Saturday was a particularly painful day for Arsenal fans, who were forced to witness an inept performance from their club at the home of one of their fiercest rivals.
Chants of ‘we want our Arsenal back’ rang out from the small pocket of travelling supporters, still stung from witnessing Robin van Persie clinically dispatch a chance to give United an early lead, in the same manner he did countless times for the Gunners. It was hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for the supporters, who have witnessed the steady decline of their great club for the past seven years.
Everybody knows it’s been seven years since Arsenal won any sort of trophies you can physically lift, despite Wenger’s insistence that qualifying year in year out for the Champions League is as good as, if not better than stocking the trophy cabinet.
The abject defeat to their former fiercest rivals on Saturday, left Arsenal fans feeling the need to vent their frustrations upon the realisation that more performances such as this will see that barren run extended to eight years come May.
Saturday proved a day where everything that could possibly have gone wrong did. From Thomas Vermaelen handing van Persie an early goal, to Andre Santos’ infamous half time shirt swap, to Jack Wilshere’s red card, Arsenal looked a shadow of the team that used to turn up to Old Trafford and so often leave victorious.
While Arsenal fans are starting to feel pangs of desperation, all they can seemingly do right now is trust Arsene Wenger and the men at the top. Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis and American businessman Stan Kroenke have been the men in the firing line from supporters, for the continuous selling of the club’s best players, and their failure to provide big-name, big-money replacements.
It has been Arsenal’s insistence on making plans for the future that has left so many supporters frustrated. But having come this far under their model, it seems as though Arsenal supporters have little choice but to wait two more seasons until UEFA’s Financial Fair play rule kicks in. It has been well publicised, that Arsenal will be in the poll position to compete once this law becomes active.
Looking at the bigger picture would make times seem less dark for Arsenal supporters. A lot has been asked of them in terms of the patience required, but having come this far in their plan it is not likely to be sabotaged now in an attempt for a quick fix to appease supporters desperate for silverware. Would sacking the board and replacing Wenger be a better option? It seems unlikely.
I am still of the opinion Arsenal can manage a decent season. Wenger has a knack of qualifying for the Champions League, and I expect that to be the case again this time around. Their early season form was impressive, particularly the month of September, which saw them record huge victories over Coventry and Southampton, draw at the home of Champions Manchester City, record a 2-0 win at Anfield and also see off Montpellier in the Champions League.
Summer signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla were in and amongst the goals and everything appeared rosy. Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson were both earning rave reviews for their defensive displays.
In and around all the criticism, Wenger seems relatively calm. He will take solace from the fact that this time last season his players were being well and truly written off following a horrendous start, and managed to recover to finish in the top three.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool have all had to endure barren spells in their history. The positive thing for Arsenal is that they have a plan in place to end their own. The men at the top will have to hope the fans are willing to show more patience as they look to continue with it.
What do you make of Arsenal’s current situation? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood and let me know your thoughts.