Thursday, 30 March 2017

All Quiet On The Arsenal Front

At the moment it feels almost like a war zone among Arsenal fans with the constant bickering over Arsene Wenger and his future at the club. It reached a stage in the last game against West Brom where both sides flew planes over the stadium with banners containing their messages trailing behind. I'm sure there are plenty of other clubs out there who's fans cannot understand what all the fuss is about and who would happily swap places with Arsenal right now.

It's all about perception I suppose and looking in from the outside those Arsenal fans who are clambering for his exit could easily be seen as petulant,spoiled and lacking respect. Certainly those who are most vocal are not presenting Arsenal fans in a good light in my opinion and it's hard to watch protest marches and see protest banners at matches. However, it's also hard to deny the feeling that the time for Arsene Wenger to go seems to have come.

The international break at least put an end to the painful exercise of watching Arsenal for a couple of weeks, but they are set to return on Sunday. The game at home to City is a huge game for Arsenal and one they really need to win if they're going to keep a top four place within touching distance. Whether Arsene Wenger stays or not a top four finish is essential to attract new players and to bring in the extra money from a Champions League campaign.

So far the international break seems to have been pretty kind to Arsenal with no new injuries to report and the manager will have a close to full squad to pick from. The only notable exception is Santi Cazorla who won't play again this season and who's absence has been sorely felt for most of this season. The manager will have a lot of decisions to make for that City game and he quite simply has to get it right on the day.

It's hard to believe he has the whole of the dressing room behind him when you see the attitude and performances of far too many players in recent games. I didn't get to see the shambles against West Brom as I was at a family funeral and the highlights apparently didn't do Arsenal's ineptitude justice. As bad as Arsenal have been though you could nearly say the same about City at times this season with many questions for their players to address too. They have an excellent away record in the league though and will be looking to drive another nail into Arsenal's top four ambitions while furthering their own cause.

There's another protest march planned before the game on Sunday and I wouldn't be surprised to see a fly over or two either during the game. The opinions on the manager and his future seem to becoming more and more polarised and it's hard to see anything that can unite the fans other than a change in management. If I'm not mistaken the manager said his future would be decided before we play again and hopefully we can expect a decision by Saturday at the latest.

The clever money seems to be going towards a contract extension and I can only imagine the reaction of the voiciferous section of fans who want him out. As noisy as they might be it won't change things if he does extend his contract though, but it could make the atmosphere at games even more poisonous if that's possible. It can't be easy for the players to play with that atmosphere in the stands, but it could be something they have to deal with every week very soon.

I might only go to see Arsenal play once or twice a season, but I know a lot of Arsenal fans both personally and through social media. Anecdotally I have no doubt the vast majority of those I know think the manager has to go for the sake of the club, but equally they don't approve of the vocal nature of the protests. Most seem to think he is due respect for what he has done for the club and they would like to see him go before he destroys his legacy. They would also believe, like I do, that he just isn't up to the job any more.

There are very few who think he can or will turn things around and make the team contenders for the real trophies even if he does manage to squeeze into the top four and/or win the FA Cup. Those I have spoken to seem to be of a similar opinion to me that any team he puts together will fold when the going gets tough and it has happened so often that it has to come back to him. The players have most certainly let him down, but that doesn't change his tactical ineptitude and unwillingness to adapt and change.

I'm still hoping for a strong finish to the season and the next week will go a long way to deciding how Arsenal's season finishes. With three league games in just over a week there are nine points to play for and the players really need to take at least seven points in those games. A loss against City and dropped points in either of the other games could spell the end of the season and make matters even worse than they are now. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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