Arsene Wenger: Is Now the Time?
It’s an utter falsehood to say that Wenger would be in danger of tarnishing his legacy if he extended his stay at Arsenal. The falsehood, in this case, doesn’t pertain to the suggested absurdity of sacking a manager following a history of incredible success; Ranieri being a prime and very recent example.
With Arsenal’s longest-serving and present manager, the argument in that statement arises when the notion of a manager who is yet to tarnish a legacy is made.
The second half of Wenger’s reign at Arsenal can be neatly summarised by his landmark thousandth game in charge; an achievement which his counterpart in the dugout last night at the Emirates has just recently marked, though Carlo Ancelotti has done this with several different teams as opposed to just one. Even still, if you were to adopt an outsider’s point of view and consider the question “which of the two managers would naturally command a noteworthy performance from their team on their thousandth game; the long-term, faithful manager who has won numerous trophies, or the new guy, yet to complete a full season with his side?”, it’s safe to say most would gun for the former.
On the 25th February, Bayern hosted Hamburg in the Bundesliga, the match which marked Ancelotti’s one-thousandth game as a professional manager. The team went out and marked the occasion by winning 8-0.
On the 22nd March 2014, Wenger’s landmark achievement ended with a 6-0 demolishing away to Chelsea.
That tells you all you need to know about this Arsenal team in recent years.
Last night, yet another Champions League campaign came to an abrupt end in the last-sixteen phase. It’s certainly not something the club and its fans are unaccustomed to, with so many previous seasons mirroring this pattern. But with the growing speculation about Sanchez, their best player, wanting to leave and possibly becoming frustrated at Arsenal’s lack of winning mentality, and just the sheer brutality with which Bayern disposed of the London club, it feels more than just disappointment this time around.
It’s definitely starting to feel like this will be Wenger’s last season, and the man himself might well know it.
After the match he said he was “sorry for all the fans who had paid a lot of money to come and watch” which was rather telling. It’s not often a manager or players in interviews will acknowledge the truth that fans pay very good money to watch football, and that when they pay to see their team lose, it can be mightily frustrating.
I don’t remember Wenger saying the same thing when they lost 6-0 away to Chelsea, 8-2 to Man United, 4-3 to Liverpool at home, 2-1 to Watford at home…he didn’t even say it when they lost the first leg 5-1 in Munich last month.
Wenger will have been thankful there were dodgy decisions made by the officials last night, because without them, he’d have had nothing else to say in his post-match interviews other than to apologise to the fans.
Reports say that there is a two-year extension sitting on the table, waiting for Wenger to ink his name onto it. But, as I feel most Arsenal fans would also say, it’s difficult and maybe even impossible to call upon any shred of evidence to suggest he deserves more time at the club, especially with their best player not looking at all likely he’ll stick around come the summer.
What could be worrying for the fans is that it’s them that Wenger must convince that he can improve the situation by staying another season. The boards, Arsenal owners, have not needed much convincing at all for a number of years; simply that Wenger’s track record of maintaining a top-four spot is good enough to keep him in charge.
This Arsenal team, with this manager, are being overtaken by the other teams at the top and left coughing from the dust that billowed in their wake. Since Pochettino took charge of Tottenham, even they look now more likely to win the league than Arsenal.
Wenger, should he make the ludicrous decision to actually keep on going as Arsenal manager, could be in serious danger of falling short of the title to their London rivals down the line.
It honestly felt more than likely, that if Leicester had fallen short last season and Tottenham emerged victorious, Wenger would have walked. That could be what it takes at this stage for Wenger to finally see sense and step down.
The top four is looking no-where near a certainty, their Champions League run has come to another predictable end thanks to an utterly embarrassing 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern, Sanchez is probably not going to extend his contract, Ozil may well do but judging by his last performances he could be better off leaving, the Arsenal fans are growing increasingly angry, with more and more banners turning up at the Emirates, and to top it all off, Wenger, in his warped judgement, may just decide to sign that two-year extension. You never know.
The smart move would be for Wenger to leave, to perhaps even announce it within the next few weeks. If he did, the team might feel the best way to see off Arsenal’s most successful manager ever, would be to string some commendable performances together and play like a team worthy of a manager of Wenger’s longevity.
It probably won’t happen, and no one but Arsene Wenger himself will know what he plans on doing. One thing is for sure though; whatever he decides, it won’t be met with indifference.
WRITTEN BY DAVID NEWMAN