10 April 2016

And it's Arsenal, not Arsène FC...

The writing's on the wall, now: with six fixtures left, Arsenal have to close a six-point gap on Tottenham or go without St. Totteringham's Day for the first time in Arsène Wenger's reign. It's been since 1995 that we've had to cancel a holiday that many Gooners had assumed was a birthright. 21 years—not that we're done counting, what with those six fixtures left. The younger ones among you—those who have known nothing but a guarantee that we would always finish above Tottenham come hell or high water—should remind themselves that this is a club, not man, and that the club has finished below Tottenham before. That Arsène hasn't ever done so is more his business than anyone else's.

It's happened before...
None of this is to say that I've given up on the holiday. Far from it. Tottenham still have a few very tricky fixtures, and regardless of how it feels, the cold, hard fact is that they're really only three points clear of us. Three. We've been dreadful these last few weeks, having dropped ten points from our last six matches, and we're still within a stone's throw of our noisome neighbors. If this is what it takes to finally snap this little streak—them finding the purpest of patches they've seen in a generation and us stumbling along like brain-dead zombies—fine. Let the babies have their bottles. It seems like it's only once a generation that they show any.

This whole issue is, as I said, more about Arsène than it is about Arsenal. Yes, he's delivered us some exquisite football and revolutionised how football is played, but yesterday's revolutionary is today's reactionary. It's one thing to be outspent by Chelsea, Man U, and Man City. Finishing behind them, after all, is little more than the dismal science at work. However, when you're outmanaged by Claudio Ranieri, Slaven Bilić and Ronald Koeman, among others, it's time to reconsider. Pochettino falls somewhere between the two; Tottenham had all of that delicious Bale-sale money to invest, and Pochettino is a talented manager.

It's only a matter of time before the St. Totteringham's Day is cancelled for the year. It looks likely this season, but hardly certain. However, to look at the bigger picture, we've had one eye if not both on the past for too long, whether that refers to Arsène's salad-days, the trophy-drought, or St. Totteringham's Day . That trophy-drought was a monkey on our backs—an 800-pound gorilla at times. Finishing above Tottenham starts to feel the same. I'm not saying we should look forward to finishing below them. Hell, no. Our real goal, however, is not to finish above Tottenham but to win the Prem. Finishing above Tottenham is ancillary.

I hope that Arsène doesn't become a burden similar to that trophy-drought or St. Totteringham's Day, but in a season in which Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man U have collapsed to varying degrees, the fact that we'll finish below Leicester and perhaps below Tottenham does give rise to the idea that Arsène is more albatross than asset.

Let's face facts, though. Tottenham have lost but four matches. Only Leicester has been better (and we handed them two of their three). Tottenham have scored 60 goals so far, most in the Prem; and have conceded just 25, least in the Prem. In any other season, they'd be the crème de la Prem, but so miraculous has been Leicester's season that Tottenham have been all but ignored. They've almost quietly gone about the business of having a very, very good season—by their standards. If they win out, they'll reach 80 points, their highest total since ever. Ever. They've never reached such dizzying heights. This would be a truly historic event for them.

I say "would" because this is all still hypothetical. For as much as we had pinned our hopes to Man U winning at White Hart Lane, we should've known better. Van Gaal didn't name the same U21 squad he named against us in February. Still, there remains a fair few fixtures left, and stranger things have happened.

Whichever way it turns out, the larger goal is still to finish in the top three. Let the Mancs squabble over a Champions League playoff spot whilst fending off West Ham. We have the inside track on third place...with Tottenham in our sights for second.