Our season so far seems to have been a slightly deceptive one. We sat at the top of the table for a good proportion of this season and, at one point, were seven points clear.
Although we have now dropped out of contention for the league, this would suggest that, had injuries been a little kinder to us, we would have had the firepower to compete until the end of the season.
However, Santi Cazorla’s comments that appeared in today’s Daily Telegraph shed light on a much more worrying and somewhat inexplicable problem.
He is quoted as saying: “We haven’t got a winning mentality and we have to believe in ourselves more. Sometimes you can get used to not fighting, but we can’t do that. Arsenal is and will always be a historic football club, we have to look forward.
“I want titles and that is why I came to Arsenal. Every football player wants to win titles. We’ve gone many years without winning one. And if not, what I’ll look for in my next destination is to have the chance to win.
“I don’t want to close doors, but nowadays I’ve a contract with Arsenal for two more seasons. When I’m turning 31 I’ll evaluate myself and I’ll choose the best option. In which case, I would be delighted to come back [to Spain].”
He went on to reveal his willingness for Arsène Wenger to spend money and bring more players to the club.
“That is what makes it different at other clubs. You’ve a good example in Manchester City who signed Fernandinho, Negredo… or even Manchester United with Van Persie and Mata.
“Arsenal know what they need next season, but it’s almost impossible to win a title if we haven’t got these kind of things.”
There are a number of points to pick through here but let us begin with the, “sometimes you can get used to not fighting,” one.
As fans, we knew our run in for February and March wasn’t going to be easy and that it was ultimately going to define our season. It didn’t go well and in our last ten league games we have picked up twelve points from a possible thirty.
As I mentioned, on the face of it, it would seem that a few tactical errors and a plethora of injuries have largely been the reason for this. Now however, in light of the insight Cazorla has provided us with, the reason seems to be a lot more worrying.
A lack of fight goes hand-in-hand with a lack of motivation and I find myself questioning what could provide more motivation than winning our first league title for a decade? Is there anything more motivational for an Arsenal than looking back at The Invincibles?
As a fan it is tough, but still easier accept, that injuries have been a big part of our downfall this season. But to hear that there is a lack of fight amongst the team is very worrying indeed, and totally inexplicable.
What is needed to drive this team forward? Liverpool are doing it, Manchester City are doing it and Chelsea are doing it. They are hungry and apparently, we are not.
Our last five games are as they say ‘winnable’ ones and Santi has clearly issued a rallying call to the team for them to finish strongly.
What is a little baffling though, is how he then continues to say that should we fail to win a trophy, he would consider moving elsewhere at the end of his contract. Frankly, he is entitled to so.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, though, but admitting to considering jumping ship in the same interview in which you call for fight seems a little counterproductive.
We can’t know what was said in discussions between Arsène and Santi when he arrived at the club, but our trophy drought speaks for itself. He was joining a project and if instant success is what he desired, we probably weren’t the number one option.
His comments are a reality check for anyone who is in denial about the way our season has tailed off. We have underachieved in the league. But the way in which he speaks about the team and lack of fight has raised some serious concerns about our claim as title contenders.
Header photo via Ronnie Macdonald- https://www.flickr.com/photos/ronmacphotos/