Arsene Wenger, when pressed for an answer on his future, said it would be wrong for him to decide to leave Arsenal if the team lost in the FA Cup final on Saturday to Hull.
In many respects it would be wrong and undeserved for Wenger’s fate to be decided over the course of ninety minutes. You never know what can happen in football; Arsenal, more than most, can attest to that. What if Wenger’s side dominate the game but lose out to a poor refereeing decision? What if the game is decided by a slip from an Arsenal defender that puts any of Hull’s forwards through on goal? Injuries can come into play, so can any number of other factors.
But Arsenal fans, those whose outlook on the club has been permanently soured after some of the events of this season, are not just using a loss in the FA Cup final to decide Wenger’s future. They’ve been accumulating all the disappointments – transfers, performances, injuries – over the years and using this potential final loss as the last straw for a manager who hasn’t won a trophy for the club in almost a decade.
That, more than the isolated ninety-plus minutes at Wembley, should be the deciding factor.
We know it won’t come down to that. We know Wenger is preparing for the summer with Arsenal. We know the club want him to stay irrespective of what happens in the cup final. They, and most others, know the club isn’t prepared for such a drastic change. Has there been a consultation on the outcome if Wenger’s departure does transpire? Is there a manager, who’s good enough, on standby? Probably not.
If Arsenal lose on Saturday it will be one of the lowest points in Wenger’s tenure at the club – another one, and that’s no good thing when that description can continue to crop up. It won’t just be because a football team lost a cup final; for Arsenal, it stretches well beyond that. Doubts have crept in. They’ve set up camp long ago. There will be full-blown hysteria. None of the points discussed earlier will matter. Long and short of it: Wenger will have lost a fourth cup final since 2005. It will act as vindication for those who believe Wenger should be moved on.
The club won’t take that action, though. Some believe they don’t have that power anyway and that Wenger decides on his own future.
In the event of a loss in the cup final, there are surely plans in place to soothe the restlessness of those supporters who want a change. Arsenal are experts in PR. A top four finish will once again be spoken of as an achievement, even though the team fell from first to fourth in the second half of the season. The sponsorships attained from that consistency in qualifying for Europe will also be brought up. The end result is in the ability – though not necessarily the willingness – to spend big in the market. This is a club who have always looked well beyond tomorrow, and there’s no reason why that should stop come Sunday morning.
And in any case, how much do the club and Wenger care about the two domestic cups? The fans obviously do, it’s not difficult to pick up on the anticipation ahead of the final on Saturday. It’s a trophy, sports is about winning. But the club have long spoken of Champions League football as an achievement in itself. It’s definitely not the same as a trophy, but within the club there would be more worried faces if the team finished outside the top four than if they lost an FA Cup final.
That’s why nothing will change with regards to Wenger’s future. We know he’s staying and the FA Cup is in no way tied to it.