I think it’s fair to say that lots of Arsenal fans have questions at the moment. I have many, but there’s one that I’d like to as above any others: What the hell is going on?
Seriously. What on earth is happening at this football club? I don’t mean results that have seen us slip to sixth in the Premier League, level on points with Everton and now 6 points away from the top four. I don’t mean the performances which suggest things are not the way they should be on the pitch. And I don’t even mean the attitude of the players who can’t be bothered to do much more than the bare minimum as we saw against West Brom on Saturday.
I wrote some weeks back about an air of uncertainty that surrounds the club. It’s gone beyond that now. It’s a blanket of thick, acrid smog and it doesn’t appear to be getting any clearer. The main issue is the future of the manager, there are no two ways about it.
Last night there were reports from Bild – which ought to be taken with a fair pinch of salt – that the club had made an approach to Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel. He is one of the names that’s bandied about fairly regularly as a potential Arsene Wenger replacement, but before that could even be digested one way or the other, the daily newspapers dropped their story for the back pages.
The Mirror, the Telegraph, the Mail, and the Guardian all ran stories about how Arsene Wenger has decided to stay and take up the offer of the two year contract that has been on the table. In fact, there have been whispers for a little while now that the contract has already been signed, and it’s just a matter of timing the announcement.
Now, when a story runs like that across all the newspapers – this wasn’t just some lad in the Express making something up – it’s one that has been based on information from somewhere or someone. And if it was from within Arsenal, I’ll ask again – what the hell is going on?
Whether it has come from board level or from the communications department, the timing of it is unbelievably clumsy. Losing 3-1 in that fashion demands some introspection and a bit of distance, not news that you must know will irritate people greatly. I know Arsenal haven’t always been subtle in their press based manoeuvrings, but it would be incredibly clumsy if this is what went down.
Has it come from the manager and his people? Does he have people, per se? Is it a big old FU from the USA as Stan gets behind his man? Or is it someone at the club aware of what the reaction might be to this news leaking it to fan the flames so they can hide behind the anger of fans? The same fans they outright said were the ones who would decide the fate of the manager, not them as the well-paid executives they are.
I really don’t know. What the hell is going on?
What the hell is going on with this club that this situation has been allowed to develop and fester to the point where it’s having a very real and damaging effect on what happens on the pitch? What the hell is going on that we have a situation with our record signing – a player that three months ago people were absolutely desperate to sign a new deal after a good first half of the season – who is now almost invisible and one that some would happily consign to the dustbin?
What the hell is going on that said player’s agent goes very publicly on the record to say that he feels like he’s being made a scapegoat? Since those comments were made Ozil hasn’t started a game, and made just two substitute appearances. Injury, illness or something else?
What the hell is going on when the agents of a player like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can brief the press about how he’s upset at not being given a new contract and now won’t sign one even if he is? Why, if we’re so keen for him to stay – as Arsene Wenger has said a number of times – have we not bothered to present him with a new deal?
What the hell is going on when we haven’t heard a peep from the Chief Executive in months? With all due respect to Sir Chips Keswick, most people can see that he’s a figurehead, not the all powerful chairman that exists at other clubs. Ivan Gazidis is a decision maker, closer to Kroenke than anyone else, and as Billy Ocean didn’t sing, when the going gets tough, the Chief Executive retreats to his Diamond Club bunker.
What the hell is going on that we have conspiracy theories about who paid for planes flying banners over football games? Seriously, it’s like some kind of ludicrous, surreal comedy. Except it’s not funny. Not to us anyway, but I’m sure it is to everyone else, because if this was happening at some other club I would be pissing myself.
Step right up folks, welcome to the wonderful Arsenal carnival of the bizarre and chaotic! We’ve got something for everyone! Thrills and spills! The incredible shrinking manager! Exciting rides like The Sinking Ship and the Not-So-Merry-Go-Round! The Hall of Smoke and Mirrors! And, of course, the Freak Show, featuring The Boy Who Can’t Jump and The Midget Goalkeeper!
Seriously, what the hell is going on?
It’s a mess. Sure, it’s not as bad as what’s happening at other clubs, but this is our club and there’s such a lack of clarity and vision. It feels rudderless, this great big North London multi-million pound ship needs a captain because right now we’re floating on the high seas and nobody seems to have a clue where we’re going.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: this is a football club with the resources, finances, infrastructure and everything else to be one of the best in Europe. One that should be able to ‘compete with Bayern Munich’ in the words of the Chief Executive from back when he deigned to speak in public. But it’s a long way from being that, the gap is widening in fact, and nobody seems to have the authority, desire or ability to make it any better.
So Arsenal, what the hell is going on?
No doubt all this is something James and I will discuss in the Arsecast Extra this morning. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please send them to us on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra, and we’ll have that ready for you before lunch.