Friday the 20th of April 2018 will always be remembered in the history of Arsenal Football Club. The news was awash with Wenger’s decision to leave and any Premier League review for Matchday 35 had the Frenchman’s departure at the forefront of discussion as the world stopped to try to make sense of the bombshell.
Arsenal’s longest serving manager Arsene Wenger called time on his tenure at the club after a career that spanned 22 years and included three Premier League titles as well as seven FA Cups. Departing a club after having enjoyed a career like that would normally mean the club’s set of supporters were plunged into depression, with the future uncertain.
Strangely enough, the only possible mourning coming out of North London appears to be from Spurs fans as they have often sung about how much they want Wenger to stay – a humorous dig at the fact Spurs are now finishing above Arsenal. The truth is that there seemed to be less and less support for Wenger to stay at Arsenal with the majority of the fanbase having turned against the Frenchman.
Did Wenger overstay his welcome?
A large part of the Emirates faithful feels that Wenger should have retired a few seasons ago and that he stayed well past his sell-by date. Given the very nature that fans are aspirational, it’s easy to see why there was such vociferous support for Wenger to leave. In the eyes of the Arsenal fans, they should be winning the league more, with their last success coming in the 2003/2004 season.
As an outsider looking in, the rational to push Wenger out the club seems less logical and, in some instances, can only be perceived as an unjustified sense of entitlement. Three out of the last four FA Cups have been won by Arsenal and they have qualified for the Champions League for 19 consecutive years under Wenger. Finishing fifth and a point behind Liverpool in the 2016/2017 was the first time Wenger failed to qualify for Europe’s showpiece event. Liverpool now take on Roma in the semifinals, which has heightened the fans’ frustration at missing out on the Champions League amid more questions of what could have been.
The 2017/2018 season has been Wenger’s undoing, with the Gunners’ league campaign being the worst -under him since he took over in 1996. Languishing in sixth and 11 points behind fourth-placed Spurs with only a handful of games left of the season means hopes of Champions League football via a top-four finish are all but gone. It’s amazing to think any European soccer preview before 2016 would have had Arsenal as favourites for domestic success. How quickly times can change but a flicker of hope still remains for Wenger and Arsenal this season.
Remarkably, Wenger can still have Arsenal qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League. Betway have the Gunners at 3/1 to win the event as of the 25th of April 2018. Should Wenger pull that off, it would mean he has given the Arsenal fans 20 years of Champions League football over his 22 years in charge.
Is this a man that should be pushed out the door? It’s easy to see why Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis says Wenger is irreplaceable. When Wenger announced he would be leaving, he had been at Arsenal for 7,937 days, overseen 1192 matches and been responsible for 690 wins, 260 draws and 242 losses.
Arsene Wenger should be considered by Chelsea to replace Maurizio Sarri, according to David Seaman.
Thoughts, Chelsea fans? pic.twitter.com/YiLX3hYUnm
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 20, 2019
The definition of insanity
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is what one would find when looking up what the definition of insanity is. On paper, it would seem like the Arsenal fans were getting ahead of themselves by demanding more success than Wenger was giving them but, if you had watched Arsenal over the last few years, you were consistently left wondering how such a big club could fail to address such chronic defensive problems.
Wenger’s Achilles heel was his inability to tighten things up at the back. In 34 Premier League games this season, Arsenal have conceded 46 goals, which is 21 more than champions City and 14 more than seventh-placed Burnley, who have conceded 32.
Spending £56m on striker Aubameyang and not shoring up a defence that leaked goals was a further indication that Wenger had no intention of changing his transfer policy or philosophy anytime soon. The fans may have stuck by him had he bought a no-nonsense defensive midfielder in the Viera mould or a few centre-backs from the Tony Adams school of defending. After being the man to have revolutionized English football, Wenger had stopped moving with the times and, because of that, Arsenal had fallen behind.
Better the devil you know?
The “Wenger out” brigade and boo boys, which, according to the owner of Arsenal Fan TV Robbie Lyle, now consists of 90% of the fanbase he interviews, have finally got their wish. Arsene Wenger will walk away from the club after the 2017/2018 season and the world will finally get to see in the seasons to come how good or bad a job Wenger was doing.
Whoever takes the reins at Arsenal will be tasked with making sure the Gunners keep on playing attractive football but no longer leak goals. Is it possible to have both? The Arsenal fans think so and will demand it be done.
The Premier League will lose a gentleman and one of the game’s finest tacticians when Wenger goes. The Frenchman has so many admirable and upstanding qualities that have seen him through the tough times when he has been the subject of some appalling abuse. It’s au revoir Arsene and time to see if the fans’ vision of success is a sustainable one.