I really want Arsene Wenger to win the Premier League title this season. Not Arsenal. Just Wenger. I want him at Islington Town Hall at the end of May, high on a balcony as a quarter of a million people gather to adore him. I want him to clutch the trophy in one hand, a good scotch in the other and stride out to address them. I want him to hold that cup up so that sunlight bounces off it, so that the millions of TV viewers are momentarily dazzled. And then I want him to speak.
“I won this,” I want him to say. “Not you. Not them. Just me. I built you a team. I built you a stadium. And what did you do? You whined. Incessantly. For years.
<whiney voice> “Spend some money, Wenger! Buy a defender, Wenger! Buy a goalkeeper, Wenger!”
“I saw you with your bin bag protests. I saw you on your <does quotes fingers> “Fan TV” sounding off while you wore the club shop. I heard the phone-ins, I read the messageboards. You never believed. Not for a moment. All of you, at some point over the last ten years, wavered and told me to go. So this is for me. Not you. This is for me.”
Then I want him to slug back his scotch, smash the glass on the floor and stride off again, never to return. That is the exit that Wenger deserves. That’s how he should retire.
But Arsenal aren’t going to win the title, are they? They remain short of those elusive elements that define a title winning team: Roy Keane juice. Grim-faced, bloody-minded, proper football man determination, blood and thunder. And the ability to take a bleeding throw-in properly.
And never has this been more apparent than Tuesday night at home to Watford. That’s Watford, the mis-matched, unbalanced collection of Pozzo family investment opportunities glued together by a manager who can’t speak English and who hadn’t won since December 10. That’s what Arsenal were up against. And after less than quarter of an hour they were two goals down.
And it’s the manner of the goals that mark out for you what Arsenal lack. The skimming low free kick that whistled into the net when you know it shouldn’t ever have got that far. The second; borne out of an Arsenal throw-in, so vague from Gabriel that Aaron Ramsey was nowhere near it and Etienne Capoue ploughed through to such great effect. The curious fightback characterised by misplaced passes and wayward shots. The loyalists might tell you that Arsenal were only a lick of crossbar paint from equalising through Lucas Perez, but the realists would know that Watford could have scored more than twice, that they should have scored more than twice. They should certainly have had a Franny Coquelin-inspired penalty. But then everyone should have one of those.
And so, this is Arsenal. A team capable of happily obliterating a weakened Southampton side in their own back yard and then going on to fall flat on their faces in front of their own fans. They’ll probably beat Chelsea this weekend. Because that’s the sort of thing they do, usually just after I write a column like this. But they’ll lose again soon afterwards,
You want it to work. You pray for it to work. You know that the world would be better if it did work. If a venerable manager with glossy ideals of self-sufficiency and homegrown players and aesthetic football could prevail. But it just isn’t happening. And as much it hurts, as much as you don’t want it to be the case, you suspect that it won’t work until Wenger finally walks away.