Sports and Boxing Day go together perfectly hand in hand especially football and Boxing day with that infamous scorecard from 1963 giving people hope. After all, when 66 goals were scored in a single game week, people are bound to hope that something half as exciting happens.
And that is especially when the world is placed in a year like 2020 which has led to a season like 2020/21, people expect the best. Because so far, this has been the season where respect has gone out the window and joining it seems to be fear. After all, what else would you put it down to when Manchester United lose 6-1 to Tottenham or when Manchester City are trounced 5-2 by Leicester City and especially when Liverpool lost 7-2 to Aston Villa.
Respect is most definitely not present but in a world where there’s a never-ending reel of VAR-driven conspiracies and insanely lopsided results, Boxing Day should have a lot in store. But while the world falls in love with Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, with Jack Grealish, with Ralph Hasenhuttl and his band of merry men on the South Coast and more, for Arsenal fans, this hasn’t been what they expected. Then again, things have never worked out the way those at the Emirates expected it to.
Alexis Sanchez was expected to be the man to lead them back to the promised land, Mesut Ozil was supposed to be their symbol of greatness, Robin van Persie was never supposed to sign for a direct rival. Then there’s their stadium which fourteen years after it’s first game, and more Premier League games than Highbury has ever seen, is yet to see a major trophy beyond an FA Cup grace its field.
It has never quite been what Arsenal has expected yet as they descend into chaos after firing dinosaurs, and ostracising former record signings, they’re still so entertaining to watch. Not on the field, because that has been dreary, but off the field especially in the aftermath of a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City. Because for all their lack of performances in the Premier League, Arsenal in the cups still seems to be an outfit that can play football.
A clean sweep of their Europa League group proved that, wins over Leicester City and Liverpool before that humbling battle against Manchester City brought their fans back to the ground. Things are never as they expected and yet for Arsenal, this seasons a little worse than anyone would ever dream of. Going into a London derby against their second most hated rivals, Chelsea, and the North Londoners sit in 15th place, a mere four points off the drop zone.
Lose against the Blues, and should result elsewhere go against them, it could be as close as one point. Which means that for the first time in 117 years, Arsenal are in genuine threat of actually getting relegated and they’re doing it on the back of what was supposed to be a turnaround year. After all, walking into the season, few would have pegged the Gunners not to finish in a top-six spot.
Especially since Mikel Arteta had won them the FA Cup in his first eight odd months as manager, they were playing interesting football and it had hope emanating from the Emirates again. It was supposed to be the start of a new era with optimism all over the place especially when they signed Thomas Partey to solidify and add steel to a “weak” midfield. Then there was Arteta himself who looked like he walked into the Emirates as a manager of what seems like exceptional potential and a modern plan to change the Arsenal.
They re-tuned the scouting system, sacked Raul Sanllehi and looked to pave the way back with smart signings brought in at very affordable prices, aka the Arsenal way. But for all that talk about the Arsenal way, the Gunners look out of sorts with them moving through the motions without any sense of purpose or direction. There’s even talk about sacking Arteta, before or after the Chelsea game depending on whom you believe, but that is one precedence that Arsenal cannot set.
It doesn’t seem like they want to, but what do we know what’s happening behind closed doors? But that is not the precedence that Arsenal want to or can even afford to set especially since then entire world knew just how big the project it was when Arteta took over. Was handing the reigns to an inexperienced manager risky? Naturally but it’s a decision the board took and now that it looks like the issues of the past are shaking hands with the future, it is no time to run.
Because while Arteta may or may not be good enough to steer Arsenal back, he played no part in the problems here. If anything, he’s the renegade fireman who has run back into a burning building despite his common sense tingling, against the explicit orders of his former boss as fans and the world screams at him not to do just that. Because this was going to be a re-build of epic propositions and that’s a fact that everyone knew with Stan Kroenke making it even harder by tying Arteta’s hands and legs.
This has been, as he slowly gained complete control of Arsenal, one of the club’s biggest problems in the fact that they have an owner who doesn’t seem to care. In fact, since he has taken over, the Gunners have fallen out of the Champions League and finished the lowest they’ve ever managed in over 25 years. Add that to his arms-length ownership and it leaves fans protesting with banners that may never even be seen by those being protested against.
Things may have changed recently with reports indicating that the Kroenke’s paid the money that signed Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey but a €110 million doesn’t help create a team. Then there’s Josh Kroenke. While the younger man looks like he has a genuine interest to try and make Arsenal better, he is still the owner’s unqualified son overseeing what is essentially a chaotic hull of an on the fringes elite-level European club trying to get back to where it once was.
But either way, Arsenal cannot afford to sack Mikel Arteta especially because it sets a dangerous precedence and one that they cannot afford to have. After all, Unai Emery makes the case rather nicely with the Spaniard now at Villarreal and helping them challenge for the title - 19 matches unbeaten across all competitions, while still making a prime case to win the La Liga doesn't bode Arsenal any well
And while that new manager boost looks ever so nice and refreshing right about now, it certainly won’t solve any long-term problems and it most definitely won’t see Arsenal back to their best. The question is, where on earth is that smell really coming from?