20th Season Syndrome

Life’s inevitabilities can come in many different formats: the gift of birth, paying taxes, our impending deaths and Arsenal failing to sign a world-class striker and truly penetrate the top four. It’s just a given that Arsene Wenger’s side will publicly outline their potential transfer targets (who this year came in the form of Gonzalo Higuain, Julian Draxler, Alexandre Lacazette and Jamie Vardy) and fail to successfully attract any of them. It seems every striker in Europe has been, at one point in their career, linked with a move to North London, but the Gunners still find themselves stuck with the devilishly handsome Olivier Giroud and the injury-prone Danny Welbeck – both of which can prove to be competent strikers, but not always truly reliable.

As a result of their transfer calamities, Arsenal’s recent seasons have taken a very similar shape: a promising first-half of the campaign that sees them flirting with the division’s uppermost of echelons, but the arrival of spring sees them knocked out of the Champions League by either Bayern Munich or Barceona, buckle under pressure, and finally demote themselves to a very familiar 3/4th place.

Wenger therefore, has earned himself his fair share of doubters. With the days of Highbury and the ‘invincibles’ seeming almost an age ago, and two FA cups the only major accolades won by Arsenal since 2005, they’re also doubters who can be sympathised with. Especially since last season provided the perfect opportunity to remove such discontent, with their only rivals for a much-needed title being their cross-city rivals Tottenham and almighty underdogs Leicester City. Arsenal finished as runners-up – and it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity for them to claim the title in the years to come.

This is because this summer’s transfer window has been one of the most mesmerising of all time. Huge amounts of strengthening have taken place, especially by the Gunner’s rivals, who have brought in household names in an attempt to re-establish some order into the title race. Leicester’s ribbons being draped upon the trophy seems to have awoken the sleeping giants in the division, with the two Manchester outfits especially going to extreme measures to ensure that the East Midland minnows cannot repeat their feat of sheer improbability – and who have Arsenal bought in to combat the likes of Zlatan, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Gündogan, Stones and Nolito? Well aside from the ill-disciplined (but nevertheless talented) Granit Xhaka, Bolton’s Rob Holding is the other ‘marquee’ signing. Not exactly riveting, is it?

In my opinion, Arsene Wenger could have learned a lot from the heavily-awaited departure of the impeccable Sir Alex Ferguson. Summed up quite perfectly by the fictional Harvey Dent: ”You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” – Arsene has dragged his career out to the point where his original impact upon English football is all but tarnished completely. Ferguson however, left on the back of a title-winning campaign, and has now gone down in history as one of the all-time greatest managers to ever to take to a dugout. Would it not have been better if the perpetual Frenchman called it a day after one of the recent FA Cup successes?

In my eyes, yes, but that window of opportunity has now vanished. Arsene Wenger’s departure could still be years away, which provides plenty of time for more tales of mediocrity. Arsenal’s fans may just have to accept that this is the direction in which their club is heading whilst he remains at the helm. Until a younger, hungrier manager walks out onto that hallowed turf, 4th place it is.

P.S. – By the way – no offence was meant towards Rob Holding. I’m sure the North West’s take on Sergio Ramos will prove himself to be just the man cope with some of the strongest attacks the Premier League has ever seen.

By Dan Wiseman

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