Arsenal's Season Is Beyond Farce But One Great Run Could Still See Them Lift The Title & Save Arsene Wenger


Arsene Wenger was trying to come out with the detached-sounding comments that divert from a sense of crisis around his team but, given that extremity of the situation he’s facing up to, there were a few give-aways at the Emirates on Sunday.

The first was the alarm bell of the word “farce” being used by the 66-year-old. For all the discussions about “peak Arsenal” and the side’s persistent capacity for self-parody, it was conspicuous that Wenger would so consciously acknowledge that after the 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Watford.

It reflects just how chaotic and calamitous this season has become. It is also genuinely sad to see, especially for a man of Wenger’s dignity and standing in the game. This isn’t how it should end.

All the more gallingly, though, it's probably gone beyond "farce".

If that is the word used to describe history repeating itself for a second time, what is this? How many times have we seen an Arsenal season play out like this?

Yet, this could actually be worse - and something of a terminal tipping point - for a few reasons.

The most punishing reason is that it had seemed like this time would finally be so different. It would be deliverance.

With some of the football that Arsenal were playing in November, and the way the league a curious league season was developing, it did seem like his stability could finally prove the ultimate strength in a title race. It did seem like this could be his grand redemption, and thereby his greatest glory.

It could yet end up like that.

It’s just very difficult to see that happen right now.

Instead, it seems far likelier that this will be his worst ever failure.

How else could you describe a scenario where he finishes behind one of Claudio Ranieri or Tottenham Hotspur in the title race, if not both, and that without any of the other freakish problems that have afflicted the other major clubs this season? Instead, Arsenal's stability could indicate the ultimate weakness.

It would actually strengthen the long-held feeling that nothing will ever change under Wenger, unless for the worst. There is even the possibility that, in two of the Premier League’s more open title races - that have just happened to come in the last three years - the Arsenal boss could end up finishing behind all of Brendan Rodgers from 2013-14, and then Ranieri and Spurs this campaign. Again, there's that issue of history repeating itself and farce.

All of the excuses of the past decade, that Arsenal suffered because of financially super-charged clubs, would be instantly shredded.

Instead, there would be further - and possibly definitive - proof for so many arguments that he had simply lost the edge that made him so great up to 2004-05. It does seem so telling that, regardless of what is happening around him, Arsenal simply stay the same.

It is precisely because so many seasons have ended the same that it is currently hard to see Wenger pulling off the one thing that could save him.

After the defeat to Watford, the Arsenal manager had been asked whether he would rest players against Barcelona, in the second leg of their Champions League tie. He said he would not, that they would try “to make the impossible possible” but that is really the attitude he should be taking to the title, diverting everything to that.

It might not seem like it now, but there is still hope there.

With the erratic nature of the season, and the fact that Leicester City’s own table-leading form has been more in-keeping with the solidity of the mid-90s rather than relentlessness of the mid-2000s, one strong run from one team could win this title.

The drawbacks are that nothing about Arsenal right now suggests it is possible. They look low on energy and confidence, with the attack currently almost completely dependent on Mesut Ozil elevating himself or Danny Welbeck offering some life. They have actually played badly for some time.

One big caveat, though, is that an international break can change the psychological circumstances. The break can see players return with a new outlook. It can change things.

There’s also the fact that Wenger has been here before. He actually used to be the master at exactly this.

One of the defining traits of his first two titles at Arsenal was the sensational - and near unstoppable - way in which they built up speed on the final strait. In 1997-98, they won 10 games straight from 11 March, and only lost their last two after they had already sealed the title. Had they not been in celebration mode, it might have been 12 straight.

In 2001-02, then, they did make it 13 straight to cruise to a double.

This time, it probably only needs to be around seven of nine - but that is still such a serious ask.

It is oddly fitting, however, that what could well be Wenger’s defining final challenge will likely come down to that: whether he can pull off the feat that also fired his reputation in the first place.

It would come full circle. It would also bring the binary discussion that has dominated the last few years to a conclusion.

That is what it comes down to. Those are the stakes now. Just finishing high, in this season, is not enough. It is win or bust.

Fail to win the title, and it will be impossible to see anything ever changing again, meaning his position should probably be changed.

Win it, and we would have a grand redemption.

It would be the achievement the man and his career deserve.

It would not necessarily, however, be the achievement his recent managerial decisions deserve.

That has long been the bind with Wenger. This could break it.

History needs to change.