The old idiom states that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, but Arsenal’s fall from grace from the early noughties has been slow, measured and consistent.
The fall consumed the team and the club and the fans to the point where vague memories and desires of glory remained, but with each passing day saw themselves further and further from our reaches until, poof, mid-table mediocrity presided.
Of course, there were moments of elation and warmth that saw numerous FA Cup glories, but to all intents and purpose, these served as fleeting distractions from the bigger problems that were lurking and becoming ever more conspicuous as the seasons passed.
An ageing team inexplicably bereft of genuine veterans teamed with confusing management and unconvincing authority has rooted us in a place where it would be nothing short of cruel to expect the youngsters to dig us out from, and we are now serving our penance for our mistakes.
Champions League seems futher away than ever
Nearly half a decade since Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 19 successive seasons, we have found ourselves in the worst position that most living fans will recall Arsenal have been in, but there is good news, and that’s that we’re only a third of the way through this wretched season. Or maybe that’s bad news? I guess that’s for us to find out?
Can Arsenal turn things around and score a few goals for a change?
Well the short answer is obviously yes. Arsenal can turn things around and Arsenal - hopefully sooner, rather than later - will turn things around. Whether they’ll turn things around and go on to surpass previous recent heights is unknown and seemingly unlikely given the state of the club, but the team is certainly well equipped enough to not be 15th in the league. I know. Imagine such a thing...
Southampton at the Emirates
You’d have presumed that the first step would be to win against Southampton or at the very least, not lose to them.
I think we can all agree that this would be a decent start that it might even elicit a smile and a celebratory drink, rather than a commissary drink. They’re both the same drink, in case you’re wondering, but one you get to drink with a spring in your step.
Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin
Due to certain team restrictions, both Granit Xhaka and Héctor Bellerín will find themselves unable to play which, at least for the former, I’m not sure anyone will be too unhappy about.
As for Hector, I still like him a lot, but must admit that a game or two away from the first eleven wouldn’t do Arsenal any harm. Further good news is that, presuming he won’t suffer any further punishment from the manager following his silly sending off, Pépé will be able to start hopefully in place of Willian and will be able to showcase the relationship he and Maitland-Niles have seen blossom between team, as the latter will most likely play in Héctor’s stead.
Seeing Willian anywhere but the starting eleven is admittedly a very eyebrow-raising and deeply unlikely desire, but you know, maybe we’ll get one of those lovely Christmas miracles you hear about on the telly. Since Partey is still injured, that will probably mean that Ceballos and Elneny will partner up in the centre, though I’d love to see Smith-Rowe in there and maybe even Nelson could get a shot. Southampton are a very organised team, so a little bit of flair and creativity could be what balances the scales in our favour here.
But would a win make us happy?
There are some things that are easily fixed though, and I hate to keep banging this drum, but the Saliba thing really bothers me.
This past weekend my family and I rented a big old 16th century house in Hereford to stay and drink in for my mum’s birthday. It was very nice and covid-safe and there was no internet; not because of some rule based on modern pretensions where screens are satan-spawn, but because the house was completely out of reach of 4G signal and The National Trust decided not to fit it with wifi.
Knowing the drive back home would be four hours long, I left immediately after breakfast because I read the Arsenal game time wrong three days prior, thinking kick-off was at 430pm and not 715pm but some time in, had to stop off at the services to use the amenities.
For the hours that followed on the road, I was in a bad mood because, sat in a cubicle in a service station off the M40 only minutes before, opening Twitter on my phone for the first time in three days, I was reminded why so often Arsenal are a team I hate to love.
The whole William Saliba on Guendouzi’s Instagram thing. He literally thinks he’s a prisoner. That’s a fucking farce. Rob Holding’s actually been playing quite well recently as I’ve always thought he could but fuck me, give the poor kid a go.
Come on The Arsenal
I’ve completely derailed here. I suppose what I’m supposed to say is “Come on The Arsenal!” and “Beat Southampton,” but I will add one caveat: Do it with style. Please. I’d quite like to sleep well again.