Footballistically Speaking: Stairs and Lifts

It wasn’t a surprise. Losing 3-0 to Manchester City in the Premier League, just days after losing 3-0 to Manchester City in the League Cup Final. Neither the defeat nor the manner of the defeat was a surprise.

In the cup final four days earlier Arsenal played like a snail that had one of its feelers touched. Arsenal hid inside its shell as Man City just scooped it up and ate it. But yesterday, Arsenal played like a snail that had not had its feelers touched, putting in its “most physical performance of the season” as Arsene Wenger said in his post-match presser. And still Man City just scooped it up and ate it.

It didn’t seem to matter what Arsenal did, City were going to beat them. Whether they played timid or bold, City were the better team. City are a well drilled, expensively assembled with careful attention paid to each of the parts, and tactically brilliant team in peak physical condition. Arsenal are a team that often looks ragged. Ragged in the construction, in execution, and physically.

A few seconds later Wenger was asked about the confidence of his team after the back to back big losses and he said “you go up by stairs and come down by lift, that is confidence.” It takes a long time to build confidence but only a few moments for it to crumble.

A football career often follows the same path; building for a decade or more, reaching the highest level they are capable of, only to fall rapidly.

Wenger’s own decline as a manager has been a rapid fall. Some will argue that his career has been a slow set of stairs down since the 2004 title winning glory. But it’s not his footballing acumen that I’m talking about.

Wenger remained remarkably consistent throughout the first, second, and third phases of his career at Arsenal. Securing places in the top four, playing attacking football, building, rebuilding, and winning trophies regardless of pressures. But in this fourth phase, the “everyone has money now” Premier League, where everyone can afford £50m players, Wenger has rapidly declined.

Last season Arsenal finished out of the top four and below Tottenham though Arsenal did win the FA Cup and beat champions Chelsea to do it. And this season, Arsenal are a mid-table club. Closer to Burnley in the League than any of the top clubs, and seemingly miles behind Tottenham.

But it’s not been Wenger alone who has taken the lift down. It’s been confidence in Wenger that has dropped precipitously. Whereas a few years ago there were debates among supporters about AKBs v. WOBs fans are now nearly unanimous that he has to go.

It’s not just the fans. The players also seem to have lost confidence in Wenger. In the League Cup final Arsenal looked timid from the start – Mustafi took a bump, claimed a foul, and conceded the first goal – and from there the result was all but assured. And four days later, Arsenal came out and played hard; they conceded a goal but didn’t collapse this time instead, they pressed and harassed Man City, trying to trap them into bad passes, following the orders of their manager and putting in the workrate that they lacked in the cup final.

Even up to the very moments before City’s third goal Arsenal played like a team who wanted to win the tie. That third goal was conceded off Arsenal pressing, pressing hard to win the ball back. That was a team executing the orders of the manager and it looked for a moment like Arsenal might get back into the game. But one pass from Silva to Aguero, one flick of the ball around Koscielny, and City opened Arsenal up for the third goal. Walker’s square ball for Sane, who just bundled the ball over the line off Bellerin’s tackle, killed what confidence was left in this team.

Arsenal came out in the second half, tried to get back into the game, but even given a penalty, Arsenal couldn’t score. Heads dropped. Ozil did a thinker’s pose on the pitch. The lift dinged. Ground floor.



  1. It all went to pot when we started traipsing around the world every summer instead of going off to Austria. Nothing like being stuck up in the alps for a month to bring a team together.

    1. Not to be too pedantic but they were in the flat and hot Burgenland. Your point stands regardless, but that’s what top clubs be have to do these days to keep the pace in the commercial department.

    2. I mean, no, everything about this is wrong. You’re implying that’s a big part of the reason the team isn’t coming together? Based on what? Why? This is weak tea.

  2. We have just reached ground floor. Got a few more basement levels to go until we part ways with the manager.

  3. “But in this fourth phase, the “everyone has money now” Premier League, where everyone can afford £50m players, Wenger has rapidly declined.”

    Never a more true sentenced has been written.

    In the absence of a clear idea supported by strict directives from the manager to the players, and countless hours on the practice pitch this expensively assembled Arsenal squad can be opened up by every decent side in the PL, Europe and even by clubs in the lower leagues.

    We can talk about mental aspects of the game all we want, like nervousness , fear, complacency but these are just scape goats for the manager that sends his players out underprepared and ill equipped to succeed.

    1. True, though I’d add the lack of a clear plan applies to recruitment as well.

      Against City I was struck by how arguably are 3 most underwhelming (to be nice) first team players are Xhaka, Kola, and Mustafi, three good-but-not-good-enough up-and-coming players bought for big money (or in Kola’s case, on huge wages) within the last couple of years, all bought with expectations that they would go straight into our first team, all almost certainly bought with strong recommendations from statsDNA. This is not to absolve Wenger of blame; on the contrary, he certainly had the final say on those purchases, and the fact that all three have been, up to this point, significant disappointments (really trying to be generous and not use the word “flops”), speaks, at the very least, to the fact that he’s failed to get to grips with how to use the stats info well when deciding who to buy (and perhaps struggled to buy when there’s been so much more money around in English/European football, for us included). And I’d argue that’s probably because he hasn’t given his scouts and analysts clearer instructions on exactly the right sort of player he wants them to recommend, because he himself doesn’t have a clear enough vision of the team he’s building, and how the parts should all fit together.

      In fact, while I think all three of the above players have significant weaknesses which means they’ll probably never be truly elite players, I think they probably could fit into an elite team and do a good job provided they were given better instruction in how to improve their weaknesses, a better tactical plan on the pitch, and were played in a team structure that minimized their weaknesses and accentuated their strengths (I’m thinking of Xhaka in particular here). This is not to excuse any of their bad form, or to suggest any of them should have a longterm future at Arsenal (maybe a different manager will get the best out of them, but I have my doubts). I’d probably bench all three of them right now (or would wait to bench Kola when Nacho comes back), and consider cutting our losses in the summer. Some big purchases don’t work out; this is true at every club. But more damning is how an apparent lack of a clear plan has meant that about 80% of our transfer activity in the last 3-5 years has been an unmitigated disaster.

      It’s hard to say which–the tactical/organization side or the recruitment side–has been the bigger problem (they’re both Wenger’s fault, of course), and my own view is if either aspect were significantly better, Arsene would probably still look like a good manager here, getting much more out of his side and still competing with the other big clubs.

      1. Recruitment and tactics do not exist in isolation from each other. They feed off each other in an iterative cycle; you go out and aggressively recruit the best players available given your resources; you adapt your tactics to best fit the players you’ve brought in; during the season you identify tactical flaws and/or deficiencies in current personnel and adjust both to address these deficiencies; you identify a range of potential recruits that might address squad imbalances or tactical shortcomings; rinse and repeat.

        I have always thought that Wenger’s single biggest talent was recruitment; identification of undervalued and underappreciated talent with a certain technical quality, bringing them in and incorporating them into a team with a common identity. I feel for him on this front – his superpower here was sapped by time (his network, in France particularly, dried up) and Arsenal’s position as pretty much the biggest club rummaging around in the discount bin every summer which gave Wenger a big advantage. Now everyone was following Arsenal around. Eg Juan Mata, 2010, we dithered on the buy-out fee and in swooped Chelsea.

        He was never a tactics guy, never a “coach”. Neither was Sir Alex, but he had the wisdom to delegate that work to a succession of very good #2’s. Wenger failed perhaps by hanging on to Pat Rice too long, failing to bring in a Keown or Vieira to second him earlier and backing off, focusing where he was strongest in recruitment.

        1. Vieira and Wenger are not on good speaking terms and Keown was quickly ushered out the door as a gift for making us too solid during that 2006 CL run.

  4. Arsenal look good in flashes, but we are so brittle. Ultimately whatever Wenger says isn’t getting through to the players. Watching Xhaka switch off week after week without being dropped is testament to that. I feel like the club has been in a ‘dead cat bounce’ scenario for the last few years and finally there’s nothing left.

    I could probably write an essay about whats gone wrong, but I think where we really errored was the summer 15 transfer window where we only signed Cech. We have been paying for it ever since. We should of won the title that year, but it was indicative of Emirates era Arsenal. Happy to coast, do just enough to stay competitive, never willing to actually commit everything to winning. That ‘laissez faire’ has spread through the club and now feels like part of our DNA. It will never change with Wenger in charge. At least a few years ago we had a football identity, now we don’t even play inspiring football most of the time.

    I suspect Arsene will be gone at the end of the season, particularly given the quotes from Josh Kroenke. Its time for him to go, as sad as it feels. He deserved a shot once the shackles came off financially, but we’ve spent big and got worse. The club just needs new idea’s.

  5. A bitterly cold night and a pretty bitter atmosphere at the Emirates.
    City were ‘Invincibles in their pomp’ wonderful but we were pretty abject in response.
    I was listening to a political chat show on the way down, with lots of callers bemoaning the lack of leadership they thought was needed to make sense of Brexit. Don’t think the lack of strong leader is the issue there but in the less nuanced confines of football, we do need someone to provide a focal point for others to rally round. Other than Rambo, none of the players offered more than slightly shame faced petulance at being so outplayed.
    If they can’t do it for themselves, they need someone new to provide a reset. It felt very much like last rights.

  6. We are in a tough spot right now, no question.

    It was a pantomime affair and hard to watch both team and manager try (or not) to go through the motions. We did have brief moments where it looked like we were having a go but City? James@Gunnerblog said it: they used to be us and we used to be them.

    Our next two are dreaded away games. Brighton are solidly mid-table with only 1 loss in their last 5. In Europa League, Milan have righted the ship and the 1st leg is at the San Siro further dampening our already low confidence.

    I’m looking at the run-in and remaining fixtures and I really wonder where the points are going to come from. We look like we could lose to anyone right now.

    1. The Guardian meticulously source their articles and verify claims like this. I’m inclined to believe this is 100% true and that it was verified by multiple sources who were at the meeting.

      1. As I’ve said for years it’s not the fans who will be the end of Wenger, it’s the players. As it is with every manager.

        1. Even if not, the question would be who leaked it and with what intention. The veracity isn’t even the point but the that it was leaked like that in the first place.

          1. Yep. It seems someone at the club wants the press on their side when Wenger falls. It’s really an unnecessary exercise. Or maybe it was one of the younger and more naive players.

          2. I’d even say it’s about actively pushing him out. This is them saying “he lost us”.

      2. I’m also inclined to believe it. The Guardian is not the Daily Mirror.

        Your point about the players is well taken. Phillipe Auclair made some interesting comments about the players in today’s Arsecast; he said he didn’t believe they were downing tools (that this is exceptionally rare), but admitted that the lack of belief in the manager was affecting performances; the effort is there, in other words, but there’s a lack of direction. Oh, and the bit about players padding their stats was interesting too (was he watching the game with Pires?).

        As I side note, while he may be everyone’s cup of tea, I could listen to Auclair talk about Arsenal all day, perhaps as much for his idiosyncratic turn of phrase as anything!

        1. I fear I did not accurately summarize Auclair’s point, by the way. Nevertheless, he did feel sure the players weren’t downing tools, a la Chelsea a few years ago.

        2. Why Pires? I think I recall Grimandi talking about players padding stats. Did Pires say something similar, or are you saying Pires was a stats padder? Confused.

    2. Ironically a similar meeting happened before the game against City, four years ago (was it that long ago!?), when we won 2-0 in their place. That was the new “blueprint” for Arsenal. But that team was led by Mertesacker, Koscielny and Cazorla. This one is led by Musfafi, Xhaka and Ozil.

    3. Yeah I read this earlier and forwarded it to all arsenal supporting friends. Quite incredible if true. Someone was teary eyed?? I wonder who it was who cared enough for that.

      1. I was trying to figure that out as well. The only clues are a senior player with kids old enough to understand what’s going on.


        My first thought was Koscielny, but just because he’s captain. But I also thought of Wilshere (and his wee boy Archie!), given his social media comments earlier this week.

        1. Same here. Those two were the first two players I thought of but then I thought it probably wasn’t Wilshere given his reluctance to sign a contract. It had to be someone who is fully committed so I think it was Koscielny.

          1. My thought immediately. He looks like a wounded beast playing. I think he’s physically worn out and emotionally drained. This wasn’t how he wanted to go out, I imagine.

        1. Right. Now that we’ve established that, who do you think said “we need help”?????

          Has to be Xhaka!

          1. Astute. It has to be a newb for sure but I think it has to be someone new enough that they are still used to how a real club is run: Mkhitaryan.

            My question is which one said “nope. We gotta do it ourselves”? It could be any of them, really. Anyone who’s been there for more than a year.

          2. More likely Laca or Kola. Not sure about Mkhi. Agree it is someone relatively new who has not been through our annual slump before.

          3. Why not Mkhi? Kolasinac has been there long enough to be dropped and he knows already, Lacazette is the same and is in the sick room.

          4. “It’s not going to happen,” one of them said. “We need to find the answers ourselves.”

            I wonder if this was said in the spirit of a) hey y’all, stop moaning, the coaches are working hard, and it’s we as players who need to step up, or b) you’re right, nobody bloody coaches us in this place, so we’re just going to have to figure it out ourselves, sink or swim.

          5. Dunno Tim, I would just be surprised if someone who has only been at the club a few weeks would ask for help. Felt like someone who had been there a little bit longer – slightly more despaired.

            We are speculating and you could be right!

  7. First the list of potential replacements leaks. Then Josh Kroenke’s statements and now the leak about the players’ meeting. There seems to be a clear effort in place to set up Arsene’s departure. Sooner would be better. I’m just hoping AW has the awareness to accept the failure, and resign with his dignity intact, rather than fight it and injure the club further.

    On a much brigheter note, Thanks Tim for the tip about The Wonderling. My 9 year old son (who has fanned my interest in Arsenal) and I have been reading it together and are absolutely enthralled.

    1. There seems to be a clear effort in place to set up Arsene’s departure.


      I think the leak was done in response to the immense frustration they feel, and, as Tim says, as part of their sense that they — not the fans, not the shareholders, not the CEO — are the ones who can make change happen.

      Whether anything comes of it, who can say, but it does all feel a bit grotty and a sad way for Wenger’s illustrious tenure to end.

      1. Would have been so much better to retire after the FA Cup victory last year. Now he goes out on such a downer.

        1. I agree. From the club’s perspective, though, I think it was advantageous for Wenger to stay, given they didn’t seem to be in a strong position to replace him last summer. Now that they’ve recruited Mislintat and Sanllehi, I expect the transition to be easier, and, hopefully, the club will act at the end of the season.

          From Wenger’s perspective, well, who knows. Either he was aware of the above and ‘took one for the team’ by signing another contract, or, more likely, he really believed he could change Arsenal’s fortunes for the better this season, and badly misread the signs at the end of last season.

          The FA Cup covered rather than solved a multitude of sins.

          1. I think it was both. Wenger obviously believed he could lead Arsenal to better things, and he also viewed overseeing the transition as part of his responsibility. He’s said many times he wants to leave the club with the foundation for the next guy to do better than him.

            Also, I’d take trophies as sin covers 🙂

    2. Just wondering whether they might consider putting Henry in place as a caretaker manager until the end of the season, given that he’s apparently close to Josh Kroenke. I don’t think it should be a long term solution but if the team continues in this manner and we go out of the Europa League they may have to find an interim solution and look to put an experienced manager in place come the summer.

  8. The Hytner piece struck a chord with me too, and I also thought of Koscielny straight away when I read the bit about a senior Arsenal player choked up. He’s the de facto captain because he actually plays. My next thought was: who leaked this and why? Seems like the players themselves, since it is from their mouths and about them. The clearest signe we’ve had yet that they are fed up with the status quo.

    We can all wonder about the when and how of Arsene’s seemingly inevitable departure. With the players signaling in no uncertain terms their dissatisfaction and with arsenal well below expectations, not even Wenger can last. I wonder how it has come to this between a manager and and his players? This kind of signaling through the media is a sign that they don’t think any internal measures will work, that they have to take matters into their own hands to be heard on their own merit, to be seen as something other than well paid collaborators in a farce of professional sports. It signals a complete breakdown of trust between Arsene and the players. It’s the point in a relationship when the wife takes to Facebook to explain all the ways she’s has tried to make the relationship work prior to filing for divorce. It’s a plea in the court of public opionion prior to an acrimonious parting. Wenger, for his part, did the same in his press conferences, albeit more subtly. Each side is dug into their trenches and the loser is Arsenal football club. And it cannot last.

  9. Assuming the report in the Guardian is true, if the players are unhappy enough with training to leak stuff to the press then it spells the end for the manager.

    The only way Wenger stays is if he adapts his training methods and that is only because he is still liked and respected. If Wenger can hold up his hand like Popovich with Aldridge and accept the players’ demands, maybe we see an upturn in performances and results. We’re not exactly a stranger to late season runs, though this season just feels more disjointed than any.

    Also, what are these Josh Kroenke quotes?

  10. I think even if Arsene modified his training/tactics/match prep it’s all too late now. Not only has the horse bolted from the stable, it has managed to hop the safety fencing, cross two county fields and is now lying critically wounded in the undergrowth after being hit by a lorry crossing the motorway.

    Basically, even if he survived and stated running again he’ll never win another race.

    1. Are you sure? If we win the Europa, and find some form and go on a run in the league (of course, 4th is highly unlikely but stranger things can and do happen in the spring PL run-in), then I don’t think it’s certain Wenger goes. Of course, this requires us to find some form, but pretty much every year involves us going on a run of form at some point, often at the end of the season, and other than Man United away, our schedule is pretty kind.

      I’m not saying I think it’s likely he stays, because (a) we’re in terrible form, and (b) the club hierarchy (other than, perhaps, Stan) are clearly looking to replace him in the summer. Nor am I defending him or thinking he should stay. But if we do somehow qualify for the Champions’ League, is everyone on here really so certain that Stan won’t keep him on for one more year?? Remember, his vote is the only one that matters, and he’s been a big fan of Arsene for years. Also worth remembering we were in a similar situation 12 months ago, and that season ended with an unlikely 8 game winning run in the league (I think it was, off the top of my head), and an FA Cup final victory against the champions.

      Obviously, things look very, very bleak for Arsene. And this year does feel different from anything that’s come before, if only because of the cumulative effect of so many years of disappointment, especially missing out on the top 4 last year, and especially given the money we’ve spent on players in recent years (though net spend, blah blah blah). But things can change very quickly in football.

      My verdict: if we miss out on the top four, he’s certainly a goner. J. Kroenke, Gazidis, Sven, and Raul (note: I use their first names because I don’t know how to spell their last names yet, not because I feel especially chummy towards them), are all planning for a manager transition this summer, and at least the first two on that list really actively want to see the back of Wenger. But if we do qualify for the CL, and our form picks up in general, I think there’s still a very, very good chance Stan keeps AW on for one more year (though it may also depend on who they can get to come in).

  11. Arsenal didn’t win any trophies during Wenger’s “third phase” – remember the whole trophy drought thing? What’s worthy of note is that the club started winning FA Cups again around the time when their overall form became much, much worse and much more inconsistent.

    1. “Around the time” might just be vague enough to be true, but more accurately, we were still pretty decent until Santi went down with his first long injury near the end of 2015, after two of those FA Cups. I don’t think there’s any real correlation between us winning those cups and our play getting worse. Other thing to keep in mind is that, bar the Leicester year, the other big clubs have all gotten better in the last few years.

  12. Oh, and Josh kroenke whilst not mentioning Arsene or indeed Arsenal directly he basically said it’s time to call a spade a spade. He goes on to say that the “sugar coating” and “delusion” has to stop to prevent longer term damage.

    Not exactly deciphering hieroglyphics to figure out who and what he’s talking about.

    1. I can’t find these quotes anywhere. I sat through an hour of ‘The Woj Pod’ where he was speaking in his capacity as Nuggets owner, and while you could draw parallels with George Karl, all he said about Arsenal was in context of cross transmission of ideas, that he might discuss something Wenger said with one of his other organisations, and that the phrase Victory through Harmony has proven a popular saying in Denver. He also said that an open channel of communication is something he keeps stressing in his role as an executive.

      Could you provide a link to the quotes of ‘sugar coating’ and ‘delusion’?

  13. It’s all rather depressing.
    Football is now dominated by systems, whether we’re talking Guardiola or Klopp, Pochettino or Conte.
    And we have a manager who despises systems.
    The only slight solace is watching United struggle with their manager who sets his teams up not to lose and then hopes that his forward line will score…
    The light at the end of the tunnel is that I am confident that given the right manager, with the right system, the players we currently have can be competitive with the best in Europe. They’re almost competitive when playing like headless chickens, imagine how much better they would be knowing that if they screw up, it doesn’t matter as much because their team-mates have their back rather than wandered off to another part of the pitch because that’s where they thought they should be.

  14. The American Football response would have been to fire his assistant coaches and hire away someone’s defensive coordinator. Wenger, to his credit, is extremely loyal, unfortunately we’ve reached the point where it hurts him and worse, hurts the club.

    The crying loyalist is Koz, No doubt. Reminds me so much of those f*cks from Birmingham rubbing his face in it. In a better world that would have led to a bench clearing brawl. But then, as now, the team is too passive.

    The plaintive seeker of succor is a defender which immediately suggests Mustafi or Xhaka since they’ve been dire, but immature attempt to shift responsibility suggests Bellerin.

    Whoever leaked this story about the players meeting is a selfish dirt bag. Not because of what it does to Wenger, but how it damages the trust between players.

    I think it’s weird because we’ve gotten so much of what we asked for from Arsenal. Some tactical flexibility with a change in formation, pragmatism in the form of counter attacking, a young highly rated defender, a midfield general with a reputation for toughness and the ability to unlock defenses with a long pass, a superlative creator and a top flight attacker. And yet nothing has worked out as we’d hoped, instead turning into ashes in our mouth. It would be the final irony if Wenger Out and King Josh got us front row seats to the JD and the Straight Shot* experience.

    On the positive side, this might make a wonderful setting for an adaptation of Lear. In place of the daughters perhaps, Henry as Goneril, Adams as Regan and Arteta, of course, as Cordelia. Is Koz Kent or Gloucester?

    *That’s James Dolan, who, though genuinely interested and willing to splash tremendous cash on free agents and guru coaches, has systematically destroyed the New York Knicks over the past 18 years.

    1. Agree with most of that.

      I love King Lear. Definitely Billy’s best (not at all an original opinion).

      Josh Kroenke has one of those faces that one naturally wants to punch (and I’m not even a violent person). If he and Ivan are in charge, we’re more likely than not screwed for the foreseeable future. Hopefully they defer to Raul and Sven.

    2. Wenger, whose kingdom is now divided between two insubordinate figures, Mislintat and Sanllehi, is made obsolete, and wanders aimlessly on the stormy heaths, much reduced in mind and authority. However, in the midst of his madness and banishment, he slowly begins to understand the plight of his players, noting that he took too little care of them.

      However, he is kept company in his banishment by his loyal servant, Steve Bould, and a wise fool, Jens Lehmann. A subplot involves Josh Kroenke — the bastard son of a nobleman, Sir Chips — whose actions join the main plot and result in the end of Wenger.

      I could also see Wenger as a Cordelia figure, a man who honors his contracts and loves Gazidis according to his bond, no more nor less.

    3. Fairly certain the leaker is a player and I would guess a defender – they must all feel terribly hung out to dry by the coaching staff at this point. I would guess Mustafi.

  15. Of course it was Koscielny by the cadence of speech and Auclair’s superlative English doesn’t hide that he’s first a francophone so it was a conversation en francais, ruling most everyone else.

    This is all so poorly managed. The Wenger era shouldn’t end with a desolate whimper. I’m getting a drink…

  16. The board and owner are combination of weak in action and uncaring about football to even try to save the manager from himself.

    This is who Wenger is – an anachronistic loyalist spending all his capital and putting his reputation at risk because he is unable to quit his Arsenal even when for the good of the club he badly needed to 3-4 years ago.

  17. 4 defeats in a row. 5 out of the last 6. We used to go on winning runs even until a couple of seasons ago. Now we go on losing runs and they are getting more frequent. I’ve come around to the idea that Wenger should be relieved of his duties immediately. It would be the kind thing to do.

  18. I thought that last year’s slump was ugly, and unrepeatable. We hadn’t seen nothing yet

  19. At this rate I may have to start crafting a carefully worded apology note to Tim for doubting his prediction for Arsenal finishing 10th in the tables on 50 points or thereabouts.

  20. On the bright side though, manufacturing of “Wenger out “signs and banners must have some positive impact on economy in UK , so there’s that.

  21. “Am I still the right man? Yes, because I’ve done it before. I believe a quality of a manager is to try to shorten a crisis. I believe I can do that.”

    Sorry Arsene, the quality of a manager is to have the team playing so well there is no annual crisis. I don’t want a firefighter in charge of building my house.

    1. On the .com, the headline is “How Milan influenced Brighton team selection.”

      Did it? Because we kept the big guns on the pine?

      Of course there is a big picture of Arsene right there in the middle, just as there was after the City results, looking stung and glum, clearly meant to shoulder the responsibility. Ever the masochist aristocrat, he soldiers on in the face of it all, taking the blame and backing himself despite it. It’s unbelievable that he is capable of this, especially at his age (more on that below).

      But wait, there are others who are keen to take responsibility! There’s a small picture of Jack Wilshere below that (because everybody loves Wilshere) and a twitter apology from Petr Cech next to that which I don’t understand at all. I’ve seen both goals multiple times; how is he taking responsibility for that? It’s sporting of him to take a bullet for the team but the truth was that Brighton bullied us off the pitch, created more chances, and deserved to win. Does anyone really think people will be fooled by this stuff? It’s all a bit infuriating really.

      Many have said that Arsene doesn’t want to quit because he’s afraid of what comes next. He cannot imagine his life without being the manager of Arsenal football club. Some notable quotes I found when he has spoken about retirement in the press:
      “I started this job at the age of 33 so I’ve done 35 years without having a stop at all,”
      “The need is the desire to compete. That’s my real need. It has never been financial. If it was financial I would not be here.”
      “Retiring is for young people, for old people retirement is dying. I still watch every football game. I find it interesting.”

      Most tellingly in August 2016:
      “It’s been my life and, honestly, I’m quite scared of the day,” Wenger says. “The longer I wait, the more difficult it will be and the more difficult it will be to lose the addiction.

      “After Alex retired and we played them over there [at Manchester United] he sent a message to me to come up and have a drink with him. I asked: ‘Do you miss it?’ He said: ‘Not at all.’ I didn’t understand that. It’s an emptiness in your life, especially when you’ve lived your whole life waiting for the next game and trying to win it.”

      I know what he’s talking about. I’m only 35 but I take care of mostly elders in the hospital, people who lived their whole life and are now at the end of it for various reasons. They all say the same thing, they all want the same thing: meaning. Meaning takes many shapes but it’s what sustains us, drives us, keeps us going. We are dead without it. For Wenger, his meaning is football. He has nothing else. And he has no exit plan.

    2. He did say A quality, not THE quality. And unlike some fans, he doesn’t have the luxury of throwing in the towel on this season.

      Regarding retirement, I think he’ll take up another job. Either at a club or a national team.

      1. You’re right, a subtle but important distinction. Consider my anger with that comment tempered.

  22. That’s it fellas. It’s been a (fun?) ride, but I can’t take it any more. I’m done with watching Arsenal league games until the summer at least. I’ll watch the Europa until we inevitably get knocked out by Milan, but that’s it. One person can only take so much punishment from an activity that’s supposed to be about joy and entertainment and a welcome distraction from the stress of real life. Arsenal aren’t good for my health right now.

    This is also the end of my involvement in this blog until at least the summer (assuming we don’t go on an amazing Europa league winning run–if that happens I’ll be back to celebrate).

    I’m tired of the postmortems, the constant mental torture of trying to figure out what’s really going wrong, the constant what-ifs:

    1. If only Arsene would play a DM and instruct his fullbacks not to constantly bomb on
    2. If only he had replaced Bould with a young tactical innovator as his assistant who could teach us how to break a high press
    3. If only he would (learn to?) coach us to play a high press ourselves
    4. If only we had bought a world class defensive midfielder
    5. If only we had bought an outfield player in the summer of 2015
    6. If only we had sold Alexis in the summer and brought in Lemar
    7. If only we had not blown a bunch of money in fees and wages on signing Mustafi, Kola, Xhaka, Elneny, and Lucas because the stats guys told us they were good
    8. If only we had bought a world class mobile CF earlier
    9. If only we hadn’t sold Alexis in January
    10. If only we hadn’t sold Giroud in January
    11. If only we hadn’t sold Coquelin in January without bringing in a DM
    12. If only Arsene would give AMN a chance to be our new starting DM
    13. If only we had gotten 2 more points last season to finish in the CL places
    14. If only Santi hadn’t gotten seriously injured the first time
    15. If only Santi hadn’t gotten seriously injured the second time after being overplayed when he came back
    16. If only we had bought a replacement for Santi last summer
    17. If only we hadn’t let Chesney go to Juve for peanuts last summer
    18. If only Ramsey hadn’t had his leg broken
    19. If only Diaby hadn’t had his leg mauled
    20. If only Wenger had found a starting spot for the Ox and he’d come good on his potential
    21. If only we’d gotten that Juan Mata deal over the line
    22. If only Arsene had ignored the stats gurus and bought Griezmann
    23. If only RvP had agreed to stay for one more season
    24. If only we had sold Theo like five years earlier and kept Gnabry
    25. If only we had upped our bid for Suarez
    26. If only we had not gotten distracted by Suarez and gotten Higuain instead
    27. If only Arsenal hadn’t cut Harry Kane as a kid
    28. If only Arsene would see that Xhaka is not a DM
    29. If only we could get the midfield balance right
    30. If only our backup fullbacks weren’t pants
    31. If only Koscielny’s achilles hadn’t gone
    32. If only Arsene Wenger was 20 years younger

    Anyway, you get the picture. I’m done.

    I apologize to all of you that I’ve acted like a d*ck towards. It wasn’t you. It was me. And Arsenal.

  23. Tim’s prediction is looking better and better. I still don’t think it’s reasonable, i.e., I don’t think it reflects our talent level even taking into account our organizational flaws. On paper we should be a top four team. Or in a dog fight for itat least.

    But maybe Tim’s prediction included both underachievment and the implosion that would trigger. Once we are out of top four our identity as a top club is threatened, a little push and we crumble and worse, turn on each other.

    Everyone saying, if we’re going to lose I wish we were at least playing attractive football, is reflecting this loss of identity.

    I’m looking forward to see what a new manager will do with us. I wish we could set up parallel simulations with Arsenal under Simeone, Low, Sarri and Ancelloti. Not to see who is better but just to see how it plays out.

    In the meantime the fall of a great man (of football at least) is just sad. My only (realistic) hope is that we have the class to allow him an exit with dignity and that he will have the wisdom to take it.

    1. I have thought up a retirement wish list for Arsene and I suggest we crowd-fund it. This might be the only way he will ever walk away on his own. Ready?

      1. A puppy. It changed my life, it could change his! Lots and lots of pee and poo and dog food and training to worry about, no time to think about Arsenal! We can ask Alexis or Almunia for further input.
      2. A little Chalet in Alsaice, close to his home town, with a house-warming party from everyone still alive there who once knew him or his family.
      3. A youth football training ground walking distance from his house where he can coach local lads, or maybe at a local high school
      4. A letter of apology to Mrs. Wenger
      5. Periodic visits from former players, assistants etc to make sure he is not losing it
      6. A personal trainer to exhaust him physically and occupy his mind at least every other day
      8. A satellite TV subscription so he can watch all the football he wants
      9. A broadcasting deal so he can co-commentate on the world cup and French league games
      10. Set up a charity he can oversee for poor youth in his hometown area

      That’s my list for Wenger. Any others?

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