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Heading Into The Great Big Arsenal Abyss

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. It was supposed to end with one more celebratory lap for Arsene Wenger and then everyone go off on their own happy way as a new era begins. Sadly, that won’t be happening.

Maybe it’s fitting, in some sort of Shakespearean tragic way, that it did end like this. Much like the last two seasons as things slowly yet increasingly began to twitter out for the Arsenal manager.

Rather than go out on a euphoric high, he goes out with a whimper. It is not how I wanted to see the man off for sure. I wanted him to hoist that European Cup. The one piece of silverware that has eluded him for his tenure at Arsenal. And with all he’s achieved he has failed to climb Europe’s summit in any form.

Realistically, Arsene should’ve probably left after winning one of this last 3 FA Cup titles. Some people are finding it hard to feel that bad for him because he decided to still carry on, convinced he was the best man the job. However, for such an intelligent observer of all things football the one blind spot he had was his own decline, and I bet if you ask him today, he still thinks he is the best man to do this job.

In the wake of yesterday’s loss, I was unsure of how I felt. Of course, I hate it every time we lose but I have to admit going into the match to a sense of inevitability about it all. As the match unfolded and Atleti performed a near perfect defensive shut down the urgency we’ve wanted from Arsene and Arsenal in this annus horribilis was still missing and the manager looked unable or unwilling to change anything about it.

Now it’s all said and done and we’re all left wondering what could’ve been. Sunday is looming and it should still be a celebratory affair. But how much so? Given the many misses and disasters of this season how much are people going to be up for wildly cheering a guy who by all means should be wildly applauded?

And once he walks off the Emirates pitch then what?

When I got married, I remember the morning after the wedding. The previous year or so had been spent planning one big day and then suddenly no planning. We had set out to achieve what we had to achieve. What was before us was a great big unknown.

As I look to this summer and the inevitable change coming, I feel exactly the same way. For much of this year, the majority of fans have felt a managerial change is needed. Well, we’ve got it, so now what?

We don’t exactly know what is going to happen next do we?

With Wenger in charge you could pretty much chart out how ever summer and likely every season would go. You’d know who was coming, who was going or at least have a real sense of who might be coming or going.

Now none of that is there. Arsene is gone. One man controlling many of the levers of the club is gone. The punching bag so many have pounded on is gone. We head into a great abyss of unknown that is equal parts invigorating and terrifying.

Many are arguing that the change will have an immediate positive effect. And it could. We could get it right in absolutely every sense and have an instant turn around in fortunes.

But what worries me is that it also could go horribly wrong. Or at least not get any better. In fact in 2012  Mario De Paola and Vincenzo Scoppa published a study of coaching in Italian football in the Journal of Sports Economics found that there was little evidence to support he notion that changing managers could improve the team:

From our analysis, it emerges that coach replacement does not produce statistically significant effects on team performance. This result turns out both when we estimate the impact of coach change including among controls team fixed effects and when using a matching estimator, in which selection on the treatment depends on team performance in the latest rounds.

Does that mean we don’t try? Heck no, it just means that this change as much as it’s wanted and I say needed, guarantees nothing. We have to be prepared for some time out of the sun.

If keeping Wenger this long teaches us anything, its that we need patience with whomever comes in. In the NFL the target is usually 32 games (two seasons.) To me that sounds right, we have to be okay with the turn around taking two seasons and if during the 2nd season we see that it isn’t going right, then we have to deal with the immediate impact of change again.

Ivan has gone ahead and brought in a solid team to support the transition to this new era. He’s clearly seen what happened to United when Fergie left and all the areas he touched were left unfulfilled and how it hurt United for a few years.

But as much as we think the likes of Ivan, Sven and Raul will be successful we just don’t know if they will be. Not because they won’t try to be, we’ve just not had a structure like this. Change is great but it brings no guarantees

This is all uncharted territory for us. We laughed for years at the numerous changes others made around us while we were lauded for our stability.

That’s no longer a mantra we can hold on to.

Wenger for some was a comfort blanket. He kept us secure from an unknown future. We didn’t and don’t want to be like those clubs that changed managers like people change their underwear but now we could be in for that type of ride.

I am all for Merci Arsene and lauding the big guy as he departs. I am equally looking forward to the new era but am worried I can’t get rid of all the alcohol I needed to get through this season just yet.

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