United defeat may be last straw as Arsenal go Ker-plunk
Insanity is loosely defined as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting differing results, at least metaphorically speaking.
Sadly in football, or at least for Arsenal fans right now, there is no metaphor. As documented, the experience of many a Gunner has been something of a Groundhog Day of late, but Saturday evening's latest debacle was too painful to behold and one that may be the signal for change.
For years now, the frustration of yet another defeat to Manchester United has been a sore point for Arsenal certainly in the Alex Ferguson era. The last victory the Gunners recorded versus the Red Devils was in a 1-0 victory back in 2010, courtesy of an Aaron Ramsey goal. But with David Moyes and now Louis van Gaal, the opportunity was there to exorcize those demons just as they did at Wembley last May. In both instances they failed. Last time out Robin van Persie haunted his former employers - albeit illness decimated ones - with a glancing header from a corner.
At the Emirates, the opportunity was even greater but the scars of the past seemed to shackle the North Londoners into their shells, mindful of another defeat to their perennial conquerors. Such timidity has been one of Arsene Wenger's greatest faults of late, but it was their attacking profligacy that arose this past weekend. From a first half that saw Wenger's men dominate for 30 minutes in a manner not seen for a while, to another predictable and yet unfathomable result.
Had Jack Wilshere converted a gleaming opportunity to give his side the lead as he raced through a pourous United defence, things may have been so different. And yet not. Such was the evidence that Van Gaal's men were for the taking had never been more apparent in the fashion that Swansea had done on the opening day of the season. Sadly for Wenger, the reality of the misfortunes of an defensive injury list the size of the club's Armoury has been met head on by the Frenchman's failing and dated on-field philosophies. Once again harsh realities were there for all who wanted to see them.
So much so, that when Antonio Valencia's hopeful drive across the Gunner's boughs deflected off the hapless Kieran Gibbs and past a fallen Wojciech Szczesny, it was almost inevitable. United hadn't had one single shot on target compared to their opponents seven or eight - despite being straight attempts - that had been kept out by the busy David De Gea, and somehow they led without a single shy at goal. It was so typical. The goal merely served to deflate the Arsenal balloon.
It was the second concession that hit hardest. Under Fergie's stewardship, Arsenal were caught time and time again on the counter attack by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Wayne Rooney and once more Rooney did what he does versus Arsenal and notched his eleventh goal versus the Gunners, overtaking Robbie Fowler as the North Londoner's chief nemesis. Angel Di Maria should also have been added to that far from exclusive group but was uncharacteristic in performance and fluffed his flines late on. But more keenly obvious was the team shape for the goal.
With the Gunners searching for an equalizer that seemed more and more unlikely, Mertesacker was instructed, by Wenger, to root himself in the offensive half. Whilst this was an understandable measure, leaving just Nacho Monreal - the ultimate in makeshift defenders - versus Di Maria and Rooney was the equivalent of football harikari and shows a former great now simply out of his depth by refusing to change. More importantly however it was further evidence that Arsenal have gone backwards as Wenger's gameplan crumbles before his delusional eyes.
Sunday morning saw a further nuance. For the first time there was almost widespread opinion that a new dawn should begin in the red part of London. The Telegraph's Henry Winter - an Arsenal fan himself - stated it was time for Wenger to move on but and was correct in pointing out the need for the club to fully sever ties and not simply usher 'Le Professeur' upstairs. As he states with regard to Ferguson, his cloud hung over Moyes like the sword of damocles and still will for the rest of the club's history. If Wenger takes up a post in the hierarchy, his beliefs and policy will still lead Arsenal.
That will be a painful and emotional separation for many, but is one that seems to be becoming a necessity. There now appear to be murmours of discontent from Steve Bould's possible departure to Stan Kronke's rumoured concern - ironically - with increasing fan discontent. Concerns have been voiced form the Wenger old guard, but such opinions would seem to hold little sway in the muddied Arsenal waters. Because the cold hard truth is, whether they be a big name in the managerial world or not, they would likely be a better fit than the current Arsenal incarnation.