Is Arsenal the most environment in the world of football? Their 2-10 #BEATEMDOWN by the hands of Bayern Munich seemed to be the final straw for many an Arsenal fan when it comes to Arsene Wenger. A friend of the show, Len Morrison asked me to write about their current situation, so congrats Len, enjoy the piece.
So, let’s run this down. Arsenal hasn’t finished outside of the Top 4 in the Premier League since 1996. But they haven’t won a league title since 2004. They’ve won silverware in 2 of the last 3 seasons with back-to-back FA Cups, however, they’ve only reminded people that Jack Wilshere is still in the league and only really spends time bashing Tottenham. But I suspect most fans are tired of the club being nearly men, or being WAY too happy at stagnation, like in 2013 where they had a Champers shower for finishing… Well, you can probably guess where.
But I think I hit upon something in my last paragraph. Stagnation. It’s a bastard. It can be more frustrating than being straight up bad. I can relate to this to a degree as a Manchester United fan when Ferguson retired and David Moyes had us drop to 7th. I expected that. He left Moyes with the worst United squad in 25 years and an aging Robin Van Persie to paper over the cracks. Many would argue that stagnation is worse because it messes with your head. Trust me, it’s something many Donald Trump voters were telling me about.
Not to mention, one wrong move and you’re the laughing stock of the Internet, given the rise of football’s greatest meme, ArsenalFanTV. Blud.
Especially when Arsene Wenger keeps making the same mistakes. Occasional games of tactical ineptitude. Refusing to bolster squads in January when the injuries start to rack up down the stretch, hence the common talk of Arsenal folding in April and May. Not spending big to keep up with the Chelsea, City and United’s of the league. When it happens year after year, I can see how that fosters frustration within a fanbase. Refusing to take at least of the responsibility hardly helps either.
It’s almost like Jeff Fisher in the NFL. He was the head coach of the Rams and Titans over a stretch of about 22 years. He only ever had 6 winning seasons, but he always stuck around because he was never truly bad, or was ever truly terrible until his last season. A whole heap of 7-9 and 8-8 seasons. 11 of them to be precise. I think Wenger’s in the same boat, the only difference is, at some point, he’s won nearly everything he can win, which has probably pulled the fanbase into a sense of thinking that this is something they should be challenging for EVERY year… A very hard thing to do in the Premier League, where any given year now, there’s six teams who are capable of winning the league. Seven if you account for the occasional miracle.
I don’t totally think it’s Arsene’s fault, though. First of all, the owners are obsessed with being as profitable as possible to the point where it could actually be compromising them as a club. £1,000-£2,000 season tickets with a £50 deposit to get on the waiting list. Most expensive tickets, pies, programmes and refreshments in the league. Not dropping super big money on talent that could take them over the top but rather focus on value. Talks of a £100m+ war chest. Again, knowing all that could frustrate people.
Then there are the players, who don’t seemingly show enough fight on the pitch. We saw it just against Bayern, both legs when Laurent Koscielny left the game, they crumbled. Is it hardly a coincidence that so much has been made of Alexis Sanchez, a Top 15 player in the world, who’s having a brilliant season, standing alone, seemingly frustrated at everyone else? And remember, his contract expires at the end of next season.
Has Wenger bred some sort of content group of players that are so willing to settle for Champions League every year? Not sure. But I’ve always said the best thing to ever happen to Arsenal would be for them to fall out of said Top 4 as it would be the shock to the system to them to try and get back in there. Not to mention, the lack of 50m of CL money would probably give the owners a heart attack.
Do I think Wenger should stand down? Yeah, I do. Arsenal is clearly a fanbase, and club that evaluates itself in the context of major championships. And I’m not even talking FA Cups because the #WengerOut talk has been around for some time now. I think 14 years without a league title can wear anyone time, especially when you’ve gotten so close on so many occasions. I think now’s the time for Arsenal to try something new. Maybe Sampaoli at Sevilla might be the guy. I just wonder if that fanbase can take the short-term pain if Wenger goes. They might have to be careful what they wish for, because not every manager transition goes like it has for say, Antonio Conte. There 10’s-2 to be a bit of rebuilding first. See you tomorrow!