Blaustein is back! How will we know success for Arsenal?

By Jonathan Blaustein 

Ah, the race for fourth.

Are we there yet?

As of this writing, we’re behind Chelsea by 8 points, and within 1 point of 2nd place in the league. Arsenal withered as the weather wallowed, unfortunately, giving up 8 points between the Everton, Man City and Bournemouth matches.

The pessimist says we’re done. Finished. Kaput.

No league title, and even thinking about winning the Champions league is embarrassing.

The injuries turned up at exactly the moment everyone predicted, and now there’s so little hope, even for ’17-’18. (When Mourinho and Guardiola will, along with the Chinese, buy up ALL THE PLAYERS.)

Right now, I’m teetering on the edge of abandoning my typical sense of optimism. (There are good arguments to be made for the end of hope, I’m afraid.) Now that I’m writing regularly, I see my job as looking at the season, one chunk at a time. This time, I had the pleasure of watching three of the Holiday games in quick succession, looking for patterns.

The short version of a more boring, longer story is that I was away in Mexico for a week or so, and missed the Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Preston North End games. My DVR was trusty, though, so I watched the matches in a marathon evening/morning session when I got home, and came away impressed by the team’s gumption.

Olivier Giroud has really proven himself to be a tough, strong dude, mentally and physically. He is, officially, more than just a gorgeous face. Wenger’s always said that OG rises to the occasion, and given the run of games we’re discussing, Holy Shit, you couldn’t be more clutch. (Or more stylish. THE SCORPION!)

Gabriel has been a surprisingly capable backup right back, but an awful central defender. We can all see that the Gunners leak goals every time he’s back there. The guy just doesn’t have it, which means a new 3rd choice CB must emerge quickly.

When Mustafi and Koscielny play together, as they did on Saturday in the odd thumping of Swansea, the entire team is noticeably more settled. The clean sheets almost always happen when these two are starting.

Thankfully, they’re back. (For now.)

I had to do a full media blackout for that week in Mexico, and it was a nice to briefly get away from the noise. It helped me shake out the mental cobwebs, and see things from a fresh perspective.

Here’s the straight truth: it is possible that Arsenal will win the EPL, but horribly unlikely. They’re not in terrible position, but the teams behind Chelsea are all there blocking the path as well. At this point, even though we all love Wenger, would anyone really bet on him overhauling Conte, Klopp and Pochettino, while simultaneously holding off Mourinho and Guardiola?

Nobody makes that bet, with 2017 Arsene. He’s a solid choice for sticking in the top 4, but beyond that, I’d keep my money in my pocket.

But he could, perhaps, engineer a stunner over Bayern, or win another FA Cup. What if he does either of those things, and also re-signs Ozil and Sanchez, while staying in the top 4? Would you have patience for one last Arsene-Wenger–3-year-contract special?

Or he is down to “win a major trophy or I want you gone” with a vast chunk of the fanbase? Is it now, or will it soon be, all or nothing? (Like it was when he won the FA Cup in 2014?)

Certainly, if Arsenal run the table until Chelsea on February 4th, and then win at Stamford Bridge, I’ll be willing to reconsider thinking positively again.

What about you? At this point, what would you consider a successful season? What would indicate positive momentum, beyond winning the EPL or CL?


  1. JB yo!

    Tend to agree with it all in general. And KUDOS
    for shaking off the mental cobwebs. Always good to think for yourself and not be told what to think.

    We can only play what is in front of us and as you point out we are
    always a few more steps closer to a mistake than
    most other top 6 teams.

    It’s the reduction of mistakes
    that Chelsea are very canny with. Least shots allowed in their
    18 yard area (13)second to spurs at (12). The systematic nature of Chelsea’s
    mistake avoidance and our systematic nature of artistry over efficiency
    make things a bit grim on our part. But the probablity that everyone in the top 6 will
    continue to take maximum points over the next two fixtures is not that high. When you consider
    Spurs play city and Liverpool Chelsea over the next two we play Burnley and Watford both at home.
    If (and again a big if) we take all the points from that then our position will be a good one going
    against the Russian cockneys. I do think Chelsea will drop points but it won’t be a loss, it will be a draw
    here and there.

    The banana peels will present themselves in the form of FA cup games tonight with short turn around for Liverpool
    then they play home vs Swans. Chelsea short turn around between Liverpool and Arsenal, this is where
    we can mame a small amount of ground I hope (my heart is pumping writing this). But once again there is a
    great machine behind that Chelsea team that have planned for these next few weeks so they will be ready.

    This season someone big is losing out on top four, so even if there is no title the fourth place
    trophy is a big ‘un. Pains me to say it but Pochetino is a good manager, I would have prefered him if AW
    left but timing not there. Hassenhutl anyone? Also I can’t see Allegri taking over, the Italian league is
    still too far behind in my view. Could anyone tell me if at away games the opposition still leave their grass
    long so that Arsenal can’t get the passing game going?

  2. I would say the only way Arsenal should consider success now is by winning something. I remember the days of the 4th Place Trophy and I would like to believe that we have passed even considering such an achievement as some kind of measure of success.
    To be honest, given how the financial shackles came off half a decade ago, I’m really not sure some would even consider winning the FA Cup a success.
    I would, but only to an extent, since I really don’t think Wenger has any more excuses left.

  3. Torn.

    I recognize that last season’s “almost did it,” along with some early matches that gave the impression this season’s Arsenal is mentally stronger than previous iterations, raised expectations and made a lot of us more optimistic versions of ourselves. At the same time, with how competitive this season has been due to the influx of world-class managers and lack of European football for the current league leaders, I have to be realistic.

    Would I count another FA Cup as a success? Depends on whether or not we re-sign our two WC players. I would like to see a change, however, with Wenger signing a 1-year extension and naming his successor. Enough stability to extend contracts, but also sight of a real, long-anticipated change.

    That would be success for this season.

    Oh, and if I’m greedy, a decisive league victory over any of the current top 6 teams.

  4. Winning Champions League requires 11 players in the Alexis-Ozil class. Beating Bayern, if happens, will be touch-and-go anyway. Good if it does.
    The thing about the league is, I think even if we miss out on the title, what I’d love to see is: GOOD performances against the top six. Something that proves that we – the players, the manager and the club as a whole- are a top premier league club.

  5. Success this season to me would be finishing top 4. Now, that’s not progress I know. But I am seriously worried how well teams around us are playing. We have a run of 6 games coming up. We play Bayern twice, Chelsea, Liverpool and Southampton (our bogey team) away. We also have to play Tottenham away, and both Manchester clubs at home. We all know about Arsenals record against top teams. And no telling how many injured players we will have for these games. I know I’m all doom and gloom, but seriously, when’s the last time we won something major?

    1. When’s the last time Tottenham’s won anything major? Liverpool? Newcastle? There are lots of clubs with lots of fans who haven’t won diddly squat in many more years than us. We’ve been spoiled rotten and are the victim of our own stupidly high expectations given what we’re up against every season.

  6. I have mentioned this here before but I’ll say it again. For a club like Arsenal, winning the league is by pretty much the only standard of success. Anything else, and we are just settling or “still getting there”. Of course, winning the CL is a strong indicator of the team’s success as well but we are so far from that goal that it seems ludicrous to even bring it up. Winning the FA cup feels good (any kind of silverware does) but it’s more of an icing on the cake rather than a standard of success. The league title is the cake.

    Having said that, if we had a good season where we fought for the league until the last day but just came out short, we could still consider that season somewhat successful. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would consider last season, where we finished 2nd, a successful one.

    1. Yeah agreed – and too much icing without the cake makes you feel sick. We need some cake, right?

  7. We are succeeding by showing ambition and style. First, the mobile front three is Arsenal football, and the Giroud Plan B+ ain’t so shabby. Second, we have signed (and now need to retain) some great players. Third, last year, we beat all of our rivals, handled a tricky post-Euros better than they did, and forced some of them finish outside the top four. We were beaten by a Black Swan of hideous proportions, but it’s impossible to plan an entire team and season around flukes. In any event, we beat that team (won’t try to spell it) twice, which again reinforces that we even handled the fluke better than our rivals. Yes, we need to win the league, etc., but we are on the right path and true to our values. Winning the League isn’t everything. Winning isn’t everything. Staying true is.

  8. Only one team can win the league so I don’t see winning it as the litmus test but as others have said I want to be feverishly running permutations in late April and May with the title being a realistic chance. Achieving that requires better performances against the top 6.of which we have only delivered one adequate performance this year and chavski were in a mess when we played them.
    Similarly I cant see us winning the Chumps League but a decent result in Munich to give hope for the 2nd Leg and maybe a run to the semis.
    I’m with nyc on last season – it was a bungled chance – Ronnie Rosenthal / Kanu for west brom size – blown with too many inadequate performances and realistically we were out of it in March despite finishing 2nd which was more because we were less spectacularly inept than the rest of the usual suspects
    Mostly I’d like some of the fun back

  9. We’ve been conditioned to believe that the only success is winning the premier league. That’s all well and good as long as we don’t go around assuming that anything less is a complete failure.

    To pin on the manager that he has to win it this year or go is absurd; his chance of winning the PL from one year to the next is basically constant and probably hovering at around 10% based on my own rough estimation. You’re welcome to give him more generous odds if you like but the point is, regardless of the year, he is far less likely to win it than not. It’s not like he can choose to have his players play better football, or that he can choose to deploy better tactics, or choose to suddenly buy even more great players. He may have more control over things at Arsenal than most managers at their clubs, but at the end of the day the destination of the PL trophy is determined by a million and one things, of said equation he is only a small part. He may be our only constant since we last won in 2004, but he was our only constant when we won doubles before that too. In my opinion bis influence, such as it is, remains a good thing, or at least neutral, rather than a place to look for easy improvement.

  10. for me, a successful season would be arsenal putting in good performances for the rest of the season. performances that say to the world that arsenal is an elite team. performances that cause other elite teams to tread carefully at the prospect of having to try and beat arsenal. if the results those types of performances warrant happen, great. if not, those are the breaks. what i want is for big teams to take arsenal seriously, not just alexis sanchez and mesut ozil. if arsenal can establish themselves as that team then i will consider this season a success.

    1. Agree with Joshuad. If we could put in good performances between now and the end of the season, and were to lose games because we hit the post many times or the ref disallowed goals that should have stood or what have you – that would be success. I look at our performances and there have been 10-15 this season that have been bad days at the office. To hit performance 9 games out of 10 til May would be success for me

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