Is It Time For Wenger To Bid Farewell?
There is a temptation to write Arsene Wenger off after every poor Arsenal run, before he produces something that make the doubters look foolish. But this time it seems different.
The Gunners boss cut a forlorn figure after witnessing his side throw away their second lead in a week yesterday, losing 2-1 at Swansea City. This time he blamed a lack of “spark and killer instinct” but, increasingly, long-suffering supporters are pointing the finger of blame squarely at him.
Arsenal now lie sixth in the table with Wenger already conceding the title to Chelsea. This article could have been written at several occasions over the past decade but it seems the tipping point for once staunch Wengerphiles.
There is a camp that laments that he didn’t retire after winning the FA Cup in May, the club’s first major trophy in nine years, and bowed out on a high. The manager’s stubborn refusal to add much-needed experience and quality to defence has inevitably come back to bite him with left-back Nacho Monreal inexplicably deployed at centre-back yesterday.
The Spaniard failed to win one aerial duel in the Swansea defeat. Furthermore, Callum Chambers may have been a regular right-back for Southampton but he’s looked more comfortable in central defence for Arsenal and was given a torrid time at full-back by Jefferson Montero.
There’s a sense that the minority that still retain faith in their manager do so on the basis of his past achievements, rather than the potential of any future triumphs. His concession of the title to Chelsea makes his decision to pass up on a first option to re-sign Cesc Fabregas all the more bewildering. Yes, the Gunners seemed heavily stocked in midfield at the time, but the former Barcelona star has been a pivotal factor in Chelsea’s renaissance this season.
It is this stubborn nature that makes it unlikely the Frenchman will resign. It must feel like Groundhog Season for Arsenal supporters. Finish runners-ups in the Champions League group stage before being knocked out by a more formidable opponent in the last 16. Stumble through the domestic season before finishing in the top four, job done. And, despite their poor form, this seems ever more likely this season based on the relative lack of quality among regular top four contenders.
There was a period during the last decade where Arsenal’s trophy drought was understandable. Wenger didn’t have the financial resources at his disposal that rivals did, due to the move to the Emirates. However, that time has passed and despite having an unlimited transfer budget and splashing out almost £80 million on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez alone, there remains glaring deficiencies in the first-team squad.
There’s a phrase “the best time to think about retirement is before your boss does”. And maybe that time has come for Wenger. The club’s owners have always shown incredible faith in their manager, seemingly satisfied and sanguine about the financial rewards that come with perennial Champions League qualification without the pressure of splashing out to mount a realistic title or European challenge.
However, there comes a point when pressure from fans makes it impossible for a club’s owners not to act without any sentiment. And a club’s future is more important than one man’s legacy.