Arsenal are in turmoil. Under Wenger’s stewardship there has never been more outcry for the legendary man to finally call it a day. Results have been pitiful, our record against top teams shambolic and a number of the players seem to have had enough of him (if recent performances are anything to go by); so what happens next?
Despite the vitriolic state of the fan-base recent reports suggest Wenger still believes himself the man for the job and that he’s taken up the (absent) board’s offer of a two year extension to his current contract. The fact that Arsene has the power to decide his future is an altogether unique and separate argument but if he has decided to stay on it begs the question; if he believes he’s the one to lead us to glories anew and the one to turn around our misfortunes, why hasn’t he?
To a growing number of us we can see that Wenger’s plane has caught fire and nosediving fast and he’s simply not the man to be able to save this team from crashing and burning. Arsenal will live on long after Wenger has gone so it is to the team that we must look to and the signs are that many have strapped on their parachute and are eager to escape the burning embers for a chance at greater riches & rewards elsewhere. Right now it’s hard to blame them.
Now it’s impossible to know the ins and outs of player relationships or gauge the atmosphere at the (staged) live training sessions but many signs are pointing to a distinctly unhappy dressing room. Alexis has notably upset fellow team mates with his antics both on and off the pitch ( I wonder where we’d be if we had XI players with a ‘win at all costs’ attitude like him) Ozil has conspicuously been injured or omitted ever since his agent spoke out on Mesut being made a scapegoat – coupled with a belated move to a 4-3-3 system could hint at Wenger’s actions speaking louder than words by removing the ‘Number 10’ role from his plans. Noises from the Oxlade-Chamberlain camp are negative and it seems he’s unhappy with the role he’s played this season albeit despite a recent run in the starting XI. Lucas Perez has barely featured in crunch games despite a sound & telling contribution. And worse of all the team looks shot of confidence both in themselves, each other and their manager. Responsibility sits on all shoulders yet it seems the players are shirking it and letting the manager take the flak which, despite everything, you have to give him credit for his consistent defence of this team – even though it drives us mad.
If the players have ‘downed tools’ like many suspected the Leicester players did in order to oust Ranieri and his abrasive regime then what does that mean for the next two years and, more pressingly, this summer? If we play out to the likely scenario that we will miss out on the top 4, finish below Sp*rs and fall at the semi-final stage of the FA cup – which of our current crop would want to hang around if they’ve an offer from elsewhere? Alexis & Ozil’s agents would be irking for a move away, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas Perez…as much as Wenger would be loathe to sell the former 3 of these he’s never been one to hold onto a player in their final year of a contract as he’s ever known the business side of football means that money talks. So we lose our two best players, we’ve no Champions League football to entice great players too and a fanbase that’s in limbo between supporting the club and worrying about what the future holds.
Gazidis said we would be competing with Bayern Munich by now due to the Emirates and our increased commercial income (which pales in comparison to the ‘top teams) yet it’s obvious that under Gazidis’ stewardship we’re not competing commercially and under Wenger’s leadership, we are not competing on the pitch. We were told that we no longer would have to sell our best players and could offer them everything they needed at Arsenal, but is this really the case? This summer our best players could leave and we’re no closer to the ‘next level’ than we were 10 years ago and some may argue that we’re further away. There’s no doubting we’ve attracted quality players to the club but if we can’t get the best out of them or even keep them happy then the only one we can blame if they leave is the manager. We’re on the verge of yet another transition phase and it’s all very disheartening, and rather sad.
Gone are the Invincible days, gone are the days where we performed admirably with unproven players on a tight budget, gone are the days where we were exasperating but also really quite exciting to watch, what we’re currently left with is a shadow of a team playing predictable, boring football and if Wenger stays then the ‘narrative’ that other fans, pundits and clubs continually paint us with will be harder and harder to defend.
As I look to end this I find I’m throwing up more questions than answers, what will Wenger decide? Who will stay and who will leave this summer? Who will we replace them with? Will our board grow some balls? Will our players return to form, respect and play for the club (if not for Wenger)? It’s time for the manager, board and players to give us some answers and a reason to cheer again. I can only hope Wenger has one last miracle left in him and somehow finds a way to quench the flames and fly us back to winning ways as soon as bloody possible.