Most fans would (quite rightly) throw their heads back and laugh at any suggestion that there might still be chance for some progress in the current campaign.
After all, 13 league defeats (and counting) is, by any measure, an atrocious return for a club like Arsenal. When I was growing up watching the great Arsene Wenger teams of the late 90s and early 2000s, the idea of even five league defeats was enough to effectively write-off our league title hopes.
Of course, this is a different league now, vastly more competitive and bursting at the seems with billionaire-owned clubs whose financial doping have robbed institutions like Arsenal of many more accolades over the years.
But I digress, the point is that, even amid the ashes of this woeful campaign, there is still hope of salvaging some scraps and, after some of the results and runs we have been on, that would be quite something.
If this season has been bad, I have no idea how to begin to define last season, which was rescued by a quite excellent FA Cup success. Looking at the league, Arsenal finished in eighth place on 56 points, with 14 wins, 14 draws and 10 defeats from 38 games. They scored 56 goals and conceded 48. They were also dumped out of the Europa League in the round of 32 by Olympiacos.
This season, with three games left to play, the Gunners have 52 points, with 15 wins, seven draws and 13 defeats on the board. They have scored 49 goals and conceded 38. They were dumped out of the Europa League in the semi-final.
In terms of tangible objectives, there is almost nothing left to play for this season – no chance of a trophy, no chance of a Champions League finish, and a vanishingly small chance of European qualification.
But what of the oft-maligned ‘process’ that we have been asked to trust, is there still hope for that?
In short, the answer is ‘yes’ but we’re not there yet. If Arsenal were to pick up even two wins from their last three matches they would finish this season with a better points tally and, potentially, higher in the table than they did last season. Although they won’t – barring a miracle – score as many goals this season as they did last (and therein lies the real problem) they will likely end very close and they will also have show defensive improvement. As it stands, we have conceded 10 fewer goals this campaign than last.
If, at the start of this campaign, we were told we’d concede fewer goals and win more games this year than last, who wouldn’t have been delighted?
These are almost laughably small victories, petty even, but they are measures of progress and reasons to believe that, if we can take small steps forward in every department again next season, we can start to be competitive again.
Starting down that path means that we have to stay focussed in this campaign, however empty and pointless it may seem at this juncture. Taking anything from Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side (their opponent on Wednesday) will be a tall order but they have bigger fish to fry right now and players to protect ahead of the bigger tests to come. After that, it’s Crystal Palace (A) and Brighton (H).
If we take nothing else from this season to forget, let’s mark it down as the year we started to turn the tide. More points and a better finishing position is meagre consolation, I admit, but the fightback has to start somewhere and the power to make it happen is still in our hands.