For the past 21 years Arsene Wenger has been a stalwart of both the Premier League and Arsenal football club, and although he hasn’t showered the club with the success of the earlier stages of his tenure recently, it seems impossible to imagine Arsenal without Arsene. He has won 15 trophies with the North London club in this period, making him the most successful Arsenal manager in their history, and when you couple this with the fact that he is their longest serving manager as well, even the most die hard ‘Wenger out’ supporter couldn’t deny that he is a club legend. However, a near disastrous past week has left his job closer to the brink than ever before.
Firstly, there was the saga regarding the future of Alexis Sanchez, arguably the club’s best player, regarding his involvement in a training ground incident. Wenger dropped him from the starting line up against Liverpool, a pivotal match in their chase for a Champions League spot, and while this would have been seen a courageous move had the Gunners claimed a win, their 3-1 defeat was not only a calamitous result, but it resulted in their being pushed out of the top four by Liverpool. Furthermore, their seventh consecutive exit from the last-16 of the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich must have been extremely painful for the fans, as true European success continues to evade them. In the past, Wenger’s consistency in reaching these competitions has been enough to satisfy as his domestic success has been sufficient, however, failure in Europe has slowly translated to become not only a blemish upon his managerial record, but on Arsenal’s recent history. As you could argue that with great teams such as the Invincibles of 2003/4, not winning the Champions League is more difficult than actually winning it. Add this to the humiliating nature of the 10-2 scoreline and you can begin to see why some fans are tiring of Wenger’s continually unquestioned and untouchable position at the club. Admittedly Arsenal have progressed to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, however, when you consider that their quarter-final victory was over non-league Lincoln, it dampens this achievement somewhat.
I would argue that Wenger’s stubbornness to stick with his idealistic vision of football has partly caused the decline in his popularity at Arsenal. Although his fluid and impactful model of football from time to time produces the most sublime and beautiful moments and goals, the continual use of this method has turned an advantage into a disadvantage. Due to his pragmatism and unwillingness to compromise his entertaining vision of the game, he has failed to adapt to the evolving world of football, this in turn preventing him from reaching the heights of his earlier career, as managers have slowly formulated tactics to combat this. For example, Sir Alex Ferguson devised a template to beat Arsenal based on ‘good players who can intercept’, challenging the predictability of his attack-minded principles. This predictability has seeped into their league finishes too, finishing 4th in 7 out of the last 11 seasons. Which, although providing a consistent and respectable quality to their seasons, has left many fans frustrated with the lack of progress, with them believing Wenger is the reason behind the scarcity of major silverware.
If only to save a loving 21 year relationship with Arsenal you feel that it is the right time for the Frenchman to leave. This would not only prevent a greater number of fan protests, but would allow him to maintain an unbelievable legacy, as the success he has achieved with Arsenal is tremendous. His quitting now would allow for the majority of supporters to view him in a positive light, directing their focus towards the memories he has given them rather than the turbulence and mediocrity of recent years.
If Wenger does leave, emphasis must be placed upon correcting the actions of the protesting fans. This is because, although it is important that the fans have a say in how the club is run, their treatment of a man who has given nearly a third of his life to their club has been borderline despicable. The faith they had shown him in previous years was admirable, as in an age of football where managers come and go on a regular basis, to stick with and believe in one man for so long is a factor that sets them apart from nearly every modern side and enables Arsenal to be viewed as such a special club. Unfortunately though, a group of the Gunners faithful are coming close to ruining this through graceless critique. Their open contempt for Wenger is both unfounded and baffling, as without him there is no way Arsenal would have experienced such great success in the past 21 years. This small group of supporters are tarring a relationship that needs to be broken off with respect and dignity from all sides, in turn ensuring Wenger is forever held in high esteem he deserves.