When something bad happens – typically something unexpected and deeply affective – the natural reaction of most people is to try and rationalise it or search for a logical explanation.
This old truth has been particularly relevant for Arsenal fans of late, as the search for a reason behind the team’s lamentable downturn in form has dragged on.
All those green shoots that had sprouted after the matches against Manchester City and West Ham have withered and died again, and any hopes that we had at last turned a corner have been quashed.
Every fan and follower of the club has returned to the drawing board in search of the answer, frantically looking for the reason behind what is the worst run of results at the club for a generation.
Variously, people have turned on the manager, the backroom staff, the board, the chairman, and even the players looking for a reason – something that might easily explain why things are going so wrong.
Many simply hope that if the reason becomes apparent, it can be addressed and the team can return to winning games and performing as we all know it can. All of us are desperate for it to happen.
I believe, however, that there is no singular reason why things are so bad at the club at the moment. I don’t see a glaring issue that can quickly be solved, allowing the team to flick a switch from abject to awesome again.
The malaise that has settled over the club like a choking, fetid smog is the result of a number of problems which have long simmered behind the scenes but have never before combined to cause the problems we now face.
Instead of simply blaming the manager – who is undoubtedly working all the hours god sends – we have to accept that the problems run far deeper than just the way we approach each game.
After all, is it just bad tactics that have seen us concede an absurd amount of goals in almost every away game this year? Would Arsene really persist in setting his team up in such a way that guarantees such poor performances? Of course not.
Tactics and set up are just the result at the end of a long line of problems.
If we are looking at the whole picture, we have to start at the very top, with Stan Kroenke, who, first and foremost, takes such a laid back, pressure-free approach to his chairmanship. Such is his apparent lack of guidance, his lack of direction and care, that the situation at the club has been allowed to drift as far as it has. We find ourselves in a state of perpetual limbo at the moment, with no answers to the mountain of questions that have formed.
The board must also take a share of the blame. It has been so passive, so unresponsive and keen to hide in these last 12 months that nobody at the club seems to know what is going on and wants to take responsibility for it. There has been talk that Ivan Gazidis, the club’s chief executive, has been at odds with Arsene and Stan but even he has had little and less to say, aside from some snippets from a pre-arranged meeting with the supporters’ trust.
The uncertainty and lack of pressure or guidance from above has inevitably trickled down to the playing staff and, whatever they may say in public, there is clearly a lack of fight in the team, more so than I have ever seen from an Arsenal squad.
Even with players who were half as talented as our current squad – the likes of Denilson, Eboue, Chamakh and Bendtner – we could seldom be accused of throwing in the towel in the way we have done so regularly in recent times.
Have the players downed tools? Only they will truly know, but it doesn’t appear in any way as if they are playing for their manager, the man they all profess to admire and hope to continue working with next season.
Theo Walcott’s admission that Crystal Palace “wanted it more” from the kick-off on Monday was proof of just how far the rot has set in among the players. It was a staggering admission, in truth.
If we are going to look at the whole picture, we must also consider the role that fans have had to play in this saga.
It is important to bear in mind that, without all of the above having happened, it never would have reached the point it has now, where fans have been forced into action through desperation and as a direct result of the silence from those in charge.
That said, for the players to see and hear of fighting in the stands, fighting outside the stadium, planes in the skies, banners almost everywhere, loud and public criticisms online at every turn – the team would not be human if it weren’t susceptible to that, however much they deny it.
As much as it is the consequence of the symptoms described above, that feeling of anger and resentment has taken its toll on this team, which is staggering towards summer like a drunk trying to make the last bus home.
Given all of that, where do we go from here as a club?
Ideally, a root and branch clear out and reorganisation but that simply isn’t feasible or likely to be forthcoming in the short term. We do need real and profound change, however, because without it, this situation is not going to get any better. A few new signings and changes in the backroom team will not cure the long term problems we have seen develop into a full blow crisis this year.
It remains highly unlikely that the starting point for this mess – Stan Kroenke – is going anywhere, anytime soon, so the change must realistically start with the manager.
As many have said, and will continue to say, Arsene can no longer fix what seems to be broken with this team and so, reluctantly, he must allow someone else to come in and start afresh, instil a sense of hope and optimism that has long since been abandoned by Arsenal fans.
A new structure at management level and some new additions to the squad have to be the starting point for change and, if Arsene won’t go of his own volition – with the grace and dignity he deserves – then he must be compelled. The time for pleasantries and a passive, easy-does-it approach has passed. Waiting until the end of the season before a “mutual decision” is made is no longer acceptable. Action has to be taken, and taken now.