After watching Arsenal outclass Bournemouth last weekend, like professional dancers prancing around the hapless celebrity contestants in the first week of Strictly Come Dancing, it was difficult not to be impressed. So why do they still feel like such a miserable club to support?
Arsenal really were a joy to watch and should host Cologne in their opening Europa League game tonight with a spring in their step. Instead, there will probably be a sense of deflation.
That is what the Europa League does to clubs in England and it is wrong. Arsenal, just like Everton, should embrace the competition, view it as an exciting opportunity rather than a distraction.
When Arsenal play on their toes, when their movement, on and off the ball, is so fluid and smooth, when they caress the ball to each other with such precision and incision, there is still not a better team in England to observe.
Yet, there are so many people around them who cannot rouse themselves. Whatever praise that follows, is begrudging, whatever cheer a comprehensive home win brought, is fleeting.
Even when things go well for manager Arsene Wenger, everyone seems to be waiting for the moment they turn sour again. There is a constant need to focus on the negative and their participation in the Europa League will sharpen it.
This is what the last few years of Wenger’s reign have achieved. The infighting between fans, the banners, the protests, the refusal of so many to acknowledge that winning three FA Cups in the space of four years constitutes the sort of success most other clubs can only fantasise about, has taken its toll.
For too many, Wenger has crossed the point of no return, he will never be the manager he once was and Arsenal will never win the title or the Champions League until he leaves. The fact they may well fail to do so after him is a moot point.
That anti-Wenger argument shapes all debate. It is omnipresent, either lurking in the background or shouting from the rooftops.
That is why he will go in the end. It is probably the strongest case that can be made for him to step down at the end of this season. Even someone as stubborn as Wenger will be ground down by it all.
But in the meantime, would it not be better to just get behind the team, to appreciate that they can still win trophies under the Frenchman and that, when they are good, everyone else is jealous of the way Arsenal play? Seriously, they are.
It is a fresh approach that would be best summed up by adopting a positive attitude towards the Europa League.
Rather than moan about not being in the Champions League, cosy up to its less illustrious cousin. There are different clubs and countries to visit, more interesting trips across Europe. View it as a change of scenery rather than a punishment for failing to stay in the Premier League’s top four.
More importantly, Arsenal are good enough to win the Europa League. They have rarely, even in Wenger’s glory years, been good enough to win the Champions League. This is not a criticism in this context, it is not a reason to roll your eyes or moan about his failings. That argument is being put to one side, remember.
In turn, Wenger needs to approach the competition like Manchester United did last term. He needs to aim to win it, to generate excitement by progressing to the latter stages. To strive to put a major European trophy in the cabinet.
The feel-good factor at United is partly a hangover from winning the Europa League back in May. Do not underplay its significance in the evolution of Mourinho’s league leaders.
Change the team, but never weaken it. Never provide an excuse for defeat before the game has kicked off. It is a bigger, more prestigious competition than the FA and League Cups. Nobody at Arsenal should treat it like an unwanted gift because, realistically, it the biggest prize available to them.
In turn, as difficult as it is, supporters must try to forget about Wenger’s future. Stop having meltdowns after every defeat – on YouTube, radio phone in shows, your local pub or place of work – it is getting embarrassing. The rest of us do not feel your pain, we mock your sense of entitlement instead.
Arsenal’s players are still too good, the team too strong, to be written off in September, the quality of their attacking players too high to give up, in autumn, on lifting silverware in the spring.
As for Everton, it is one thing to be ambitious, it is another entirely to realise them. Ronald Koeman is not under any real pressure yet, but he will be soon. There have been a lot of bold words coming out of Goodison Park, but he needs deeds.
Everton are not like Arsenal. They would view a top-four finish this season as a real triumph. The problem is, they do not appear to have a team that is good enough to get them there. Patience holds, for the time being, but the Europa League should be a priority, possibly even their main one.
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For a start, Everton have not won a major piece of silverware since 1995, so they cannot afford to take any competition lightly. The temptation to do so because of the negative perceptions attached to the Europa League must be resisted.
Koeman might just need a long cup run to keep people off his back this season and a European adventure is the best way to generate a sense of anticipation among supporters when we reach the mid-winter months.
If both clubs take the competition seriously, they are good enough to reach the latter stages. Who knows, we may even see a showdown between them in the final in May. It is a thought that should not be discounted.
Contrary to popular belief, football clubs are judged on trophies, not wealth. Arsenal and Everton would be foolish to believe the Europa League is beneath them.