Arsene, how have you let it come to this? The fat lady might not be singing about Monsieur Wenger’s 16 year reign as Arsenal boss, but she sounds like she is clearing her throat and no matter how much you might dislike the man himself or the football club he has managed with such distinction for so long, this is a sad sight for everybody.
Wenger is one of the greats, a true football genius, so to see him try and explain away the utterly abject penalty shoot-out loss to League Two Bradford City was horrible to watch. He said he shouldn’t be embarrassed and even went as far to say the players ‘gave everything’, but they were the hollow words of a man who seems to have lost whatever it was that made him so good.
Let’s get straight to it – the defeat at Valley Parade was abysmal, and would never have happened to Wenger’s Arsenal a few years ago. Lacking in nearly everything that Alan Hansen constantly tells us a top side needs – fight, commitment, desire – it seemed like the nadir of a long, slow, painful, seemingly irreversible decline that has been ongoing for several years now.
Wenger deserves better than this, but in many ways he only has himself to blame. Quite what is going on at boardroom level is anybody’s guess – does Wenger have money to spend? Who knows? – but even if those that run the club have let Wenger down with their poor handling of player contracts, the Frenchman has to take the blame for the relatively poor purchases he has made over recent seasons.
For one reason and another, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Robin van Persie have all moved on in search of trophies, and given that Arsenal haven’t won one since 2005, you can’t blame them. But they have been replaced with far inferior models, and the decline in quality of Arsenal’s squad from the Invincibles side to the team that were beaten by Bradford is alarming.
You get the feeling something has to change, and it may be that Wenger is finally coming to the end of his reign. This decline has happened on his watch, after all, and this Arsenal side is so far below the standard of years gone by it is actually quite shocking to see.
And the most damning thing you can say about Arsenal is do you really trust them to give their manager a reaction when they go to Reading on Monday? I certainly don’t, and if you are backing them at 8/13 then you and I have absolutely nothing in common.
In fact, I would be desperate to oppose the Gunners here, especially against a home side that is 4/1. But can you back Reading either? I would suggest not: the Royals look every inch relegation fodder and you can’t see any other outcome for them this year other than an immediate return to the Championship.
Reading are actually regressing, not getting better, and they are in the middle of an awful five game losing streak that sees them go into the match at the Madejski bottom of the league. Their 3-0 loss at Sunderland was desperately poor, and lying seven points adrift of safety they already look doomed.
There is a lack of Premier League quality, and one win from 16 games tells its own story. So as much as I want to be against Arsenal, I don’t want to be with Reading and even the draw at 29/10 doesn’t interest me.
So instead, I’ll be on both teams to score at 8/13. Both defences look extremely vulnerable (Reading have let in 31 goals this year) and there has been a trend for this happening at the Madejski this year: eight of Reading’s nine home games this season have seen both sides find the net, while the same has happened in six of Arsenal’s last seven away trips.
You don’t trust either team to keep a clean sheet, and that 8/13 looks good enough to me.