All good things come to an end and this is true of the reign of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager. He has given the club so much. Trophies, extraordinary talents and sublime football which every top team including Manchester City aspire to.
He’s weathered many storms including the financial restraints of moving to the Emirates whilst still managing to qualify for the prestigious Champions League but his failure to do so last year will be seen as the catalyst for his demise.
Ferguson left Manchester United at a time when he realised that he lacked the drive and capacity to take them forward to compete for the biggest prizes in the sport. I’m not a Ferguson fan, but he chose the right moment to leave without damaging his legacy and achievements and remains to this day, the most successful manager this Country has ever seen or is likely to see again.
Wenger, on the other hand, has gone on for too long, he’s like an aging rock star who has run out of hits and is in danger of being booked for a season on a makeshift stage at Butlin’s. Someone who craves the applause of the large arena but is in real danger of polite recognition before the bingo commences.
What a pity it has come to this but enough is enough, the hotchpotch defence, the excuses, the inability to hold on to key players and fashion a team worthy of wearing an Arsenal shirt have left the Frenchman looking down the barrel of a gun. Gone are the memories of close calls for the Premiership, gone is his ability to find rough diamonds and fashion them into world class players, as is his Midas touch to make the ordinary seem extraordinary.
He is now a shadow of the man he was, blaming referees and the opposition’s methods for being unable to win matches that were once thought of as a sure-fire three points in the bag. Things have become so bad that any of the bottom tier can turn Arsenal over with ease or fashion a draw.
Snuff out the beautiful and intricate football and you can stand back and watch Arsenal disintegrate and give the game away with consummate ease. The Gunners are now a club fighting for the footballing crumbs at the main table and no amount of well thought out explanations will do.
The club are now in a position where a sixth place is fast becoming inept, the height of their ambition and an FA cup win is like winning the Champions League. For a side with so much talent, Wenger is unable to make them tick or work together consistently. There are only flashes of brilliance, occasional top-notch performances as the gap increases and the excuses continue.
Apparently, the Arsenal hierarchy are regretting the manager’s contract extension and there is a genuine likelihood that Wenger will walk away at the end of the season. What makes the situation even more farcical is the ongoing spat with Moaning Mourinho.
The self-appointed Portuguese ‘Special one’ was recently complaining about the lack of funds available to mount a serious title challenge and Wenger happily poured scorn on his comments.
Wenger said: “I have been in that position for 21 years so I can’t start to complain now. There have always been three or four teams richer than I am. I’ve learned to cope with that.
Fair enough, but whilst it is undeniable that the Arsenal boss has had his hand tied due to the clubs relocation to the Emirates, it is also a fact that Mourinho has scooped up the big prizes with spells at Chelsea and Real Madrid. So although Wenger has a point, a couple of FA cup’s are hardly proof that being frugal and thrifty delivers silverware and Wenger should acknowledge the fact.
Even if Arsenal spend big this transfer window, which is as likely as Donald Trump welcoming a group of Muslims to lunch, it will be a season or two before they even look ready to make a sustained challenge. Mourinho needs players, probably no more than three, whilst Wenger needs at least six, four of which are needed urgently in defence.
City will probably just top up to the tune of around £40-80 million and will still be ahead of the chasing pack. Wenger needs to employ in so many areas, it’s hard to know where to start. The defence is brittle and the midfield is a confused and disjointed.
The match with Liverpool was evidence that the team can score with a flourish but cannot defend and Koscielny is getting worse as the season goes on, gifting the scousers two out of three goals whilst Xhaka was at fault for the third.
The game at Chelsea excluding the laughable penalty was even more evidence of a jittery defence and in truth, the late equaliser was nothing more than a plaster applied to a major injury. Arsenal’s failure then included submission to Nottingham Forest in the FA cup, the first time in Wenger’s 21 years that he has failed to get past the opening round.
With this in mind, it’s no major surprise that Alexis Sanchez is leaving Arsenal this January and despite Wenger’s best efforts, it would seem highly likely that Mesut Ozil will follow shortly. It was never about a substantial wage increase. The World Cup winning, midfield maestro was seeking assurances that the club would seek a number of high profile signings but he has not received any indication that this is going to happen.
There is better news concerning Jack Wilshere who is extremely close to signing a new deal with improved terms. As I understand it, the Wilshere deal will be announced possibly as early as next week to go some way towards appeasing fans for minimal transfer activity. The feelers are out for two replacements in key areas and the names Jean Michael Seri and Wilfred Zaha keep popping up as Wenger’s preferred options.
West Brom’s Jonny Evans is now 90% likely to move to the Emirates, although I understand that the club’s interest in Thomas Lamar has now cooled substantially with the North London club unwilling to match their previous offer of 90 Million. Anyone expecting Arsenal to allow Wenger to spend big this transfer window should note that there will be some reluctance from the Arsenal board just in case Wenger or they, themselves, call time on his reign.
The conflicts and disagreements continue behind the scenes and Wenger’s power base is not what it was. Silverware is the best armour for a football manager and sadly, Wenger’s looks thin enough to be pierced by a pencil.
He will go , needs to go and must go.
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