To say it has been a while would be an understatement. It has been close to a year since I last blogged. A lot has changed in the world of Arsenal but at the same time, things eerily are so familiar; erratic and volatile. While the season promised much in the way of a Championship challenge, it has petered out into a familiar battle. One which, unfortunately, all of us have become accustomed to all too well these past few years.
We find ourselves in a scrap for fourth place and as ever, something that should have been simple has been contorted into a turbulent ride. What started off as a season of dread following a dry summer, the arrival of a truly world class player changed the outlook of the season. Could we dare to dream? Judging by what followed; we could dare. And dream we did.
What followed was a series of fantastic results if not always fantastic displays. This team finally demonstrated some of the qualities that we have missed so emphatically in seasons gone by. There was a new sense of determination, grit and perhaps even a winning mentality. Grinding out results became the norm and we became the pace setters for much of the season.
And then it happened. Despite being 8 points clear of Liverpool and top of the League in February, the Gooonerverse was rocked by a battering at the hands of Liverpool and things have never quite looked the same since. Our league form following that defeat was D-W-L-W-L-D-D-L which meant not only had we relinquished our position at the summit of the League. We had somehow managed to drop out of the top four entirely, if only temporarily. 9 points from a possible 27 available. Take that in for a moment.
There was an air of inevitability about our fall if truth be told. There had to be. All the “experts” had predicted it all season. It was coming. After every match we were told it has to happen. Any day now… Shit! It’s happening. The so-called pundits revelled in our misery with claims of “I told you so”.
Oh how simple must life be for these experts. They just know everything. So they return to the “lack of winning mentality” rhetoric that often gets spewed so viciously it hurts the core of my being. Mainly because it is stupid and I am offended by stupidity; especially under the guise of expertise.
Well what went wrong? Winning mentality is just one small component of the larger picture and I am afraid this picture is large and pretty ugly. There are many issues that have contributed to our drop in form but the largest component for me is of course the wealth of injuries that we have had to cope with in that part of the season. To my mind this is the single biggest factor in our drop in performances and results. It became more abundantly clear as the return to early season form coincided with the return of Ramsey. He has been immense all season.
I recently read at Arseblog that losing Ramsey would be akin to Liverpool losing Suarez. Sounds a bit bizarre but I would go one step further. Losing Ozil, Walcott and Ramsey would be like them losing Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard. If you take those players out of the Liverpool team how do you think they would cope? Probably not quite the form that has seen them, deservedly, surge up the league table.
Now believe me, I am not looking for excuses because even without the players that were out injured our performances, and in turn results have been far below expectation. We should have done better. We could have done better. We must in future do better. There were factors including tactical ineptness and bizarre team selections which further contributed to our downturn in form but I unequivocally believe that losing the number of players that we have has, unfortunately, shattered dreams once again.
This in itself is a huge problem that should raise questions. Why are we continually unable to rehabilitate players in a timely fashion? Why are there so many strains and tears? Is this a failure in management or medical staff? Probably both.
The outlook is not overly bleak though, we have after all returned to a position where our top four credentials are in our hands. If you asked anyone before the season started if we would take a top four finish and win a trophy I would imagine they not have bitten your hand off so much as devoured you whole. My point? I guess some perspective is in order.
The season has in many ways been successful but perhaps that’s why this season hurts even more than seasons before it in many ways. It seems almost depressing to say (mainly because we have been here before) but we have a strong foundation which if built on in the right way we can create something very special. The question for me is; is Arsene Wenger the right man to do that?
Until next time.