Arsene Wenger needs to call time on Arsenal tenure
Let’s not beat around the bush, Arsenal are in crisis. The Gunners’ season has descended into such a tangled mess that even their annual achievement of reaching the top four seems threatened amid shock defeats and whimsical performances. Arsene Wenger’s head has never been so comfortable on the chopping block, yet only the fans seem willing to swing the axe.
With 11 games left to play in the Premier League, Arsenal find themselves six points adrift of Liverpool in fourth place and only goal difference is keeping Everton at bay. Moreover, the Gunners have lost four of their last five league fixtures and people were still taking down their Christmas decorations when they last won away from home. Oh and let’s not forget the Bayern Munich fiasco – it’s difficult to know which 5-1 butchering was worse.
At the heart of all this, Arsene Wenger. The wily Frenchman has been pulling the strings in north London for 20 years and not since Britney Spears topped the charts with Toxic has he reaped notable success. Arsenal romped their way to the Premier League title in 2004, making history by becoming only the second team since the formation of the FA to go a top division season unbeaten. Since 2005 though, there’s been just two FA Cups to temper the pain.
Considering the high heights of the Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp era, it’s been a stomach-churning descent for everyone involved with the club. Challenges for the title have been watered down to assaults on the top four and the day Arsenal make it past the round of 16 in the Champions League again, pigs will fly.
It’s easy to be so confident in these sureties because Arsenal have been so disgustingly consistent under Wenger. While 8-2 defeats to Manchester United might suggest the contrary, the Gunners have always wound up in the mix when the season has closed. This is Arsenal though, a team that prides itself in history, beautiful football and class. Since when was clinging so desperately to the Champions League an achievement for this mighty team?
The Frenchman just can’t seem to inspire his players anymore or assert any form of control over his dressing room. The set piece defending against West Brom in the 3-1 defeat left Thierry Henry having some sort of seizure in the Sky Sports studio. With the nearest marking defender to Craig Dawson seemingly in a different post code, who can blame him? It proves unfathomable to imagine such criminal defending from Tony Adams or Martin Keown.
A feeble mindset is also at the centre of the problem. The lack of leaders within the Arsenal side has seen them regularly wither in the final months of the season and Wenger seems incapable of picking up the pieces. Were Arsenal to fall 1-0 behind to Chelsea in 2004, Patrick Vieira and co. would have fired up a comeback and gritted their teeth. Fast forward a decade and you have Gabriel being torn apart by Eden Hazard as soon as his head goes down.
It’s alien to Arsenal’s French boss and he can’t seem to work it out, in spite of the fact it’s been going on for years and years now. Arsenal haven’t been able to sustain a solid title challenge nor make the Champions League quarter finals since I’ve been writing for YJA – criminal. So many dressing room speeches, training sessions and transfer windows to turn things around but no.
Players have come and gone, opposition sides have changed and rival managers have left in drones yet Wenger has proven the constant and he is lost in the modern game. Nobody wants to see the man sacked and were the club to ever take that step, it would be an incomprehensible crime upon sentiment and history. Nevertheless, they would finally be taking a step into the future in letting a contract run that had already proven one too far.
This summer, the terminus of Wenger’s current deal, proves a suitable time to do so. The 2016-17 season has seen Arsenal sink to its lowest ever trough and with the north London club facing the prospect of losing their top four place, it may prove the reality check needed. Wenger had always been a steady and economically beneficial man to have in charge yet his growing incompetency seems to have gone so far as to scupper this positive as well.
Alexis Sanchez looks certain to leave, players are flirting with mutiny and the Europa League may prove a distasteful reality and all very soon. As a result, Arsenal may just have to accept that there will be no happy ending for Wenger and that kissing goodbye to him and his achievements is a difficult but necessary step.
After all, there used to be three things guaranteed in life: death, taxes and Arsenal making the top four. The only saving grace in the Gunners missing out on Champions League football I guess then, would be immortality and cash for all, right? Pretty sound logic if you ask me.
Kobe Tong, YJA Senior Correspondent