“Not good enough.”
Three words used often by football fans to describe aspects of the club they support. They’re used in relation to certain players, performances, the manager, the board, the price of a pint and a pie, how their club handles various communications, pretty much anything they’ve got the hump with for one reason or another.
It’s rare enough that you hear from a manager or a player though. Yesterday Mikel Arteta said just that about this Arsenal team’s performance against Bolton. Speaking after the game, he said:
This result is not good enough. We have got the players and the quality to have a better result. It is going to be tough to finish in the top four but it depends on us.
And he was particularly scathing about the finishing:
You are not going to get 15 chances to win a football game and nowadays when you get it, especially away from home, you have to take it.
Therein lies the frustration for many. If we weren’t creating chances that’s one thing, but making them and missing them is another thing entirely. Per Mertesacker said much the same, but in a slightly more diplomatic fashion:
I think there is a lot of room for improvement. We have a very good side and good potential but we have to be good on the pitch. At the moment we don’t use all our opportunities.
The lack of efficiency must be driving him mad. But going back to Arteta, he’s right. ‘Not good enough’ sums things up right now. One win in our last six league games really can’t be considered anything other than abysmal for a team trying to get into the top four. And let’s be realistic about this – we know the gap to Chelsea is only four points right now, but it’s what we’ll need overall that needs to be looked at.
The points total of the team that finished 4th in the last four seasons were: 10-11: 68pts – 09-10: 70pts – 08-09: 72pts – 07-08: 76pts. Arsenal have 37 points with 15 games to go. Assuming it ends up around the 70 point mark again that means we’ve got to win a lot of games, and go on one hell of a run, between now and the end of the season.
It means that we can’t afford to spurn chances like we did against Bolton, it means we can’t concede silly goals like we did against Fulham or Swansea, it means that our margin for error, slim as it was to begin with because of our start to the season, is miniscule because of the way we channeled a traditional November into the month of January. Between now and the end of the season we’ve got Sp*rs, Newcastle, Man City and Chelsea all at home, plus Liverpool away.
We’ve played 12 league games away this season and lost 50% of them. Of our 15 remaining league games 7 are away from home. Which is to say that we need to see a huge improvement on what’s been served up thus far. And it’s not impossible by any means. We’ve seen Arsenal teams go on winning streaks and long unbeaten runs before, but we shouldn’t be blind to size of the task ahead of us this season. It is a firefight the likes of which we haven’t experienced for a long, long time. Even the lasagne season it just felt like we were destined for the top four despite it going to the final day, this time, not so much.
This is the team that Arsene built and sadly it’s been found wanting. Yet amidst talk of protests of sackcloth and ashes, I wanted to touch on one thing. For me, Arsene Wenger is absolutely and 100% open to criticism for the state of the team and the decisions he’s made. I doubt that anybody, whether they’re a fervent supporter of the manager or not, can be happy with the way things are going.
What he does not deserve is some of the abuse that’s leveled at him. I know things are amplified online and some people say things via a keyboard they’d never let pass their lips, but I personally find it a bit disheartening to hear Arsenal fans refer to the manager in a manner that ought to be reserved for those in N17, for not racist at all, oh no, England captains, for duplicitous former players who shack up with Ruble spunking enemies, helium voiced ‘pundits’, Tony Pubis, Lennie and his Legbreakers, the sunburnt, withered, jaundiced testicle at Villa, Joey Barton’s thesaurus powered online acumen and the countless others in the world of football and beyond who really deserve it.
There’s plenty to criticise him for: player sales, player purchases, the teams defensive weaknesses, his stubborn intransigence which seems to be fueled by his desire to do the opposite of what people want him to do, his substitutions, his patience with certain players, his unwillingness to give others a chance, his tactical inflexibility, and more than anything else, the results we’ve seen this season and in recent seasons.
Pick and choose any one of them, pick all of them if you want, and go to town, because they are decisions and actions that deserve analysis, criticism and for which Arsene should be accountable. And yes, all of these things add to the sense that a lot of people have that all is not right at the club at the moment. From top to bottom it feels like something’s missing. As the man in charge of the football, Arsene is on the front line.
Yet once you let anger and frustration spill over into abuse you lose something from your argument. “Arsene’s recent purchases have been poor” would surely spark reasonable debate between fans, even if they were coming at it from different sides. “Arsene’s recent purchases have been poor, the fucking cunt” will ensure that the debate isn’t about the recent purchases, it’s about whether or not the manager is a cunt, and ultimately it gets us nowhere. There’s nothing constructive about it and it only ends up causing more anger and argument.
I’ve long said that I can’t stand the polarisation of our fan base. There is no ‘You’re either with us or against us’. We are the us. The vast majority of people are quite aware this is a team with problems, it’s how they choose to express their concern that pushes people to one end or the other. Criticism and disapproval are necessary if we want to make things better. It can be helpful and productive. Abuse, on the other hand, rarely provokes a positive reaction and if people really want things to get better for this football club then I hope they bear that in mind.
Rant over. Now, onto this week’s Arsecast in which I’m joined by Goonerholic and Hayley Wright to discuss the week that was. On the agenda the transfer window, Villa, Bolton and more. Also in there the t-shirt competition, an old friend returns and we have a confused PI.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (24mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode227.mp3]
And that’s about that. We’ll have news throughout the day, and from Arsene’s press conference, over on Arseblog News.
Back with a full preview of the Blackburn game tomorrow.