Having suffered numerous setbacks and their most disastrous start to a season in decades, look Amy Eustace examines the ongoing tale of woe that is Arsenal Football Club.
The year hasn’t been kind to Arsenal fans. Just when you think they’ve suffered enough, pilule their beloved team sinks to new depths of humiliation. Arsenal’s sole win of the season thus far was a 1-0 victory over Swansea, patient but it wasn’t exactly a vintage performance. And no self-respecting Gooner would like to relive their 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford any time soon. But their collapse at Ewood Park last weekend was possibly the most uncomfortable to behold. With five games played, Arsenal lie seventeenth in the table, one point above the relegation zone.
It’s almost hard to believe that last December the North London side topped the Premier League table. They seemed within touching distance of putting a halt to their trophy drought – now in its sixth year – when they reached the League Cup final, but Championship-bound Birmingham took the prize instead. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s challenge for the league title disintegrated. Summer came, and Wenger remained miserly as ever in the transfer market. Lille forehead – er, I mean, forward, Gervinho, signed early on, but Arsenal proved to be their usual spendthrift selves. The Cesc Fabregas saga raged on and eventually he would return to his native Catalonia, leaving Wenger without a playmaker of any decent standard, and leaving Sky Sports News staff wondering what they could possibly talk about for the next month.
Putting the cash from the Fabregas deal somewhere no one would ever find it, Arsenal got the season going with an unconvincing scoreless draw against Newcastle and a home defeat to Liverpool. Samir Nasri, a rare bright spot the previous season, left soon after for the lure of Manchester City (and their wondrously deep pockets).
It may be scant consolation for the Arsenal faithful, but if nothing else, Manchester United’s 8-2 win over Wenger’s side taught ‘le Professeur’ a lesson he needed to learn. Arsenal loosened the purse strings, securing Everton’s Mikel Arteta and German international defender Per Mertesacker, among others, on deadline day. Following the win against Swansea and a draw at Dortmund in the Champions League, assistant manager Pat Rice declared that they had ‘turned the corner’. Unfortunately for Arsenal, it was a clear case of speaking too soon, and that Blackburn disaster was just around the bend.
Defensively, Arsenal are a mess. Serious doubts exist over the abilities of Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou, while Mertesacker must settle quickly in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen due to injury. But with doubts over Wenger’s future mounting – not for the first time – it isn’t implausible to think that perhaps Arsenal need a complete change of direction. Wenger’s apparent inability to instil nerve into the squad has seen them throw away many a lead (Newcastle last season, anyone?).
Unless you happen to be a Spurs fan, Arsenal lingering insecurely above the relegation zone doesn’t look quite right. But if you think that the Blackburn defeat was their lowest ebb, you might want to keep in mind: if there’s one thing you can count on with Arsenal these days, it’s that well, you really can’t count on them at all.