In my rush to get Ten Thoughts out before my own match last night (10-2 win, thank you very much), it turns out that there were a few other things on my mind about this unbelievably appalling result/season/decade.
1. Starting with a lighter note, I had forgotten that Palace put on Mathieu Flamini as their third substitution. I have no love for Sam Allardyce, but credit where it's due, that is top-class banter.
2. When you get a chance, head over to Arseblog News and have a look at the video that Blogs put up from Jamie Carragher's post-match punditry. I defy you to find anything inaccurate in anything he said. We're a laughingstock.
3. Submitted without further comment:
4. These are words spoken by Arsene in the post-match presser:
"Look, I face questions about my future all the time but tonight I’m not in the mood to speak about it. Honestly I’m disappointed tonight so much. To see us lose the game in the way we did … that’s very disappointing. It would be ‘inconvenient’ for me to speak about my own future tonight."
Oh, I'm sorry. It's inconvenient? You're not in the mood?
Well, you know what I'm not in the mood for? Watching the same goddamn shit that we have for years now. The same problems, the same leadership void, the same lack of fight, the same taking world-class players and bringing them down to our level, which gets lower by the day. That's not what I'm in the bloody mood for.
5. That leads me to the main point that I didn't have time for before. I swear, I'm going to burst a blood vessel in my brain the next time I read some article or quote from a former player or whatever whose thesis is "be careful what you wish for, you don't know what the next man would be like."
The stupidity of that take knows no bounds. As we speak, it is rocketing out past the outer reaches of known space into whatever lies beyond, where even there I can't see there being a sporting squadron as infuriating as this one. My god.
Change is inevitable. Everything in football is *always* changing - tactics, formations, managers, the first-team squad of any club in any league in any country year over year, etc. You will never find a club, not at any level, with the same 23 that they had the year before. The wheel always turns, and when a club brings in a new central midfielder or striker or goalkeeper, they don't know for sure that they are going to be any better than the guy they replaced, either. Nothing in life, let alone sport, is ever certain. Ever.
But, most sentient beings with functioning central nervous systems recognize the truth behind the old axiom that if you stay still, you fall behind.
We last won the Premier League in 2003-04. The constant refrain of "he deserves a chance to put this right" gives me gallows-style laughing fits because he's had thirteen bloody years to do so. Say whatever you want about our so-called austerity era (personally I've always believed it to be a bunch of malarkey meant to cover up for his insistence on that whole Project Youth thing), but even that only really turns thirteen into a slightly lesser number. Try as I might, I cannot conceive of any other walk of life where "I succeeded 15 years ago" gives you an eternal carte-blanche to fail and fail and fail and fail again.
He had his time to put it right. Not only has he not done so, but we're plummeting in the other direction at faster-than-light speed.
I keep coming back to that phrase of "diminishing returns". For me, there is no more apt way to describe what's going on with us. It's almost like half-lives in nuclear physics - the longer we do nothing, the more we deteriorate and decay, and the harder it's going to be for the next man when we do finally change. Even this board will change one day - Arsene's getting up there in age and it's not like we're going to trot him out when he's 90, not unless there's some dark necromantic rituals going on in a cellar in Ashburton Grove somewhere. One glorious day, we will have a new manager.
So, let's come back to that whole "be careful what you wish for" bit. Knowing that Arsene will leave one day, how is it any more or less harmful to make the change now than it would be two years from now, or five, or ten? Yes, of *course* it's possible that the men in charge of this club will make the wrong decision and bring in someone wholly unsuited for the Premier League (sadly that's too abstract a concept to take to Ladbrokes or Paddy Power because man oh man I'd be putting absolute bank on that).
But, what is worse? Continuing to play the same bad-and-getting-worse hand every time out, slowly bleeding what chips we have left away, or folding it knowing that the next deal just as well could be a much better hand as it could be a worse one? Besides, how can anyone seriously still be pulling this concern-trolling nonsense when we're losing to teams we never lose to, in streaks we've never hit before in the Wenger Era, with goals flying into our net at rates that they never have before?
To reiterate: What is the positives, the value-add, in keeping Arsene at this point? What is the argument for it? Any one I can think of gets a million holes Tommy-gunned into them with every passing week where we have to watch this uninterested team pass the ball sideways and get picked apart by the same tactics that were tripping us up in 2006.
Let's be clear - we certainly do not have the divine right to win trophies, or even to be an above-average side. But, what we do have the right to is a club that does everything in its power to meet those objectives, and frankly, even more ambitious one than those. We deserve and are entitled to the club's best fist of it. Sometimes we may succeed and sometimes we may fail, and that's fine. It is beyond question though that we have quite a few institutional advantages - wealth, location in one of the biggest capitals on the continent, a previous history of winning, some pretty damn good players in the squad when properly motivated - that should make success a lot more likely than failure.
This state of affairs is, emphatically and without question, deficient to those requirements. The facts, plain as day, are that Arsene Wenger is no longer a top-class manager, and he no longer is capable of succeeding at Arsenal Football Club. Last season's 2nd-place finish was an obvious mirage in what was a down year for all of the other major players.
I saw something once on a whiteboard at my old company, which at the time I wrote off as corporate-babble nonsense but seems unbelievably apropos now. It simply said "Hope is not a strategy." Hoping Arsene can, in the face of all available evidence, turn this around is not a strategy, and it's not good enough coming from a club of our size and resources.
It's time. It was time 5 years ago or more, but it's REALLY time now.