Things manifestly have been going wrong at Arsenal and arguably not only on the field. Apart from a number of deadly dull displays, the home defeats by Schalke and Chelsea, the slack surrender at Old Trafford, there seem to be structural failings if one can call them so. Certainly the natives, or rather the fans, are restless and you can understand why.
You could hardly blame Arsene Wenger for the loss of such major stars at the prolific Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, whom Arsenal in any case spirited away from his “native” Barcelona, and Samir Nasri. Their contracts ran down, huge increases in their wages danced before their eyes, and Bosman’s Law being what it is, away they went either because their contracts had expired or because they were about to do so.
The stalemate with Theo Walcott comes under the same heading. Some have criticised Wenger for leaving him out of the actual team – whatever his hat trick in the farce at Reading – as a means of punishing his refusal to sign a new contract. But reportedly Walcott has demanded that his present salary of £55,000 per week should be increased to £100,000. Liverpool, against whom he once made that astonishing run at Anfield, seem prepared to pay that money.
But Wenger’s transfer policy in general seems opaque. The signing of that hugely talented, exciting attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla, the scorer of that spectacular but irrelevant late goal at Old Trafford, was surely inspired.
But what to make of the inexplicable almost perverse insistence in keeping the hapless and hopeless Brazilian Andre Santos at left back at Old Trafford, after his pitiful display at The Emirates against a Schalke right-winger who went past him at will. As, indeed, did United’s Antonio Valencia at Old Trafford.
When Steve Bould was appointed Arsenal coach in succession to Pat Rice, we were assured that he would get to grips with the problems in defence. If Only! Things this season at the back have got worse and worse not only and almost comically with poor Santos but in the middle with the big slow turning Per Mertesacker and the previously able Thomas Vermaelen whose almost farcically clumsy error let his ex-team mate Robin Van Persie in for the opening United goal.
But where is the support from the top? The American billionaire top dog Stan Kroenke, holder of a seeming infinity of major sporting franchises in his own USA, is a distant, almost an absentee, figure; reportedly even when he does rarely come to London, he won’t always appear at Arsenal.
At Old Trafford, the fans loudly wondered why another American in Ivor Gazidis is paid such huge bonuses as the main executive. It seems that he has earned them through his successful ancillary dealings for the club, but that is essentially a commercial matter.
Once upon a distant time, from the 1920s onwards, the Hill-Wood family presided, paternally, over the club. There is still a Hill-Wood there, in the shape of Peter, the actual chairman, but he has long since been shifted to the periphery. Ironically when Kroenke was first emerged as a major figure Hill-Wood vehemently opposed the idea, declaring that this wasn’t the kind of person wanted at Arsenal. Only later to be humiliated and forced to fly the Atlantic to beg Kroenke to come aboard. David Dein, who after all brought Wenger to the club may have been a controversial and divisive figure, but he had the club at heart and could give them, if he ever returned, a drive from the top which is manifestly lacking.