If there is one thing the Premier League cannot function with, it’s a storyline. Sometimes, it is the tension between the managers, often fueled by the media, which makes the match juicy to watch and worth the wait. Or it can be the historic rivalries between the clubs, or name calling while watching immature clubs falter and unable to present a result. One of these is the famous quote by Sir Alex Ferguson in the Manchester United dressing room during halftime, “Lads, it’s Tottenham,” which translated to, “They play neat and are nice people but they can never bag in the games they need to become champions.”
Last season, it had been the season of the “Big Six”, when there were six well-qualified teams competing for the Premier League. The question was who would win. A year before that, it had been the season of the miraculous underdog, where Leicester City was winning games by one-goal differences and beating big clubs, with individual players who got paid more than the entire squad succumbing to the fast and effective attack and the organized defense of the blue.
This season, there are a lot of subplots. Manchester City has been recently going on an unbeaten run, almost close to toppling the incredible record set by Arsene Wenger, the golden general of Arsenal. Another has been the slow transformation of Tottenham, which has transformed just a fancy team that played good soccer to a team that can win titles. They have a young generation of players, including a relatively older Korean national team winger, Heung Min Son. There is the ever-continuing, tense relationship between Manchester City manager José Mourinho and the current Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who have fought for several fixtures now, each a game about tactical superiority rather than the quality of football itself. But perhaps even more significant than that is the spectacular, slow decline of the once great football club Arsenal.
Arsenal was once recognized as the only team able to beat the world-renowned Barcelona at their own game. They played beautiful soccer that mesmerized the audience and it led to the rise of Arsenal as one of the biggest clubs in London. Watching Arsenal play recently, one has often been left to wonder what the problem with the club is for it truly has been hard to pinpoint the source of the problem. It seemed not even the manager himself knew what he wanted.
Arsene’s philosophy has always been to not follow the trend of money football, where rich clubs with a huge financial backing buy the best players to achieve the best results. To the managers’ credit, even if given a large budget and all the players they wanted, winning the lucrative Premier League title has always been a difficult task. Nevertheless, Wenger insisted on his signings, giving them trust, an important trait to a good manager.
But Arsenal has also been very injury-prone, with year-long injuries hindering the development of promising youth products and resulting in not only the league, but also the English national team and key signings underperforming. In fact, no signing has been able to replace the famous Van Persie. Both Özil and Sanchez were unable to perform the duties that were expected from them, especially with the payroll they received.
As the games pile on though, one thing just becomes clearer. Arsene, the good manager he is, has nevertheless lost his grip and Arsenal is no longer the feared team they once were, and sometimes the solution to a problem is a simple but cruel one. Perhaps we are witnessing the end of a legacy, for with Arsenal came the stadium, the team, and the trophies. Now it seems fitting for Arsene to leave and make way for the new.