Arsenal’s title push looks to have well and truly run into the buffers – again. Just when spring begins to show it’s hand with lighter mornings and evenings, flowers beginning to push through and leaves returning to the trees, as sure as all these things, is the collapse of the Gunners hopes.
Early season form had suggested that this was going to be different. Inspired by the arrival of Mesut Ozil and the goal-scoring exploits of Aaron Ramsey, the midfield looked full of goals. At the heart of the defence Mertesacker and Koscielney looked to be a perfect combination and Olivier Giroud was netting goals on a regular basis. Add in the fact that the re-signing on of Mathieu Flamini appeared to have added the required resilience in front of the back four, and the Gunners seemed set to mount a serious challenge.
This year was going to be different – except it wasn’t.
No new recruits in the January window probably put a bit of doubt in the minds of Gooners. Whilst Chelsea lavished big money on Matic to build their challenge, Arsene Wenger was happy to play the cards he had. Now, with Ramsey side-lined, Ozil so much out-of-form that him being injured has actually helped the team’s efficiency and Giroud swinging his banjo repeatedly without coming into contact with the door of a barn, the game looks up for the Gunners for another season.
Now six points adrift from top spot and having to face Manchester City on Saturday, Arsenal fans will have a mind to look over their shoulders at Everton whom they still have to visit. Whilst the Gunners have taken a mere one point from their last two games, the Toffees have collected all six, and are closing the gap rapidly.
Whislt Wenger looks likely to sign a contract extension for a further two years at the Emirates, the fans will surely have mixed feelings. No-one can dispute that Wenger has done wonderfully well for the club, but now is taking on the guise of a beloved old uncle who is now probably outstaying his welcome.
No-one wants to tell him to go, but everybody hopes – as much for his own sake – that he decides to do so, on his own volition.
The hierarchy at the club will probably not seek to move him on and cutting any offered extension from three years to two, is hardly a ringing criticism. If Wenger asked for three years, he’d probably get it. In this world of money-ruled football, the simple fact that Wenger keeps his club in a financially sound position by balancing the books is a massive factor in his favour.
Football clubs are businesses now, where profit is the end goal, and success on the pitch is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
The prospect of Wenger handing over the reins at Arsenal any time soon are probably remote and, just as spring will return about the same time next year, it would be no surprise to see another set of Gooner hopes deflated at about the same time.
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