In the biggest game of Arsenal’s season, they never showed up. Not for a lack of physical presence, but a weak mentality and a clear lack of ideas.
If the hierarchy at Arsenal were in a state of illusion about the direction that the club was headed, mustering only three shots on target (one being a penalty) across both legs of an European semifinal fixture should give them a clear picture of the state of things.
The mannerism and body language of the players from the blast of the whistle was that of a team that didn’t know what was at stake. As the game progressed, we waited in anticipation for the moment that would hit the players of the impending disaster.
For the first time since the 95/96 season, Arsenal might miss out on European football. The team currently sits in 9th on the EPL table, and have not won in their last six matches at the Emirates. While there is still a mathematical chance of getting into the Europa League spots, the reality of the club’s performances squashes such hopes.
As the referee ended the match at the Emirates, every Arsenal fan worldwide had only one question to ask – “where do we go from here”?
Like last season, the domestic performance this season has been abysmal. While the FA cup trophy spared the team’s blushes last season and led them to Europe, there will be no saving grace this season.
When Mikel Arteta was appointed, the goal was a gradual long term rebuild with a young vibrant manager. But there has been no progress under the Spaniard for fans to believe in the supposed rebuild. The team has plummeted to a new low under the rookie manager, with a feeling of uncertainty like never before. It is time for the decision makers in the club to get it right and take it back to where it belongs.
The current state is a result of the lack of a clear plan and poor recruitment at the backend. While the focus had largely been on player performance, the reason for a poor collective performance is not far fetched. Appointing a rookie director of football and a greenhorn manager was always a big gamble by a club of Arsenal’s stature.
A big club on the decline, with two people learning on the job in charge of its rebuilding process doesn’t sound like the smartest decision. The accumulation of bad technical decisions has pushed the team to its current state. It is time to start making smart decisions or risk further decline.
While Mikel Arteta might not necessarily be a bad manager, the job is clearly bigger than him and Edu Gaspar. Taking the team to its lowest finish since 1995 shouldn’t be rewarded with more time. After 18 months on the job, the manager has struggled to get the players to play at a top level. Some clearly talented players have looked poor on the pitch one too many times and it shows that the system is not working.
And there is a case of the owners not investing enough in the team. To compete at the top level right now, you must be ready to splash the cash on smart player purchases. It is the reality of the current state of football and if the club owners truly want to take the team back to its glory days, they must adjust to the new reality.
With no European football next season, fan optimism is at its lowest. The hierarchy must make swift changes to the current set up and show enough ambition to gain fan trust again.