Sorry for announcing my arrival on these pages with a huge dump of despair, but bloody hell it’s painful being an Arsenal fan at the moment, writes Tim Palmer.
As another shambolic transfer window unfolds, I’m wondering exactly why I bothered to renew the season ticket.
I’m not expecting us to win anything, or even challenge seriously for the league, but my goodness it would be nice if there was something, anything, to like or admire, or a tiny sign that things are heading in a positive direction – in short, reason to keep on supporting. But it in every direction, chaos and catastrophe reign.
Our best player has left for nothing, followed by one of the nicest (Welbeck) and our captain (and only decent defender) has got so fed up with playing alongside Mustafi that he has thrown his toys out of the pram to force a move to a mid-table French club.
Results have been unsatisfactory (remember, we were supposed to be on a par with Bayern Munich by now), but actually watching us play – even when we’re not losing at home to Crystal Palace – has been like watching paint dry, only without the colour. Playing football the Arsenal way now means finding new ways to disappoint.
What about the players? Hector Bellerin is a class act, Nacho has been a doughty servant and the Lacabameyang bromance is both super-cute and super-effective. But (even ignoring the obvious weak links) the rest are either too new or incapable of delivering consistently enough to inspire loyalty, confidence or enthusiasm.
Players don’t operate in a vacuum. The negative environment off the pitch must be having an effect. At boardroom level, it’s hard to decide whether what we’re seeing is an omnifuck or a clustershambles. I won’t harp on about the failures of the transfer window (except to say giving away good players and keeping rubbish ones is an unorthodox policy), but it’s obvious that our owner’s only interest in Arsenal is as a fringe entry in his investment portfolio. As far as he’s concerned, the fans are just little red and white cash cows, waiting to be milked. If we want the club to be successful again, at some point we’re going have protest in the only way that will make silent Stan sit up and notice, by cutting off the flow of money from our udders, but more on that in future weeks.
Our vacuous former chief executive has been replaced by the guy who persuaded Cesc Fabregas to weasel his way to Barcelona on the cheap in 2011 (which, in my view, killed project youth and ended any serious hopes that the stadium move would lead to greater success). If you thought Sanllehi might now be deploying his insidious skills on our behalf, think back to January when he decided that an injured Denis Suarez was just the man to shore up our leaky defence. We don’t even pay our cleaners properly, for goodness sake.
The great thing about being an Arsenal fan is that we’ve always had a story to tell: the innovation of Herbert Chapman, 1-0 to the Arsenal, the many wonders of the Wenger years and the touch of class associated with Highbury’s Marble Halls.
But what’s the story now? What kind of club will we be after one, two five or 10 more seasons? Obviously – this is a time of transition and football inevitably goes in cycles. And the season hasn’t even started yet: a short string of decent displays will dispel much of the gloom. But it’s hard to find anything much to admire in the way we’re going about our business, or to see club is moving forward – either on or off the pitch.
I have one wish for next season – and it’s not the fourth-place (or any other) trophy – it’s this: please, Arsenal, give us a reason to like you again.