Worrying times as north London pride in danger

YOU know the Arsenal must be in big trouble when even your Tottenham pals commiserate with you.

No matter how tiresome it has been in recent seasons — playing the bridesmaid, never the bride — we’ve always been able to take great comfort in the fact that things could be a lot worse, supporting the no-hopers at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road.

However, with Spurs trouncing the same Liverpool side that beat us at our place a few weeks back and with Redknapp’s squad suddenly looking a far more viable shout for a Champions League berth than our shell-shocked troops, we find ourselves having to come to terms with the possibility of the shoe being on the other foot. After having grown accustomed to lording it over our neighbours for so long, such a grave fall from grace is too much to bear for many Gooners.

All I know is that we badly need a result against Bolton next weekend in advance of our trip to White Hart Lane. If Wenger is under pressure now, it’s likely to be a positive cakewalk compared to the sort of flak he’s going to come in for should the swing in our respective fortunes be ratified by an embarrassing defeat against our fiercest rivals.

Yet as we well know, this funny old game of ours is a fickle mistress.

Blackburn fans would still be calling for Steve Kean’s head on a plate if it wasn’t for the Gunners’ generously propping up his managerial career with the gift of two own goals on Saturday.

Perhaps I’m as stuck in my ways as our pig-headed Gaffer, but for all Arsene’s apparent faults and despite even his positively suicidal preference for zonal marking, I refuse to join the growing legions of Gooners who’ve lost complete faith in our not so glorious leader. At least not until someone convinces me of the availability of a more capable alternative.

In the meantime, in spite of Arsene’s drastically reduced odds in the sack race, as far as I’m concerned, any such speculation is pointless because he’s far too honourable a character to give up the ghost willingly and walk away whilst still under contract and none of the nodding-dogs on the Arsenal board have demonstrated themselves to be in possession of the sort of cajones necessary to be capable of kicking such a giant of world football out.

So for better or worse, a quickie divorce is not on the cards, at least not until the corporate boxes become vacant and the tills in the Club Level eateries stop playing such a profitable tune. It’s not our position in the league table but its impact on the balance sheet which matters most to the Arsenal’s beancounters.

Unfortunately, Arsene appears equally detached from footballing reality. A more visceral boss might’ve been more inclined to appreciate that an inclement outing to Blackburn was no place for our new Brazilian left-back’s debut. But Wenger has his head stuck so far up his statistics, that he’s completely out of touch with such intangible instincts.

We would have a team of titans by now if only strength of character could be measured on the same Excel spreadsheet our manager uses to compare pass completion rates.

As for our Champions League draw in Dortmund, I guess we’d better hope for an outbreak of a mystery illness in the Barca squad, as right about now our only prospect of qualifying for the competition next season would be by winning the blooming thing.

As for me, with the required expectation readjustment, I’m focusing on the Carling Cup.

Then again, the way Wenger’s luck is going, Shrewsbury Town might’ve already spoiled our best hope of a trophy for yet another season.

*Bernard Azulay

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