I'll admit it, I'm a relative newcomer to Arsenal and European football more generally. It's been a mere five seasons that I have been following the Arsenal and as a result, I have no mental rolodex of statistics and games to draw from when comparing this season to those gone by. However, what I lack in long term team awareness, I gain in a greater perspective of the current realities surrounding the club.
The first season I began really watching and studying the Arsenal team on a game in, game out basis was 2007-2008. I think you'll all recall fondly the way the boys flew out of the gates and gave us all hope for that elusive League Title. Obviously we didn't quite get there that year, but it made me appreciative of being in the running for silverware. I just couldn't understand how the fans of the mid-table teams did it. I watched in a curiously puzzled way as supporters from teams like Everton and Aston Villa, whose only hope for success is to make a decent Domestic Cup run, got behind their team regardless of how many players they lost or the lack of funds available. Well, it's been six years now that Arsenal have gone without a trophy, and I'm starting to think that this is the tier that Arsenal now belong to.
No realistic or logical fan of the club can truthfully believe Arsenal are capable of winning anything outside of the FA or Carling Cup. All the hyperbole put forth in the blogo-twit-sphere (did I just coin that?) relative to new faces being added to the squad will not give Arsene and the boys a chance at this year's title (or next year's for that matter). There is just no chance for Arsenal to add the quantity and quality of players that would allow them to overtake the likes of Manure, Citeh or Chelsea. If you think me wrong on this point, fair enough, you're a delusional lunatic, but fair enough. I suggest anyone who does disagree with me on this should follow @timpayton from the Arsenal Supporters Trust or @SwissRamble for the stark reality of Arsenal's current wage and transfer limitations based in no small part from their severely undervalued commercial sponsorship deals. But I digress...
Earlier this summer, Wenger tried to show some resistance to losing his two best players:
"Imagine the worst situation - we lose Fabregas and Nasri. You cannot convince people you are ambitious after that. You can't then pretend you are a big club because a big club holds on to its best players and gives a message to all the other big clubs that they can't come in and take our players."
Perhaps this was a plea to the board to back him up, perhaps he has lost the plot like so many claim or perhaps he was just as blindly hopeful as we all were that Arsenal would find a way to hold onto one of these two influential playmakers. Well guess what..we did lose them both. And their combined loss, along with our recent league form dating back to that disastrous cup final, leads any realistic fan to the conclusion that Arsenal have lost its place as a big club at the European and Domestic tables. And I guess what I'm trying to say is "that's ok." I think fans, while heartbroken, could at least understand and appreciate Arsenal's current plight if the manager, the owner or the board members would come out and just be honest. If Ivan Gazidis came out and said something like, "Hey, we're not going to be able to beat United this year and we sure as shit aren't going to beat Madrid or Barcelona in Europe." Could you really blame him? Especially if he followed that up with an honest assessment like, "You know what, we just can't keep pace with the likes of Chelsea and City in terms of wages. They're able to pay 2x what we have on offer, but we'll do everything we can to put a competitive team on the field. We'll do everything in our control to provide the fans with Champions League football (as the club has for 16 years running) and perhaps get a cup final snuck in there every once in a while." Could you honestly get angry at that?
Anyone who thinks this point of view is a defeatist attitude or giving Arsene the easy way out, I suggest you take a quick look across the pond. Take a look at how the financial realities of Major League Baseball force virtually every other team in the league to sell their best players to the Yankees, Red Sox and few other big market clubs in order to survive. Teams like the Oakland A's have become a feeder club, while in a perpetual state of rebuilding as they rely on young talent to even have a chance at post season honors. For any Gooner that hasn't already read it, perhaps a quick lesson in modern sport economics is in order from Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Or better yet, just wait another month and go check out the movie. Brad Pitt stars in it and we all know he's a helluva lot prettier than Arsenal's recent form.
|Editor's Note: Above picture may or may |
not be from Moneyball movie.