What next for Gunners: Arsenal are in Limbo
By David Swaden
So here it is, 2013. The world did not end on December 21st and neither has Arsenal’s inconsistent run of form, despite the lesser known Mayan prophecy that we would go on a 25 match winning streak and Chamakh would end as the league’s top scorer. Oh well.
I hope you had a very restful period during the golden moments when you weren’t biting your nails over Wigan, suffering palputations over Newcastle or kicking yourself over Southampton.
January is now here, and many Gunners fans are desperately hoping again. Just like at the end of last season, when we scraped over the line, they hoped for something.
These aren’t hopes that we will simply strenghthen what we have, it’s much more than that. The squad doesn’t and hasn’t filled them with hope or confidence for the long-term. It’s an unease that I can well understand. Last season was very frustrating and this season already seems equally so. This week we were about 12 minutes away from our trophy hopes being realistically over, and it was the first days of January. In their heart of hearts, do any objective fans percieve a marked improvement from last year?
For me, the word that best describes Arsenal over the recent past, present and, if we stick to the current path, future is “limbo”.
Limbo has two common definitions. The first is a dance whereby the bar is set lower and lower for each phase and it is a question of whether the dancer can contort themselves sufficiently to make it through.
Arsenal’s bar has been getting lower ever since The Invincibles (let’s not go with the oft used FA cup win, we were comprehensively outplayed by Man U in that game). To begin with, we continued to challenge for the title, cups and even made a Champions League final. Then, we were at least guaranteed Champions League football, now we usually have to scrape through and are way off the pace in Europe and the FA cup. Now, this season, it looks less likely than ever that we will make that elusive fourth spot.
And all the while, the quality of the squad has gradually been getting lower and lower. We’ve lost the Vieiras, Coles, Fabregases, Henrys and Van Persies. Yes we have still some gems in there, but mistakes like Gervinho, Chamakh and Park are becoming more and more commonplace. The over-reliance and obsession with Theo Walcott is a case in point. Five or six years ago, we would be placing a similar amount of focus on Henry, how times have changed.
The other definition of limbo, in religion and films like Inception, is a state of “in between”, lost in the wilderness. Again, this is a pretty accurate description of present-day Arsenal. We strive for Champions League football every year but we seem to have no chance of winning it. We haven’t reached the semi-final of the FA cup since Arshavin was a new signing and we are miles away from a title challenge.
So what exactly are we doing at the moment? We don’t appear to be building, just drifting.
And that’s where we are, or aren’t: limbo. The club is steadily declining and drifting and our manager is performing a cortotionist act where it’s a question of how low the bar can get before it’s game over. What a sad finale it would be for him and the club if nothing changes and that’s the way it all ends for him.
What is the answer? Well there’s a question. As I’ve said before, Wenger is the only manager I can think of who has managed a team from challenger to champion and back down again, so I doubt there is a blueprint to go with. Do we throw money at it? Do we change the boss? Do we just accept the idea of being a perpetually upper mid-table team with a brand new 60,000 seater stadium?
One thing is for sure, Arsenal’s limbo isnt like the others – it can’t go on for ever. Sooner or later, something’s going to give. When and how is something far less certain