Arsenal 71 Blackburn 29
The press are of course having a field day. This is exactly what they love. Arsenal beaten not just once but twice in one season by lower league teams. Worse, by a team that this time last year Arsenal beat 7-1.
There was booing at the end of the match, although the statement in the media that “Arsenal were booed off the pitch” makes it sound much worse than it was. A minority booed. That is still not good for the club, but it is a fact. Most people there retained their support for the club.
And I suspect most were in shock, because they had just seen Arsenal have 71% of the possession. An extraordinary amount. If you want to get that number down you have to count as possession the time it took Blackburn’s goalkeeper to release the ball. This man was taking anything from 10 to 13 seconds.
But still I suppose its only a law of the game which says (last time I looked) that the maximum permitted time is 5 seconds.
Not that that swung the game. Arsenal simply couldn’t find the way through. 28 goal attempts to 7 tells the story. No one found the net, everyone looked off form and when the cavalry appeared they had too much to do, and not enough time to do it.
So what is to be done?
Sack the manager? All well and good if you know who to bring in, but as Chelsea show us (seemingly every other week) sacking managers is no recipe for success in domestic competitions, nor come to that this season in the Champions League.
Besides there is always the question of who to bring in. Who could bring the success of the early Wenger years and the stability, who would actually want to come to Arsenal with its active anti-Arsenal “Black Flag” movement. It is not a job many would relish – at least when there are many other posts available.
Bring in new players? Possibly so, but the pressure on the financially sound clubs is to sell their best players (just watch Tottenham have to face what Arsenal has faced for each of the last four or five seasons), rather than be able to compete with the obscure finances of Real Madrid, the benefactor finances of Man City, or the frankly unbelievable finances of Barcelona.
Change the financial model? At a time when the rest of football is awaiting change in the current financial model, courtesy of FFP it would seem odd for Arsenal to move over to the model that everyone else is trying to get out of.
Wait for change in Uefa and the Premier League? That looks to be about the only way forwards that is viable at the present time. More of the same. Many of the fans won’t like it, but since this is, for some of them, the worst Arsenal team in history (I mean, really!) anything is better than this.
Of course Mr Wenger might resign, but I doubt it, because it is part of the man’s self-validation that he has never walked out on a club. I suspect he will continue to do his thing. The booing fans will continue to boo. The long-term faithful will continue to be faithful. The millions of fans around the world will hope for a turn around.
I’ve no doubt it will come, but whether it will be this or next season I am no longer so sure.