Arsenal have developed a knack for making announcements at the right time. Season ticket renewals usually come up while a star name from the continent is heavily linked with a move to north London, heightened by talk of increased funds available to the manager.
And now, during a low point in the season where Arsenal could potentially go out of three competitions in the space of less than two weeks, the club have announced new contracts for Per Mertesacker, Tomas Rosicky, and an impending confirmation of a fresh deal for Aaron Ramsey.
Arsene Wenger’s contract is the big talking point that remains. It’s interesting that no one really appears to have a handle on what the situation is. Some reports indicated that, as usual, Arsenal were waiting for the right time to announce Wenger’s stay, more than likely due to the fact the manager has yet to win back those supporters who have called for a change. While the other side of the story is that Wenger himself is waiting on the outcome of this season and whether the trophy drought has come to an end.
As colossal as a departure for the Frenchman from Arsenal would be, waiting on the right time to make a decision is best. It’s clear that there’s still a feeling of discontent among supporters, with small setbacks in the season, such as the loss at Stoke, bringing back old demons and raising the dividing line for those in favour of Wenger and those who want something different.
There could obviously be a lot of good that comes from Wenger moving on. The emphasis being on “could.” Even though Arsenal have been in the title race this season and topped the Premier League for almost the whole of the first half of the campaign, there’s a sense of same old, same old from the team.
The club, or Wenger, failed to address the shortcomings in the squad during the January window, after failing to make good use of the summer transfer period. For that, the team could be dumped out of all three remaining competitions come this time next week.
Not only that, but not a whole lot changes when it comes to performances and the mentality of the squad as a whole. This team is drastically different from the one which lost in the League Cup final in 2011 and subsequently went on to spiral out of the title race and out of control. Yet both share similarities in how they have failed to live up to big occasions against title challengers and during the business end of the season.
It’s more than understandable if some supporters want to see a change in the dugout.
But what needs to be remembered, and what is absolutely vital during this period for the club, is that Wenger is the only football brain at Arsenal. The rest, including the owner, the CEO and various big wigs with a say, are outsiders who have entered the world of football and are likely to be left all at sea if tasked with the job of replacing Wenger without the current manager aiding in selecting a successor.
Of course, it’s not the only reason to keep Wenger on board. Sure, there’s a fear that a risk, which often needs to be taken, could monumentally backfire, but the club can take a lot of good from retaining Wenger’s services for the next three years.
The money available to Arsenal has clearly allowed them to turn a corner. Even if it won’t show in the trophy cabinet by the end of the season, the club are undoubtedly on a higher standing than they were two or three years ago. Why lose that momentum now by replacing the manager?
Wenger’s influence on players is also something that needs to be taken into account. Sometimes his unwavering faith in certain individuals can be a flaw, though at other times it can be a great asset. Aaron Ramsey is a fine example of a player who never lost the faith of the manager, even when there were calls for the midfielder to be moved on. Now the club are reaping the rewards of a player who has fulfilled his potential and who will go on to improve even further. Wenger has not lost his ability to improve players.
And it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was also instrumental in the signing of Mesut Ozil. The German could have been signed without Wenger’s intervention, but the midfielder cited the manager’s discussion with him being a large factor in his decision to join the club.
There are flaws to Wenger, of course, but are they so telling that they outweigh the good? Rather than a change of manager, the club need a change in the manager.
The club may not be full of football brains at board room level, but they are equipped with experts in PR. It is still very much about timing Wenger’s contract announcement to perfection. Though there should be little doubt that he should continue to be a part of the club for the next three years at least.