Arsenal have won just one game in their last six, including defeats to Swansea, Olympiakos and, most excruciatingly for the Gunners fans, a draw leading to an eventual knock-out at the hands of Bradford, so what does the future hold for Arsene Wenger and the club? There may be a universal call for his head, but you only have to look at Rafael Benitez’ Liverpool sacking as an example of how things can go from what seems to be bad, to a whole lot worse.
By Dave Martinez – @snez10
Arsenal is not a happy football club right now. Fans appear, for the first time, to be seriously in favour of a change of manager. Fed up with perennial under achievement, a lack of trophies and ambition in the transfer market, many supporters have finally had enough and turned some of their scorn away from the boardroom and onto their legendary manager Arsene Wenger. Is it time for a change at the Emirates or will change only serve to facilitate their downfall?
It’s been a repetitive cycle over the past few years. Arsenal lose a top player or two in the summer, replace them with players who aren’t quite at the same level, struggle in the league and then Arsene Wenger somehow manages to guide the team back into the top-four and secure Champions League football for another season. Despite a wretched start again this term, if this writer was asked to put his money where his mouth is regarding Arsenal’s eventual league position, he’d say history will repeat itself once again. The Gunners lie only two points off fourth place and still have a squad that boasts enough quality to sustain their European adventures in UEFA’s money spinning competition once more. However, fourth place just isn’t enough for supporters these days.
Not when you are paying exorbitant and ever-increasing ticket prices. Not when your team hasn’t won a trophy in years. Not when you have to see your best players leave every summer. And certainly not when your full-strength side are eliminated by a fourth tier team in a competition that you badly wanted to win. With each annual sale of another top player, Arsenal grow weaker and the breaking point is looming. Whether it’s this season, next season or the one after that, without considerable improvement, it’s conceivable that Arsenal will eventually slip out of the top four. You can only weaken your squad so many times before others catch up and over take you. Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have three of the four Champions League positions locked down, Everton and Spurs continue to improve, Liverpool are gradually waking from their slumber and the fight for fourth is growing ever more fierce. If and when Arsenal do eventually miss out and are no longer in the Champions League then things really become hard.
Gooners need only look at Liverpool’s decline for an example of how damaging slipping out of the Champions League can be. Liverpool were ranked as the number one team in Europe less than four years ago and since missing out on the top four in 2009/10, they haven’t seriously threatened a return to Europe’s top table since. A succession of managers have come and gone, top players have left the club and their replacements were overly expensive risks, the majority of which have failed miserably. At the time of Rafa Benitez’s sacking, many Liverpool fans were in favour. ‘He’s lost the dressing room’ ‘His methods have gone stale’ ‘His signings have been poor’ (sound familiar?) were common reasons cited for his departure. There was some truth in all these comments, but when Roy Hodgson took control at Anfield you’d have been hard pressed to find a Scouser who didn’t yearn for the return of the Spaniard who brought far more triumph than disaster. Liverpool gambled on a new manager and it backfired spectacularly. Now the club dreams of fourth place. What was once a pre-requisite is now the main target.
Wenger is in a similar position to the one Benitez found himself in. His group of players seem unmotivated, important first team players like Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna are seeking pastures new and his signings (which, while not in the Chelsea/Manchester City financial bracket, haven’t been cheap) are on the whole, failing. Finally, almost unthinkably, a significant portion of his once adoring fan-base want to see him replaced. It’s a position that is easy to sympathise with. Arsenal should be doing better. They should be winning trophies more regularly and perhaps the Wenger of ten years ago would have them in a more competitive position despite the financial disparity with City, United and Chelsea.
The question that Arsenal’s fans must ask themselves though, is who is capable of replacing Wenger and doing a better job with the same resources at their disposal? Would a new man really be able to reinvigorate the squad and restore their competitiveness in the upper echelons of the league with a similar transfer budget and this squad of players? In short, could Arsenal attract a manager who is more qualified to improve the club than Arsene Wenger currently is?
Certainties in football are few and far between and changing a manager who is as immersed in a club as Wenger is at Arsenal is a monumental decision. It is possible that a new manager could improve Arsenal but it is just as easy to envisage their current malaise becoming even more pronounced if a new manager didn’t hit the ground running and, God forbid, needed a little time to improve things. Patience at Arsenal is understandably thin on the ground and would a new manager be afforded enough of it should his methods fail to yield immediate improvement?
Wenger’s future is uncertain but with or without him, so is Arsenal’s. Whatever decision is made, be it in the summer or further down the line, Arsenal as a club must get it spot on. If they don’t then today’s perceived under achievement might be tomorrow’s target. Just ask a Liverpool fan how that feels.
Would sacking Arsene Wenger be the right choice? Or could things only get worse for Arsenal? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below.