“I was wrong,” smirked Arsene Wenger as he was reminded of his confident prediction that March or April would yield clarity regarding his future at the club.
Cue laughter, mirth, and widespread amusement as the assembled press lapped up the line and readied their opening paragraphs.
Fans meanwhile, impatient and angry at the continued lack of clarity, were left scratching their heads still more, as the long-running saga over the manager’s future dragged on into its millionth week.
It was clear then, if it wasn’t already obvious, that the club would not be announcing anything until the summer, until as late as is feasibly possible to do so.
As ever, the question is why, and particularly why Arsene felt the need to assure one and all that his future would be settled “very soon” as far back as February, when we still have no clue some three months on.
It seems to be common knowledge that a two-year contract extension is on the table for the manager to sign, and yet nobody seems willing or courageous enough to admit it. The board, ever vague and clandestine, have said nothing for months, and nor are they expected to in the short term. Meanwhile, the manager continues to obfuscate and evade at every opportunity.
So what is really happening?
Most believe that the club was initially waiting for a better run of results before confirming the new deal for Arsene, but their wait has proven to be a long one as the Gunners have experienced their worst run of form in a generation.
They have crashed out of the top four and out of the Champions League in that time, leaving them with threadbare hopes of claiming a coveted spot in next year’s competition and an FA Cup final.
It’s not exactly the sort of rosy outlook the board was hoping to release the news into, like a rabbit hopping merrily into a serene summer meadow.
To that end, it would seem the board is now waiting for the outcome of the FA Cup final, and our desperate late bid in the league, hoping that one or both will come off, before finally revealing its hand.
If true, it is pointless and misguided. Such is the frustration and anger that has built up towards the establishment and ‘higher-ups’ that no silver-lining to this season can distract fans long enough to make this seem like anything other than what it is, a cynical ploy.
There again, perhaps there is another layer to this story. Amid the deteriorating atmosphere at the club, maybe the board has changed its offer, made it conditional upon some changes to the structure, and maybe Arsene doesn’t like that very much.
It seems a bit far-fetched, I admit, but maybe Arsene expected to have the deal sewn up by now, but some friction over the terms and conditions have meant that no deal could be reached when he had expected it.
Such is the dearth of reliable information out there at the moment that all we have is speculation and rumour, a void of facts filled with half-truths and opinion, with a sprinkling of bile for good measure.
Whichever view you take, it is truly rotten example of how to do business and how to treat your fans, from a club that has built a reputation on doing things better, and with a little class.
As for tomorrow’s clash with Manchester United, it is clear the Gunners must strike hard and fast.
Jose Mourinho has all-but given up hope of securing a top four finish by conventional means, preferring instead to book a place in the Champions League by winning the Europa League, a perfectly possible and, arguably, easier method than by hoping others slip up in the Premier League.
Although one must always take his public proclamations with a pinch of salt, I believed the Portuguese when he suggested in his pre-match press conference that he would be resting players for Sunday’s clash.
United played the full 90 minutes in Spain on Thursday night and will have had precious little time to recover and prepare for the visit to the Emirates.
What with their extensive injury list, there has scarcely been a better time to play the Red Devils, and it is for all those reasons that Arsenal must cast off their shackles of uncertainty and go straight for the carotid.
The match is there for the winning and, frankly, having had a week to rest, there is little reason why they shouldn’t go out and batter their visitors, however hard they work or deep they may sit.
If we are being honest with ourselves, anything but a victory will end Arsenal’s season so there should be no motivation required for this group of players to get out there and do the business, as emphatically and fuss-free as possible.
However bad they were at White Hart Lane, that is done and dusted and there is nothing they can do about it. It is time to snap out of it, get passed it, and focus on the slim chance we have of sneaking into the Champions League places.
Come on you Gunners!