Any lingering hope that the Arsenal squad might give it one final push, a last effort to lead a late charge for their manager disappeared into nothingness today.
The game is finally up. The end of an era is fast approaching.
It doesn’t seem to matter what Arsene does anymore, he simply can’t his team to perform. In matches against Bayern Munich, Liverpool, and West Bromwich Albion he has tried three different approaches to the game, but the result has been the same on each occasion.
Whether they sit back and counter, press the ball, or play a possession game, it matters not – the desire to fight is gone. The spirit of the team is in tatters and Arsene can no longer inspire them to turn it around.
The Frenchman has been trying gamely to change things since the start of the year. I have no doubt that he has spent every waking hour working and studying tapes and reports, desperately trying to think of a way to recapture the sort of form that has made Arsenal a breathtaking team to watch over the years. But it hasn’t worked and it’s almost certain that nothing he does from here will work either.
It is undeniably heartbreaking to see a man who is Arsenal through-and-through, who has given the best years of his life to the club, reduced to defeat at the hands of Tony Pulis, but it is a sign of how the game has changed and how it is time now for Arsene to step aside.
As proud and stubborn as he is, Arsene is a fiercely intelligent man and the simple facts of the situation will be clear to him now. Even if some small part of him still hoped his team would pull together for the final few months of the season, defeat at West Brom today will have put that to bed.
It truly is time to go.
After the match, Arsene admitted to the press that he had made a decision on his future, saying: “Don’t worry, I know what I will do in my future so you will soon know, very soon.”
That announcement may not come today, or even tomorrow, but I think we will know for certain during the international break. Frankly, it is the only card left for the 67-year-old to play.
If he comes out and says this season will be his last, everyone at the club can rally to the flag and give it everything, really give ourselves a chance of making the top four. It will even give the Arsenal board a chance to set the wheels in motion as the search for a new manager begins.
It will be a last, great gift from the club’s greatest manager to its fans.
If we are left to wait and wonder even a month longer, it will be too late. The rot that has set in to the squad is almost certainly beyond repair and, if we carry on as we are, we’ll be lucky to finish in the top 10 this season. If we get some certainty from the manager, it may just be enough to arrest the decline and galvanise the team and fans.
Even in my worst nightmare, I didn’t imagine it possible that a team as poor and one-dimensional as West Bromwich Albion could put three goals past The Arsenal, and yet they did just that. With scarce more than 20 per cent of the ball, Tony Pulis’s men managed eight shots on the Arsenal goal. An unbelievable, unfathomable amount of opportunities created from a share of the ball that was so paltry as to be almost non-existent. That is a measure of how bad things are at the club now.
Tactically we are all over the place; there is no shape, no plan, no system to fall back on, there is just chaos. There are no secrets to the way West Brom play, and yet we fell for the same old flannel as if we has just climbed off the plane from the other side of the galaxy. That has typified Arsenal in 2017 and, frankly, it isn’t good enough.
Although I was hopeful that we had reached rock bottom weeks ago, it seems I was wrong and we remain stuck deep in shitsville. The players must take a good portion of the blame for that but, ultimately, the buck stops with Arsene.
Today was utterly mournful, one of the worst days in one of the worst periods in the last generation, and I think it may just have signalled the beginning of the end for Arsene Wenger, and this time I think even he has accepted it.