Who Are We?

“We’re gonna win the league”.

“We’re so rubbish”.

Everyone knows whether their football team are any good or not. Except Arsenal fans.

I’ve been watching Arsenal play for 30 years now and I’d like think that I’ve got a fair idea what’s what in the world of football. I know that we were crap for most of the 80’s and I know that we were boring but victorious in the early 90’s. I know that Arsene Wenger made us good again and I know that we were unbeatable in 2004. But this season, I haven’t got the faintest idea.

I’ve seen us do ‘World Class’. Witness us taking Chelsea apart, thrashing Tottenham from two goals down and beating the richest team in the world.

But I’ve also seen a fair bit of ‘Clueless’. Stare in disbelief at defeats against Blackburn, QPR, Swansea and Fulham as well as an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford.

Just lately, the chart has been plotting an upwards trajectory and the bosses are happy. For the most part we’ve played well this year, nabbing 27 out of the last 30 points. But tonight we eased back into ‘Useless’ without so much as a cursory glance at ‘Quite Good’ or even considering a bit of ‘Mediocre’.

Credit to Wigan – they worked harder than us tonight, passed the ball well and defended stoutly. At this level, if one team raises their game and the other team never gets going, it can easily make up for any perceived gap in quality. But surely we could have got something out of the game – even a bit of ‘Gave It Their All’ would have helped!

It wasn’t that we played with the handbrake on. Or that we never got out of second gear. No, this evening we couldn’t even start the engine.

After being put to sleep by the referee’s first whistle, we slumped around the pitch for five minutes before allowing Wigan to sprint past us from one end of the pitch to the other and score two goals in two minutes. Despite a Thomas Vermaelen header, we never woke up. The clock ticked down – no reaction. The fans screamed their frustrations and encouragement – the players failed to respond. And to think that some people honestly thought we could challenge for the League next season. Those people, I might add, apparently included some or all of the Arsenal players.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal can certainly talk a good game. Almost every day we hear platitudes from the players and manager through Twitter and the official website. Even today you can read articles with headlines like “Rosicky – We’ve connected with the fans” and “Szczesny – Team spirit has turned our season”. But the meaning of these sentiments is slightly lost when you pay money, spend time travelling to games and shout your head off in support of the team only to see eleven soporific, lost individuals wandering around the pitch watching a relegation-threatened team with barely 150 supporters knock the ball around with relative ease.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining (too much) about this season as a whole. Assuming we do qualify for the (poxy) Champions League, it will have been a successful season and I, for one, have enjoyed most of it – a lot. I just want to try and understand how a team that played like Arsenal did against Manchester City 8 days ago turns out a performance like that tonight.

You can’t blame it on injuries – apart from the loss of Arteta early on tonight, Gibbs and Wilshere, we don’t really have any of them. And you can’t blame the fact that Robin has stopped scoring goals – we’ve managed to win most of our recent games without them. It’s obviously not lack of confidence because we’ve been winning and playing well. So I’m afraid I’m left feeling a bit Theo Walcott – lost. Are we any good? Or are we totally rubbish? We certainly don’t seem to have been anything in between this season.

I think my Dad summed it up quite nicely when he said “Which is the real Arsenal? Are we better than we thought? Or are we worse than we think?”