Arsenal will be in the FA Cup Final for the third time in the last four years on Saturday. And, while an FA Cup success remains something to be celebrated – and will by me should Arsenal win – there’s a disturbing cloud hanging over the club as the season ends.
Friday is an anniversary of sorts for me – the 28th year of my being an Arsenal fan (Go and ask a Liverpool supporter what happened on May 26, 1989). Twenty eight years of screaming at TVs, one night of dancing on a table in Melville (thank you Sylvain Wiltord), downing bad American beer in a Missouri bar (celebrating the FA Cup win in 1998) and hurting my knee after Aaron Ramsey scored the winner against Hull three years ago.
Arsenal have provided much joy and anguish in 28 years but as the season draws to a close in 2017, all I have is concern.
No one seems to know what the hell is going on. Will Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil stay? Will Alex Oxlade Chamberlain sign a new contract or be tempted by overtures from Liverpool? What will happen to the greatest manager the club’s ever had?
And what in the name of Jens Lehmann is going on in the boardroom where one rich Russian guy is trying to smash (figuratively) a rich American guy over who will own and run the club? And why the hell did Laurent Koscielny think it prudent to go flying into that Everton chap and thus get himself banned from Saturday’s final?
I’m not even that bothered that Arsenal finished fifth this season. With the exception of the 2006 final, Arsenal have done less than sweet fanny bugger-all in the Champions League in the last 10 years and I’ve grown tired of losing to Barcelona or Bayern Munich every year. A trip to NK Široki Brijeg in Bosnia and Herzegovina will actually be refreshing.
Arsenal is crying out for guidance and dynamic leadership. And yes, that includes the manager. The squad this season is a very good one and should have produced a more concerted challenge for the Premiership title, but they came up short because the four teams above the Gunners are managed better.
Arsene Wenger has not been helped by the fact he’s working for an absentee Board of Directors, he seems a step behind what the likes of (Antonio) Conte and (Mauricio) Pochettino are managing with their players.
But I dearly hope Wenger can win. It won’t be the solution to all the problems at my favourite team, but I need a good memory from this season.