On one hand, writing off Arsene Wenger is a dangerous occupation. On the other, he hasn’t won anything for 6 years now so write off away. Even though they’ve a few big names yet to return from injury and suspension, the manner of the hiding they got at Old Trafford suggests the title drought is destined to continue for at least another season. Here’s how their Premier League has imploded over the space of a month through the medium of odds:
30th July: Long before a ball was kicked, they were on the drift. With the tedious Cesc to Barcelona rumour eventually becoming tedious Cesc to Barcelona fact and Samir Nasri doing a reverse Dick Wittington and leaving London for the riches on offer elsewhere, there’s the general feeling that they’ll struggle to compete with the defending champions, the moneybags from City and the Villas-Boas revolution at Chelsea. Still though, plenty of people are banking on Wenger to work his voodoo to turn a comparative sow’s ear into a silk purse. They’re 8/1 to win the league.
7th August: Pre-season friendlies are generally just an opportunity for Sky Sports to distract you until the real football begins, but Arsenal’s pre-season takes a turn for the worse when they fail to win their own tournament and then lose to Benfica. It’s nothing catastrophic, but combined with the impending exodus of star players, the storm clouds are gathering around the Emirates. The Gunners are now rated a 9/1 shot to win the Premier League.
15th August: The season begins with a trip to St. James’s Park and a game against the real-life soap opera that is Newcastle United. There’s plenty of huff, puff and silky skills from Arsenal, but they fail to find the net – so everything looks pretty much the same as it always does. New signing, Gervinho fulfils the ambitions of millions of people by giving Joey Barton a slap and promptly receives both Barton’s best acting and a red card. The problems are later intensified when Alex Song is retrospectively punished for being too stupid to remember there’s about 50 cameras pointing to a Premier League pitch at any given time. At the end of the round of fixtures, they’ve lost ground to a couple of their rivals, but it’s nothing to get too panicky about. After all, Liverpool at home and United away – take 4 points from that and we’d be laughing, right? The Gunners are eased to 12/1.
22nd August: Liverpool’s best result at the Emirates to date was the time the car park ticket machine was broken and they got their afternoon’s parking for free, so confidence is high that Arsenal can get their first win of the season – despite a raft of injuries, suspension and pretending Andrey Arshavin is still a top class player. In the end, the Gunners slip to a 2-0 defeat and to make matters worse, Liverpool didn’t even play that well. They do manage to score their first goal of the season, but sadly it’s a comical own goal guaranteed to appear on some Danny Dyer’s Football Howlers DVD at some point in the near future. With their rivals winning, Arsenal are now 18/1 for the league.
28th August: It’s possibly Arsene Wenger’s darkest day in charge of Arsenal since black puffa jackets went out of fashion. Not many people think his admittedly weakened team can win at Old Trafford, but a draw or avoiding complete and utter humiliation are considered possible. To use the coaching technical jargon, Arsenal are on the receiving end of a spanking and the disinterest shown by some of the senior players makes it all the more worrying. They’re now 25/1 to win the Premier League and to put the size of the task into perspective, that’s the same price Fernando Torres is to be PFA Player Of the Year and calling that an outside bet is putting it mildly.