those accounts on Sunday.
Now I know Arsenal have more than their fair share of injuries to important players at the moment, but lesser teams have gone to those clubs and at least made a game of it. The tactical ineptitude and lack of real effort from the players against Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton was quite incredible. On each occasion the opposition saw their chance and took it and Arsenal were unable to respond.
I though Liverpool and Chelsea reacted on the day to how easy Arsenal made things for them, but Everton set out to take Arsenal on and beat them. Everton set themselves up perfectly to do just that and Arsene was unable or unwilling to change things until the game was lost at 3-0. It's blatantly obvious when Arsenal have no pace in their team and opponents find it far too easy to defend against Arsenal when they have no pace.
It's not easy to hit your opponent on the break if your central striker is slower than all of their defenders and your wide players can't outrun the full backs. With Theo Walcott out for the last three months only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offers that pace, but he sat out the last two games as Arsene went for a more experienced line up. He looked lively when he came on against Everton and he caused them problems but the game was already over by then.
It's impossible to say or know if Arsene has lost the dressing room, but the players certainly don't seem to be playing for him at the moment particularly away from home. The game against Everton was a game Arsenal could not afford to lose, but it looked like nobody bothered to tell the players. There's still 15 league points to play for, but unless the players can find some spirit from somewhere they're not going to get too many points no matter who the opposition are.
Arsene's contract expires at the end of the season and there's a new one on offer for him, but the clamour for his exit is steadily growing among the fans. The season can still be saved with the FA Cup still a very real possibility and Arsenal are still favourites to finish ahead of Everton. The question is will Arsene sign his new contract if Arsenal achieve those goals or will he do so I'd they don't.
I think he is being out thought too often by other managers and his approach is looking dated. I would hate to see the club reach a stage where they have to sack him and it might not be a bad idea if he was to call it a day after winning the cup and finishing fourth. I would prefer to see him go out on a high and winning our first trophy in nine years as well as securing Champions League football could wel offer him that opportunity.
If Arsenal don't win the cup and finish outside the top four then surely it would be time for a new man and a new approach. It would be a matter of whether Arsene thinks it would be time to leave himself or whether the club feel they would need to act. As I say I don't want it to come to that and I think it might just be time for him to go at the end of the season before he is pushed.
He has done a great job at Arsenal and brought the club into a very strong position despite some very tough challenges. The new stadium is a credit to him and I have no doubt there will be a statue of him outside it one day. I would hate to see all he had done tarnished by the club having to show him the door and I hope he has the good sense to go before he is pushed.
This summer could well be the time for him to do just that and I think it could well happen if he feels he can't continue to advance the team and the club. His players have not delivered in the last two months in the league in particular and it seems he doesn't have a solution at the moment. If he can't find a solution then I think his days at Arsenal might well be coming to an end.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.