There’s been a common phrase making the rounds across the Arsenal fanbase over the last few years: ‘it’s the hope that kills you’.
But a week ago things were looking up. Seven games unbeaten in the league with just two goals conceded, Arsenal were in the running for an unlikely top four challenge. Would we have achieved top four? Probably not, yet we were seeing a plan in motion and the early workings of a decent football team.
Now our hopes of top four have been totally shot to pieces, and again it’s being questioned whether this team can even qualify for Europe via their league position. It makes our limp exit from the FA cup even more frustrating as this was a viable option for a route into Europe – and a trophy, of course. I didn’t really dwell to much on the FA Cup exit as I felt the league had justifiably been made a priority.
Since the cup exit the Gunners have taken four points from twelve – far from impressive given the big statement that was there to be made in the following fixtures.
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Arsenal and the the hope that kills you
Now the side are looking at returning to the pre-Christmas slump, with no win in three and in the middle of a very tricky run of fixtures: Arsenal still have to play the likes of Leicester, Manchester City, Tottenham and West Ham in four of our next six games, as well as daunting Europa league duties.
The performances of late haven’t been as bad as previous, and you can offer a degree of sympathy in that they’ve been unlucky not to walk away with more. However, the underlying issue remains that we are not turning these performances into points. Against Aston Villa the game could’ve stretched into next week and Arsenal still wouldn’t have scored. Old problems have reared their heads again and there is a lack a spark in attack.
One of the continuing issues is that Mikel Arteta is reluctant to rotate his team unless it’s enforced. Since victory against Chelsea on Boxing Day, Arteta has near enough stuck with the same attacking lineup in the league. The likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette have all been ever-present over the run of league fixtures in the last four weeks and that surely has bought on a certain degree of fatigue. He can be somewhat forgiven for wanting to play his best players every week, mind you.
Another issue is Arteta’s continued insistence on bringing on Willian – still with zero goals and one assist since the opening day – when we are chasing a goal in place of someone like Gabriel Martinelli. This can’t be good for the youngster’s confidence.
After the high of our winning run we have been brought back down to reality, again, and it is clear that there is still so much more work to do. It’s even more clear that Arteta still has a lot to perfect in his own management style. Many, like myself, remain on the fence in regards to whether Arteta is the man to take us forward, but I’m reserving the right to truly judge until after the summer transfer window.
He may turn it round next season and turn us into genuine top four contenders. He may not. However, it is advisable as an Arsenal fan not to trust a hope.