What would happen if Phil Collins and Paul McCartney did a duet of Hey Jude which then ran into In The Air Tonight? It would be played on the radio over and over and over again, and when that wasn’t enough, they’d perform the 37-minute live version at a Royal party.
Now, one of the few things that can be equally as painful is the realisation that no one is accountable for anything at Arsenal. In fact, mix it in with an interlude of fourth place is a trophy. It’s tired and it’s largely infuriating. But a lack of accountability from anyone at the club is at the root of the bigger problem.
Arsene Wenger will never give his players the public thrashing they deserve. Actually, it’s hard to imagine the manager parting with some strong words behind closed doors. But the players know that it will never come to that, the Arsenal manager is far to composed to be seen as a man who shakes the foundations of the Emirates. For that, the players are given a free ride, and one that can be stress-free if they have no intentions of winning or a desire to keep their pride intact—which arguably some don’t.
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Wenger has continued to talk up Arsenal teams in the past as individual players and as a whole squad who are far better than what they are. Maybe it has something to do with the players going on to fulfil this potential which the manager is so confidently preaching. Yet when they look into their reserves, there’s nothing in the tank for them to even rise to the occasion of a singular and very straightforward game.
Maybe we should look at it as these players being good enough but not trying when it matters. After all, how many Arsenal players in the current team were what you’d call “terrible” players at their former club? Gervinho won a title at Lille, Marouane Chamakh has a league title from his time with Bordeaux and Sebastian Squillaci has league titles and a Champions League final appearance from his time in France. That’s only the players deemed “terrible,” what about the good ones?
But it’s an easy life when you can perform so badly and not have to answer to anyone. And that’s the point, no one needs to answer or even has an answer when Arsenal begin to tumble down the league table. There’s far too much protection at the club for people who should be accountable, yet Wenger—even with his own managerial flaws—remains on the front line and as the first and only line of defence.
It would be great if for a whole month’s worth of games—because once just isn’t enough—if Wenger laid into his players after a poor performance. Some will ask what good that will do, well not saying anything at the moment isn’t exactly bringing rewards. When the manager finds excuses like fatigue, poor playing conditions, referees, the rain ruining players’ perfectly gelled hair, it makes the players believe that they’re doing nothing wrong. Above all, it makes them believe that their current poor state is the zenith of their abilities.
Is it ok for Wenger to want this peaceful environment at Arsenal, one where no one screams at anyone else for lack of application? Not really, because it just amounts to poor preparation for real football matches. But then comes the stubbornness, and maybe Wenger has done enough in his career to warrant the chance to do it as he pleases, but there’s no doubt that he’s having to take the hit for players who consistently let him down.
I’m all for the argument that some players are just not good enough for Arsenal, but none of them are beyond or above hard work and a little more application. If the perfect passes can’t be found, then run a little harder to win the ball back. Yes, all of these players are Wenger’s buys, no one at the club would force any player on the manager. But a large collection of performances by most of these players are enough to make you question whether they’re even Premier League quality, let alone good enough for a team challenging on four fronts.
It’s the way it is at Arsenal and it will remain so until someone openly speaks about the damaging state the club are in. The squad as a whole may not be good enough, but their performances are reflective of the laid back attitude from the highest point. It’s unfortunate, however, that Arsene Wenger takes the heat from both sides’ failings.