In A League Of Our Own

By Peter Le Beau

The danger that we may be seeing a top fiveÖ then Arsenal in the seasons to come

Iíve been thinking about Arsenal a lot recently. I think about them a lot most of the time but over the past few months my thoughts have become increasingly gloomy and pessimistic. I have for some time felt that Arsene Wenger needs to be replaced although I gave him support for a lot longer than many Gooners. My desire was for him to leave last May. It would have been a perfect moment to take his leave and I suspect he might leave to regret it if his legacy continues to tarnish, even though he will be considerably richer for extending his contract.

Then and Now. The future doesn't look quite so bright

My big concern is that we may be watching the marooning of our club in a space that is almost uniquely our own. If you look at the Premier League it is fairly easy to pick three clear levels.

There is Ďthe Top Sixí, letís refer back to them later. There are the ten or so very indifferent teams that are fighting relegation and all could find themselves in trouble and then maybe a few sides like Burnley, Leicester and Everton who wonít go down but wonít challenge for the Champions League or even the Europa League places either.

This top six, of course contains us... but does it really? The top six are really a top four or five in my view. Manchester City are clearly out on their own, United are tactically much better than us but far too boring to take on a team like City. Chelsea are a shadow of last seasonís team but have shown at times in Europe and the Premier League that they are a quality outfit and Liverpool have demonstrated a quality of attacking football and an ambition in acquiring Van Dijk that way outstrips our own. They have got a ridiculously good deal for Coutinho and in signing Klopp have a dynamic coach whose big challenge is tightening up in defence. They have bought well in Salah, Mane and Firmino and if they could play as well at home as they do away would be near City. Then we come to the Tiny Totts, our neighbours. Itís hard to speak of them in glowing terms but I will try to be fair... reluctantly. They appear to be in slight decline and are heavily dependent on one of the most prolific strikers in world football, a player that will be hugely sought after in the summer window. This year injuries to key players have underlined the thinness of their squad and their move to Wembley has proved a problem. We beat them easily in November but hand on heart I would not back us to do the double over them this season. They are the nearest of the big six to us but there are only four places available for the Champions League unless we win the Europa League. While they retain Pochettino and Kane, with significantly increased revenue I fear they will finish ahead of the current Arsenal model. That gives me no pleasure to say but it is my honest feeling. Of course their empire could easily crumble and though not a one man team, it isnít difficult to see a team with a relatively frugal wage policy losing several stars, but by the same token the move to new ground may elevate their status significantly.

Given the financial firepower of the top three and the ambition of Liverpool I find it sadly hard to see us overhauling them while Wenger remains at the helm. The innovator of 1996 has become the arch-reactionary of 2018, a man who sticks with the same people and same methods, year after year after year. Around him, other teams are developing more modern styles of play, have regularly improved their training and conditioning and spent considerably more money. Arsenal have the sixth highest spending on transfers in the Premier League in the last eighteen months and are in sixth place. The spend sadly correlates exactly to the league place.

My concern is that with a supine board and semi-engaged and highly unsatisfactory owner I donít see things changing at Arsenal. My sense is that Gazidis is desperately trying to modernise the club but while Wenger stands in his way it will prove very hard to do this. If Kroenke continues to support Wenger and awards him yet another contract we may see ourselves in limbo, better than most of the league but getting increasingly far away from the teams at the top. Iíve not adjusted to Thursday night Football and I hope I donít have to, but my sense is that we are marooned in a league of our own, finding it hard to attract and keep the very best talent.

My hope is that Sanllehi and Mislintat will soon be augmented by a top European coach but my instinct tells me Wenger will cling kicking and screaming to his post. As we saw in the summer, he has Kroenkeís ear and he is the only one who matters as the club is under his control. In 2004 Arsenal were in a league of their own. Alarmingly, fourteen years later we may be again, but this time itís a league some way below the one that really matters.

In case you have missed it, the campaign to keep The Gooner going beyond the current season was launched last week. Please check it out if you did not see it then.

9th January 2018 08:29:59


Comments and Reaction

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Seven Kings Gooner1  10:01am 9th Jan 2018

A very polite piece Peter but I felt this decline 8 years ago and cannot see why it has taken you so long. Wenger threw out the last pieces of the Adams, Graham era in 2006 when we moved, he then used the excuse of having no money to carry out his "project youth" plans. I suspect he was peeved at the credit some of Graham's former disciples were receiving and was now going to show us all what the real Arsene Wenger could achieve. So for the last 10 years the man who could do no wrong has laid down the same plan for the type of football to be played season after to season - and it has not brought success or improved the team or the club's standing. Many of us had enough of his barmy ideas years ago, because despite never working a day in football most of us know what can never work. Arsene spends everyday trying to make the impossible possible. I actually think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Clearing up the malaise that runs through the playing side of the team and the culture of being happy finishing as a runner will not be easy, even for the very best coaches. IMHO I don't think we will ever challenge again while Kronke owns the club. Symptoms of our demise will show more and more as this seasons unravels - I remember the stories about "the Tuesday club" but to be fair at least the lads gave themselves a few days to recover, unlike Iwobi (a typical Wenger player) who has now formed his own "Saturday club" thinking that all he needs is a few hours rest and he will be OK for a FA Cup game. Tells you all you need to know about Wenger's relationships with his pampered and overrated players. - Post No. 111687

Bard  10:33am 9th Jan 2018

Rather agree with Seven Kings. A bit late to the s**** show. Since the heady days when there was on Manu to contend with we have been slowly but steadily falling backwards. I actually dont think the Spuds will do much as they will gradually lose their best players. What is staggering is not the media slating of Wenger but the easy ride he gets. What other top club lets gets themselves in to a position where their best players are running down their contracts. Iwobi's partying is a symptom of a dysfunctional regime. - Post No. 111688

MAF  10:45am 9th Jan 2018

is Iwobi incident not clear evidence of the lack of discipline existing at the Club today ?? there is no fear in These Players, no intense character pushing and demanding them to be their very best. Klopp Poch Conte Jose Pep are the complete opposite of Zipper Wenger. They are intense, demanding, disciplined, ambitious, driven, focused. we are an absolute sorry sight These days in just about every single respect. - Post No. 111689

The Man From UNCLE  10:59am 9th Jan 2018

It's a good article and good idea. Seeing as the PL is now effectively 3 leagues in 1 we can win the "nearly but not quite" championship virtually every season for the foreseeable future. Better get in another trophy cabinet. - Post No. 111690

ClockEnd_90  11:30am 9th Jan 2018

Last week Wenger was quoted as saying his job is to find the shining light in humans, make people happy and honour values. His job doesn't appear to be winning football matches. - Post No. 111691

Yes its Ron  12:31pm 9th Jan 2018

The pundits called it right last night. theres a top 3. Utd City and Chelsea and a 'next top' 3. Liv Arsenal and Spurs. The true top 3 are rapidly leaving the secondary top 3 behind by way of their cash power. There will be a new Coach - one that Wengo suggests. The malaise will remain for quite some years yet and without being too dramatic, may well remain in perpetuity, whether Wengos there or not. Those 3 at the pinnacle right now are leaps and bounds more powerful than Arsenal and the others off the pitch as well as on it. We have to get used to it. The real risk is that Arsenal fall beneath those 5 and are supplanted by an emerging other Club and this is possible under Wenger as i see it. As things stand, Arsenals only hope is that the Spurs bubble bursts and that they sink and fizzle out and thats highly possible i think.Knowing Arsenal this last dozen years theyre pinning their hopes on that to survive. - Post No. 111693

TonyEvans  12:39pm 9th Jan 2018

A thoughtful article which begs the question (as SKG says) as to why the penny has taken so long to drop. I firmly believe things will get worse; at the very best we will bump along in 6th place, settling for the Europa League. Wenger will not go quietly, and who in their right mind would want to sign for Arsenal under this current malaise? Wenger seems to be quite prepared to go down with the sinking ship - the big question is how far will the board let it sink before they intervene? - Post No. 111694

peter wain  12:46pm 9th Jan 2018

totally correct mid table obscurity beckons big time and no way out in sight - Post No. 111695

Arseneknewbest  13:38pm 9th Jan 2018

Put more simply, we have moved in recent years from being the **** in the top heap into being the top of the **** heap. Peter and goonerron's recent epiphanies make me wonder if it's time for a gooner poll about wenger. A figure showing a high percentage of gooners wanting him to leave asap could get some much-needed negative press attention for the chihuahua of doom. - Post No. 111696

TonyEvans  14:23pm 9th Jan 2018

A question I sometimes wonder about is, will those of us who have become so frustrated and disillusioned by Wenger's Arsenal that a 3rd round FA Cup defeat to a lower league side doesn't even register, ever reconnect when a new manager replaces this tired, out of date, out of touch one that we have suffered for so long now? I used to dream of the day I woke up to 'Wenger sacked' or 'Wenger resigns' headlines, but now I wonder if I have lost my Arsenal mojo completely and Wenger going will not be enough to bring it back. - Post No. 111697

mbg  14:51pm 9th Jan 2018

We're in a league of our own now alright Peter, and certainly not the league some AKB wengerites think we're in far far from it, top of the laughing stock league, or the funny league, the second raters league, and the biggest league of all sitting proudly on top and can't be caught now, the past it old has been managers league. - Post No. 111698

Yes its Ron  15:29pm 9th Jan 2018

Tony - good point. A resurgent Arsenal may have the desired effect but for my part, while the Gunners remain 'my team' ive grown to enjoy footie outside of them and as such, other teams too. I ll stay that way by choice. To be honest, its in many ways better than those old halcyon days when we all wore the red blinkers come what may.It may be ageing thats done it though!! It for sure helps to look at Arsenal dispassionately. Many are still wedded to hope and faith though and theres nothing wrong with that, but it does sustain Wengos tenure. The old affection that we all once had for him still carries much to support him, even by those who know deep down hes finished. In fairness, its not just Wenger whos to blame for my mojo heading outbound, its football generally. Theres so much to dislike about it. The no tackling, the shirkers, the cheats, the feeble pens every match nigh on, the celebrity fever thats gripped it .... so many things. It seems to me that Wengo himself has fell out of love with football for all of the same reasons! Its a plastic game now, played by plastics and Coached by frauds and by those who just want their 15 mins of fame. Look at all of this Conte and Mourinho garabage. Utter rubbish. Oh for the days when seeing the Manager was rare and his value was recognised by his teams and not his ability to shape a media frenzy. Oh for the days when you hardly noticed a referee. Oh for the days when footballers were, played like and behaved like men. They aint a comin back matey. Just check out the Wallys hair cut for a quick prism from which to view and understand the modern game. Everything about him tells you what the games become. - Post No. 111699

Seven Kings Gooner1  15:57pm 9th Jan 2018

Yes it's Ron; great post my friend, does sum it all up. Down the leagues tackling is still allowed and there are some good honest managers who still love the game for what it was and not what it has become. You are right though Arsenal will never be the same for me either, a good thing really because I won't get fooled again. Walcott's hair cut though does speak volumes about the kind of people playing football today - the last 10 years, under Arsene, are most definitely correctly called "the Walcott years" - Post No. 111700

CORNISH GOONER  16:02pm 9th Jan 2018

Don't be too sure that Spurs will fall back - wishful thinking in my view as they have a very shrewd owner & CEO. New (better than ours?) stadium coming on stream. Their restrictive wage structure will be quietly dropped - fools they ain't! Meanwhile AFC, owned by 2 billionaires in one of the world's richest, most hipsterist cities can't afford £25 million for an old past it centre half from West Brom - or so says Arthur. Pity because Evans doesn't do wild Saturday night parties anymore, preferring a quiet night in. You just cannot make this stuff up - unbelievable. - Post No. 111701

mbg  16:12pm 9th Jan 2018

Tony Evans, good point I often think of that, and am convinced we'll feel the same again, get all our old feelings back, but the biggest problem and stubling block will be getting wengers grubby fingerprints off everything, coaching, philosophies, ways, backroom staff, etc, etc, etc, especially if he's still stinking the place out in the background, so it really depends on the new man, if he's a strong manager worth his salt he'll do that, he'll have to, but for now just seeing the back of the old weasel will be enough for me and I suspect a hell of a lot of others, the euphoria, cheering, whooping and celebrating that will bring will certainly set us on our way. wenger out. - Post No. 111702

1971 Gooner  16:42pm 9th Jan 2018

You never know; Wenger might have a final surprise up his sleeve and at some point before the end of the season put his hand up and admit heís fallen short, and effect a dignified exit...now, whereís my medication? - Post No. 111703

Gaz  16:52pm 9th Jan 2018

Tony E: As usual you echo my own thoughts on how I'll feel when Wenger finally leaves. Used to think I'd be right up for going again and all that but if truth be known him and football in general have had such a negative impact on me for so long I fear that's it for me. Hope I'm wrong as I miss going to games and being genuinely excited and happy when we win and terribly down and depressed when we lose. Right now I feel absolutely nothing and its kind of hard to accept considering how I used to feel. Only thing that makes me hope I'll rekindle that love is that there's a small part of me that just cant let go which is why I spend so much time on twitter calling Wenger out and why I've been on the protest marches. We'll see in time I guess although I still fear he'll be here until 2019 at least. - Post No. 111704

Yes its Ron  17:23pm 9th Jan 2018

SKG - I dont at all like the talk of legacies etc etc in any context. For me, its a misnmomer. people come and people go for me and each brings their own identity, BUT if we need to find one for Wengo, his is the alienation of so many longstanding loyal supporters from AFC to the point where quite a few will openly say they actually no longer much like Arsenal! Im sure you've heard the same sentiment. I believe Wengo knows this deep down unless he lives totally in a bubble but his vanity wont acknowledge it and allow him to fall on his sword. Hes a dishonest man in that regard for me. He cons the Club and deludes himself. Hes clever though. For those reluctant or just too scared to look honestly at him out of loyalty for what we thought he once was, his veneer still shines and the brickbats hardly scratch it. Typical tyrant. The longevity of them defies all logic because people are conditioned not to look and if they do look, are conditioned not to see. The ones who look and see the reality, are castigated and denounced as agitators. The human race runs on this formula is all of its dynamics. Wengo should have become a French politician. He d probably become President. Do they have a champagne socialist party there? - Post No. 111705

Jason  17:37pm 9th Jan 2018

The saddest thing about the article and the following comments is that the burning fire and anger seems to have burnt and disappeared from everyone. Just a general acceptance that our club is on a downward spiral and there's nothing we can say or do that hasn't already been said and done. Most of us know that Wenger is miles past his sell by date and needs to go but I fear things run far deeper than that. I think it's only a matter of time before Usmanov sells his shares leaving the door open to Stan Kroenke, followed by his son to solely own Arsenal for another generation. Even if he doesn't sell they still have all the power. They have no desire or ambition to push the team to a competitive level, they've proved that by keeping Wenger. Another manager and a director of football may improve the shambolic tactics, transfers and contract situations etc, but I doubt they'll ever be a big enough investment for us to win the title. - Post No. 111706

Paulward  18:13pm 9th Jan 2018

Iwobi incident and the never ending and incredibley boring speculation about Sanchez only add to the feeling of aimless drift at AFC. Surely somebody towards the top of the club realises we need a root and branch clear out this summer, Wenger and 6-8 players should go and if we canít persuade Simeone to come we should take Shaun Dyche . - Post No. 111707

Seven Kings Gooner1  19:08pm 9th Jan 2018

Actually Ron - I think you have hit the nail on the head by calling Wenger a politician, that does explain everything. The first rule of every one of them is to save their stinking hide and that is the mode Arsene is in at the moment. - Post No. 111708

TonyEvans  19:30pm 9th Jan 2018

Some good comments there lads about if and to what extent we will reconnect with Arsenal post Wenger. By the look of it the disconnection with Arsenal goes deeper than just Wenger. As Ron says football just ain't what it used to be and a resurgent Arsenal won't be enough now to get us all back to where we were before Project Youth kicked it all off and started our painful journey away from the club that used to play such a huge part in our lives. - Post No. 111709

mbg  19:42pm 9th Jan 2018

Peter, his legacy continues to tarnish ? what legacy ? Any legacy he had, was and is tarnished beyond repair a long time ago whether you (and others)like think it or not, and is continuing to be tarnished even more now as every day goes by, and regardless of what he was to do between now and when he slithers out of here will not change a thing, it's way way to late now for any sort of reprieve, the damage is done, wenger will be remembered for what he is a fraud, the last nine ten years of failure and all that went with them, the lies, spin, deadwood, third raters, (of which we still have) on big contracts, stuffing's, embarrassments, humiliations, etc, etc, etc. wenger out. - Post No. 111710

Scruff  20:29pm 9th Jan 2018

Work as a team press high up chase all lost causes win 50/50's and defend as a team. They may lose eventually but 41 mins in and Bristol a city are fabulous - Post No. 111711

mbg  20:36pm 9th Jan 2018

Going back to how we'll feel about the club when TOF slithers away, what about the remaining AKB's, how will they feel ? one can only imagine they'll be devastated, a day of mourning will be called, they'll be wailing at games, and throwing flowers onto the pitch, will they ever get over it/him and reconnect again with the club and new man ? One things for f*****g sure they won't be giving him twelve years to come good. wenger out now. - Post No. 111712

Goonhogday  21:38pm 9th Jan 2018

I stopped attending away matches because of Wengerball about 10 years ago. Gallas booing his eyes out at Birmingham City did it for me. I miss the atmosphere at away matches etc, but I just didnít trust my team to put in a performance anymore and decided if they canít always be bothered, neither can I. Then the Manchester capitulations just reinforced my decision. When Wenger eventually leaves, Iíll start try attending again. Wenger out, Kroenke out. If Wenger goes, Iíll start again. - Post No. 111713

TOOAW  22:57pm 9th Jan 2018

Scruffy/Nark... Out of the cup though. So what quite was your point. - Post No. 111714

markymark  23:07pm 9th Jan 2018

ToOaW / Toad / BBA / Leek the Squeak - as usual i have to repeat this multiple times , even previously offering you technical reasons as well. But just to say again myself and Scruff are two different people. Now please disappear as you promised . - Post No. 111715

markymark  7:00am 10th Jan 2018

ToOaW - the point that is abundantly clear apart from to yourself . Is that Bristol City played better than Arsenal and were coached with a game plan. Unlike our total shambles on Sunday . - Post No. 111716

TonyEvans  8:55am 10th Jan 2018

Hi Gaz and Ron - lots of us in the same boat re Arsenal and the game in general, with a completely different view of all things football from how we were back in our Arsenal heydays. In all honesty I can't see myself ever going back to being the complete Arsenal nut I used to be. Wenger has caused a complete relationship breakdown and once a relationship is broken it is very hard to go back to where you used to be with it. As Ron says age is also a factor, and the fact that football in general has changed so much from when I first went to Highbury in 1970. Some would say for the better but, for me, football has lost it's soul somewhere along the way and forgotten its roots, and much of it leaves me cold now. I hope, when Wenger goes, that I can at least rekindle some of my old passion, but on a whole different level to how I once was. - Post No. 111717

Hi Berry  8:55am 10th Jan 2018

Yes it's Ron...your post yesterday afternoon pretty much reflects my feelings these days. There is a definite disconnection between Arsenal and those of us of certain advanced years. I think Sky have ruined top flight football in this country over the past twenty five years....the game has been wrenched from the ordinary working class family and sold down the stream to those that can afford the exorbitant prices to attend. When I was a boy growing up in St Albans in the sixties I could get to Arsenal by bus and tube, buy a programme and gain entry to the North Bank for under 10 shillings (50p) all in and still have 5 shillings left over from my paper round wages. The team was full of players you could identify with unlike today's mercenaries earning obscene amounts of money with little or no loyalty or affinity for the club for which they play. The connection fans felt with their team thirty or forty years ago has long gone and typified at Arsenal by the way in which these cosseted youngsters are these days bussed into an underground car park at the Emirates to keep them away from the riff-raff. Uefa and Fifa haven't helped matters either by expanding their flagship competitions which concentrates money into the hands of the elite clubs with the result now that virtually every league in Europe can only be won by those few select clubs. There was a time when we all scoffed at Scotland because their league was a two horse race but it's the same everywhere now...no wonder Leicester were so celebrated when they broke the mould a couple of years ago. I wonder whether those clubs outside the 'Top 6' feel the same way as we do...the Bournemouths, Watfords, West Broms of this world - maybe they get regular doses of living in the real world with spells in the Championship to keep them humble. - Post No. 111718

Scruff  8:58am 10th Jan 2018

Tooaw your understanding of the cup semi final is delusional a bit like everything in your childish existence. Your lot just can't understand that it's not the losing that counts it's the performance. - Post No. 111719

Seven Kings Gooner1  9:16am 10th Jan 2018

Markymark _ I watched a lot of 3rd & 4th tier football these days and the teams in the lower leagues are very well coached by some very good young managers (Lincoln City anyone) I think any second eleven from a PL club would struggle at most lower league grounds, it is this next generation of pampered academy players who will eventually start the disconnect with so called top flight football. The link between the players, the fans and the local area will weaken still further - no matter how many trips the "star players" make to the local hospitals. - Post No. 111720

Badarse  13:31pm 10th Jan 2018

Well there you have it. Ron's post 11699 is a half and half. The wise understanding part is the latter, the bigotry is couched in the first part. I refer you to a recent post suggesting tongue in cheek that Ron has learnt from my position but still lets himself down occasionally, and if he cut out that part it would serve many on the OG better. SKG, recent winner of the Virtual OG Ronette award immediately follows with his ageing Daily Express wisdom with '...great post my friend...'. SKG you need to be more discerning, though a previous winner of the Ronette Award, jj, fell foul of Ron, was lambasted and pedalled off into the sunset licking his wounds, which caused a dislocated shoulder as the wounds were all over his bottom where he had been duly slapped, so I understand the need to stay onside as these offside rules are increasingly testing. Fuelled by his post's reception Ron then goes into freefall with post number 11705. Ron you need to stay focused, avoid the xenophobia, the personal perceptions, the personal interpretations and labelling, the display of dinosaur of a political position and give the punters the benefit of your awareness and experience. A 6 out of 10 for the two posts marked in tandem. Good old Arsenal, good old thick cut marmalade, and good old bald eggs. - Post No. 111728

Moscowgooner  8:07am 11th Jan 2018

If Gazidis is 'desperately trying to modernize the club' - rather than simply being a slick PR operator - he needs to resign now. It's the honourable thing to do. He's tried and failed. As long as the Wenger/Kroenke axis holds power there is not a cat in hell's chance that 'modernization' can succeed. It's just about rearranging the deck chairs. - Post No. 111744

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

15th January 2018

Being muscled off the ball by Bournemouth is like being mugged by your grandma

Online Ed: Another poor Arsenal display on the road just another signpost as we near the end of the Wenger era