The humiliation of the Capital One Cup defeat of Arsenal by Bradford City on a cold, wintery night in North England on 11 December 2012 may yet have more significant – if not positive – consequences for a football club of Arsenal's hitherto immense stature. Placing 65 places below a stuttering Arsenal team this term, Bradford outfought – but not outplayed – a full strength Arsenal side missing, possibly, Mikel Arteta as a definite starter.
In a performance full of determination and verve, Bradford took their chance well, Thompson putting away a neat header from a cross undermining, again, the flaws in the zonal marking defensive strategy that Arsenal have employed this season. But for the intervention of Vermaelen, Bradford's victory could have deservedly occurred in regulation time, deferring an outcome that seemed only fair for the League Two's sheer gutsy effort. An Arsenal victory would have been wrong. It would have produced an undeserved outcome from a David and Goliath contest, a travesty for those who believe that honest graft should end in a gratifying result so that encouragement can continue to support future endeavours, even in sport.
Understandably, the post-mortem has already commenced. On the pitch, several things are wrong. The fullest blame lies with the players. Only two players – Wilshere and Carzola – were playing as if the outcome mattered to them. The others, sadly, probably felt that all they needed for a result was to show up! Szczesny had very little to do all night and no blame can be attributed to him. The "usual suspects" Ramsey and Gervinho are being picked on as being the reasons for the continued failure of the team but the others appeared to have been "intimidated" if not bullied by opponents so technically distanced from them. Questions have now heightened about whether, even on balance, several of the players who now occupy the first team berths are, infact, good enough to compete with others in the top flight. Then comes the pattern and team strategy. For a coach of huge and immeasurable accomplishments like Arsene Wenger, his tactical nous is now been questioned chiefly because the team, as a whole, is failing so much in its results that these inquiries are now rife. The team's overall play has become lethargic, lacking the speed and zip for which the team had become so famous and envied. 4-3-3; 4-4-1-1; 4-5-1? All permutations have all been employed, at times in the last couple of seasons without the team settling into a defined, acceptable formation. Many argue that the team should return to 4-4-2 with which its most successful campaigns were pursued but one suspects that this is unlikely given the players available. Whatever the system is, the questions are numerous, the answers are few. So what next?
Playing like this, every victory papers the gaping cracks in the Arsenal dynamics. This means an undesirable postponement of a much-needed overhaul of the playing features of the club. There is a lot wrong with the club, the way the football side is being run and the outcomes on a day-to-day basis. Every transfer window, Arsenal is the subject of the most intensified activity in the entire league, with rumours not only about comings but also about goings. This level of instability is unacceptable. The top sides in world football winning titles do not have this magnitude of transfer interest. It is disruptive and undermines any long term planning goals. A management that considers this an "attraction" is hopelessly deluded and out of touch. The frenzy for January has already started with every player whose contract has 12 months or less a potential Arsenal player. Any team that knowingly permits its good players contracts' to approach this stage without resolution is inept, yet this seems to be acceptable, somehow, at Arsenal. Then there is panic buying, the type that is about to happen in January where players of a similar ilk to those here now are acquired, on good salaries. As for salaries, if public domain knowledge is to be believed, the "pay structure" in place has so outlived its usefulness that a stubborn refusal to change it will mean that only a certain caliber of player will continue to inhabit the team.
From a fan's perspective, the buck stops with the Manager. Whilst there seems to be evidence of the board's over-arching dominion of authority, results demonstrate the success or failure of the manager. 7 years without titular success is poor, however good the overall output is elsewhere. For this, Mr Wenger must accept his own share of the blame. Whether this cumulative result is enough to cost him his job is a different matter but contractual constraints, given the size of his income, will probably make a self-induced departure more likely than a dismissal. Arsenal's greatest manager knocks on the door of a professional embarrassment the likes of which are typically un-Arsenal and entirely underserved. The players – many of whom owe him their careers – owe him a response to this adversity that should reach some redemption this term by performances laden with pride and effort. Arsenal, officially, is in crisis! From the fall to grass that this humiliation has brought about, the only way should be up whilst the others elsewhere in the chain – Roy Keane's Prawn Sandwich people in football - work extremely hard to rescue a club fast declining into mediocrity.
Andrew Obinna Onyearu, a fan, was also a Players Licensed Agent.