At some point around half past five on Sunday, the sheer scale of the Arsenal crisis was made crushingly, finally clear to the listeners of Radio 5Live. As goal followed goal followed goal, Alan Green stopped using words like pathetic, shambles and disgraceful. Instead, he became sympathetic. When Alan Green feels sorry for you, the time has come to find yourself an underground bunker.
Image courtesy of Flickr user AtilaTheHun
After Tuesday night’s impressive comeback against Udinese, the general consensus was the crisis had passed. Seems somebody forgot to tell Sir Alex.
A previous Arsenal crisis
Sunday’s defeat was the worst ever suffered by an Arsenal manager. When Loughborough won 8-0 in 1896, Arsenal were yet to appoint a team manager and tactics were reserved for admirals and generals. That it should be Wenger, and not one of his ineffectual predecessors, to suffer the ultimate humiliation is deeply ironic. Only the impact and achievements of Herbert Chapman compare to those of Wenger throughout Arsenal’s history.
There is another parallel. In 1932/33 Chapman’s Arsenal, weakened by a flu outbreak, were humiliated in the FA Cup by Walsall. Some of the players that day never played for the club again. By the end of the season Arsenal were celebrating the first of three consecutive league titles.
That’s not to suggest that Robin Van Persie will raise the Premier League trophy next May, but good things can come out of a disaster, and there are certainly some who were shown to be unfit to wear an Arsenal shirt. If this result does one thing, surely it will force the Gunners to change their wage structure and transfer policy.
At the start of the summer everyone knew Wenger needed to clear out some dead wood. And he has. The trouble is, despite Fabregas and Nasri also leaving, the only qualified replacement has been Gervinho. Whilst Carl Jenkinson and Co are fine prospects, they are nowhere near the level of Ferguson’s young players.
Perhaps the most telling statistic from yesterday was the comparative ages of the two sides: Arsenal’s starting XI was on average six months older than United’s.
Whilst the scorn has been heaped on Wenger for his failure to spend big, there is an increasing feeling that something more fundamental is wrong at boardroom level. The board has the power to overrule the manager on transfers so if Wenger has lost the plot, as some suggest, why would they not do so?
So is business on the pitch being derailed by boardroom battles off it?
Whatever’s going on, Arsene Wenger now has two days in which to rebuild his squad. Whilst Andre Villas-Boas sensibly calls for the transfer window to be closed earlier, the Arsenal manager must be wishing it would continue until November.
As it is the fans may have to endure the Arsenal crisis at least until January and the next instalment of the transfer circus. Happy days.