I was almost feeling envious of all those fans of the five clubs going into the final game of the season, balancing on the perilous precipice of Premiership relegation. So much so that I was half-tempted to stop at home and watch all the excitement unfold live on the box. In fact if our last away outing had involved anything more than a brief hop across the capital on my motorbike, to the Cottagers' picturesque riverside locale, I’m not sure I’d have mustered sufficient enthusiasm to make it there on Sunday.
Still, even as the gleam of Gooner silverware fades ever deeper into the sadly, increasingly inaccessible recesses of my decrepit grey matter, I imagine the fans of at least 16 (current & former!) Premiership outfits would give their eye-teeth to be supporting a club who’s manager has achieved the top four finish that’s guaranteed the Gunners Champions League footie for 14 consecutive seasons – surely Birmingham fans would bite the hand off that offered to swap their Carling Cup triumph for just one more crack at the domestic big time?
And as I breezed past the traffic on the Fulham Road and my view of the mutton dressed as lamb stadium that is Stamford Bridge, receded in my wing mirror, where their filthy-rich, but increasingly hard to please Russian owner would be imminently handing his cards to the seventh manager he’s employed in the past seven years, I was mindful of the fact that for all the baubles the Blues have picked up in recent times, Chelsea’s revolving door policy on managers who fail to deliver the big prize, is no way to run a football club.
Not that I’m overly impressed by the recurring nightmare of Arsène Wenger’s positively spineless nincompoops, limping over the finishing line, with all the other empty-handed also-rans, but it’s necessary to put things into proper perspective. After all, it was only a couple of months back when most Gooners were wandering around the Emirates absolutely agog, having to pinch one another to prove it wasn’t some fantastic dream that such an inconsistent Arsenal side were still in with a shout for all four trophies and the pundits’ favourites to trouble Fergie’s infamous sphincter with a spasm or two in the home straight.
Perhaps it was the burgeoning of so much false hope which has been our biggest problem and which is responsible for the mounting discontent over yet another “close but no cigar” season? Back at the beginning of this campaign we were all being brainwashed into believing that we were the team most likely to drop out of “the big four”. Mercifully the Scousers have trumped us for this dubious distinction. Yet despite Liverpool’s dreadful season (and their rescue from the brink of financial ruin), the red half of Merseyside is prostrating itself in gratitude for the second coming of their saviour.
But then I’m far from alone with my bi-polar sentiments, as I vacillate between the AKBs (Arsène Knows Best) and the Black Scarf Mob. As evidenced at Fulham, where having spent much of the afternoon teasing “We defended a corner”, our well tanked-up faithful reverted to a reaffirming 15-minute chorus of “We love you Arsenal”, before sending Arsène on his summer hols, with the plaintive cry of “Spend some f***ing money” ringing in his ears.
Never mind the smokescreen of our agitation over objectionable ticket prices, or the 6% hike in season tickets, as far as this Gooner is concerned, in a nutshell, the most galling “Where’s Our Arsenal Gone’ evidence of the demoralizing absence of spirit in this Arsenal side, was highlighted on Sunday. In contrast to the sight of Stevie Gerrard on the terraces at Villa Park, surrounded by the punters who pay his exorbitant wages, our club captain was conspicuous by his absence at Craven Cottage. It seems Cesc was busy supporting his compatriot at the far more glamorous Spanish Grand Prix, thereby ensuring there were at least a couple of Grand Prix in Barcelona!
Arsène’s post-match response was a superfluous reminder that he’s not about to spend for spending’s sake. But it is at least an improvement on the categorical denials that have put the dampener on recent summers. After seeing the stunning slalom effort that went into the Arsenal Ladies efforts to save our silverware blushes on Saturday, if it’s true that both Fabregas and Nasri are angling for an exit from our leaky ship, then perhaps we should settle for a sex change.
Although it’s been said several times before, hopefully the incontrovertible evidence of our capitulations on Tyneside and the Totts first triumph on our territory in 17 riotous seasons will have at long last convinced le Gaffer that all is not right in Wenger World. Whether it’s down to there being some substance to the rumours of so many extra-marital shenanigans, it’s patently obvious that there’s not enough love in the air on the pitch.
It doesn’t really matter to me if we make a couple of multi-million marque signings, or if the fallacy of Arsène’s “Promised Land” budget still only stretches to more from the bargain basement, so long as we don’t go again next term without turning over some of our disaffected dud canons, for some serious artillery.
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