Today’s fixture with QPR is far more important than it should be for Arsenal: coming off the back of the fractious shareholders’ meeting this week, the fans are in desperate need of something positive.
A home game with a side in QPR’s position and recent fixture history shouldn’t represent a significant challenge, but there’s a sense now that the unrest and distrust that exists between the fans, the boardroom, and the manager is spilling out onto the pitch – fail to take all three points today, and that feeling will become all the more tangible.
Against Schalke, Arsenal were insipid – there’s really no other fitting description. There was no intent, no belief, no anything, and the only time the side looked like causing their opponents any damage was when Santi Cazorla was on the ball. Nobody else from that starting eleven deserves any credit, and a couple of them need to pay for their performance with their place.
The one obvious bit of good news is the imminent return of Jack Wilshere, who should at least see some game-time. Wilshere represents the future, and tomorrow more than ever he needs to be sent out to satisfy the crowd. Ivan Gazidis preached the importance of youth this week, and the stressed the value of these developing players in the club’s future – Wilshere almost single-handedly props that argument up, because he’s the only Arsenal youngster who is currently guaranteed a top-tier future. The rest? Who knows – they might just be a collection of Carlos Velas and Fran Meridas.
This needs to be a win today, because this a real tipping point. 2012/13 so far seems to be a mirror image of last season, a slow start and there’s already a steep in-climb to mount if they’re to re-qualify for the Champions League. This year’s different though: Chelsea are far better than they were, Everton look strong, Tottenham can’t be counted on to implode as they did eight months ago – Arsenal won’t be let off the hook if they stutter for too much longer.
When everybody’s fit, this is a very competitive Arsenal side, but the acrimony that exists at the club is in danger of derailing any potential that the team has. Taking three points today is a must, because next up is a trip to Old Trafford for the jarring reunion with Robin van Persie – Arsenal need to travel north with some semblance of confidence and collective harmony.
The last week aside, this season hasn’t been as bad as it’s being made out to be; the meeting, the injuries, and the nature of the two losses have conspired to alter the reality into something far more gloomy. It’s classic short-termism, and it’s being fuelled by the press as much as anybody else, but that perception is essentially the reality – lose today, and all of a sudden words like ‘crisis’ and ‘turmoil’ will start being used.
Nobody needs that. Get it done today, and right the trend.