Following a frustrating summer of inaction and an opening 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa in their Premier League season opener, Arsenal fans have turned on the manager and the board ahead of a tough trip to Istanbul on Wednesday.
With a threadbare squad riddled with injuries and the walking wounded, Arsenal face Fenerbahce in the first leg of their Champions League play-off this week after promising fans all summer long that big name signings would be made to improve the squad.
The fans are fuming – their anger and disillusionment was palpable at the Emirates on Saturday as the Gunners lost to a Villa side that was fighting for survival last term. But the situation could get a whole lot worse if the players become disillusioned.
All summer long a number of key first-team players have come out calling, begging, hoping and wishing for new arrivals – Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, and Mikel Arteta to name but a few have all stated their desire to have more quality competition and reinforcement.
Vice-captain Arteta recent stated his belief that the club will bring in top players, forwards Podolski and Giroud both look forward to quality competition of which they are unfazed. The players have echoed the fans’ call for arms in their arsenal and yet the club have yet to spend a penny on transfers with just under a fortnight left before the transfer window slams shut.
The fans have made their feelings known – at the game on Saturday, through the media, and in letters addressed directly to the club – but the players have yet to comment. I wonder how they’re feeling right about now.
For several seasons Arsenal have lost their best players and failed to adequately replace them – Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, the list goes on – professional footballers at the highest level want to play with and against the best and right now the Gunners do not have a single player one could regard as the best in his position in the country, never mind on the continent or across the world.
The fans booed the players off the pitch on the final whistle on Saturday – whilst their anger was clearly aimed at the manager and the board, the players are unlikely to be boosted in confidence or morale when 60,000 home fans boo the team off the pitch after a humiliating defeat.
Now the manager this week will be ardently trying to lift their spirits, instill them with desire and belief but if you were an Arsenal player on Wednesday, would you still have total faith in the boss and the club?
Would you still believe you can and will win titles against mounting evidence to the contrary? Would you still trust the system when it’s failing? Would you, if you were Kieran Gibbs or Bacary Sagna be prepared to play carrying a head injury or a neck injury knowing there is pretty much no one on the bench to relieve you if your body cannot absorb the pressure?
I have no idea what Arsene Wenger will say to his players this week – I suspect he’ll draw a line under Saturday’s defeat, remind this team it was just one game with an incompetent referee and set them to work on their preparations for Fenerbahce.
He will rebuild their confidence in themselves but after such a big blow and surrounded by so much negativity can he rebuild their confidence in him? Arsene Wenger is already well on his way to losing the fans – the fans that adore him and trust him and believe in him – but is he in danger of losing the dressing room?
image: © Matt and Kim Rudge