Sunday the 28th of August, 2011.
The day when the Arsenal Football Club, our club, were handed their heaviest defeat in Premier League history, conceding eight goals and slumping to 17th on the table.
It was painful. It was embarrassing. It was surreal. A six-goal loss to a team we aim to compete with each and every season. Not good enough, under any circumstances.
But. But. But.
IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD.
It might prove to be the end of one era and the start of another, but it is not the end of the world.
This has been the most difficult pre-season at Arsenal since I can remember. We’ve lost a host of players including two of our best, in circumstances that have left us crippled and short on numbers from day one.
Yes, the managerial team are partly to blame. They left things far too late.
But look at Nasri’s comments upon joining City and tell me he didn’t make things difficult for Wenger. Look at the way Barcelona have acted and tell me they didn’t make things difficult for Wenger.
We have a truckload of money but could not even think about spending it until Champions League qualification was confirmed. It has been confirmed but Manchester United away, the most difficult fixture of the season, came a week too soon.
Looking at a line-up decimated by transfers, suspensions, injuries and more late injuries, we were never going to compete. Jenkinson and Traore at the back? Coquelin in central midfield? Ozyakup and Sunu on the bench? Not a chance in hell.
A result this spectacularly bad could turn out to be vitally important to the future of this squad and future of Wenger. The silver lining of an 8-2 loss is that you simply cannot get any lower.
This is a reset point. There is no point looking back. There is the season before the transfer window closes while the squad is still being organised. There is the season after the transfer window when the squad is locked in.
Unfortunately we played Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester United during a time when we were crippled. Alternatively you could see this as an advantage: we may well have struggled to get good results with a full squad later in the season anyway.
A thought: if you had to choose between three losses in the Premier League and qualification in the Champions League to three wins in the Premier League and missing out on qualification in the Champions League, which would you take? It doesn’t address our problem but it does offer some perspective.
Wenger has money, he knows the areas of the pitch that need to be strengthened and he and his managerial team has three days to sort things out. South Korean striker Park Chu-Young is on the way, we have the money to purchase Gary Cahill and a third blockbuster midfield signing must be made.
The manager is not stupid, he knows how the fans feel and he knows what will make them happy. His task is to juggle their expectations with his own as well as the realities of the modern football market and make the appropriate decisions. I trust him to do this.
Personally, I feel quite calm about things. I still look at the nucleus of our squad, at players like Vermaelen, Sagna, Szczesny, van Persie, Wilshere, Song and Ramsey and feel confident of recovering from this. These are terrific players with heart and pride who simply do not see second-best as acceptable.
Neither does the manager. At 3-1 down the manager took of Coquelin, our defensive midfielder who had a fine debut, and replaced him with Chamberlain, an attacker. Wenger wanted to fight back, he wanted to get it back to 3-3. It backfired spectacularly but as long as we maintain this attitude we will hold on to our status as a title contender.
The next three days are vital for our club because we need to bring in players. We simply cannot compete without reinforcements. But until the window slams shut and we see the state of the squad then I see it as impossible to make a judgment about our ambitions and expectations for the season.
As I mentioned earlier yesterday’s result marks the pressing of the reset button. Good or bad this is a new era for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal but as always, I look forward to our response with open mind and open heart.
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