Stick or twist at Arsenal?

Arsenal’s 4-0 humbling at the hands of AC Milan just further emphasised the dawning realisation about just how far off this current Arsenal side are in terms of quality when compared to the old Arsenal teams of yesteryear. But when it comes to the issue of the manager, and whether the club should continue to back him or politely thank him for his services and usher him out the back door quietly, it appears that the club’s supporters are split.

Every single time Arsenal are dealt a thrashing these days, we have to go through the inevitable rigmarole of listening to the Wenger Out bridge. It’s a divisive topic that’s for certain, but has Wenger taken the club as far as he can go?

The two camps now take completely polar views with concerns to Wenger’s future position at the club. There are those that still trust Wenger’s judgement to deliver and hail the job that he’s doing at the club with comparibly small finances to his nearest rivals.

On the other hand we have those that decry everything Arsenal have come to represent. This is, after all, a team formed very much in the image of its manager. The power that he has over recruitment at the club is nearly unparalleled in the english game. It is in Wenger’s judgement that players like Djourou, Walcott and Rosicky are up to the task, when at the highest level, the evidence just continues to mount that they are patently not.

From an outsiders perspective at least, I find it simply amazing the sheer amount of bile-based rhrotic that is sent Wenger’s way. It’s disrespectful and ignorant of the superb job that he’s done at the club. Arsenal wouldn’t be where they are today without him, it’s as simple as that.

He didn’t reinvent the wheel when it came to dietary requirements as it’s often made out to seem. He isn’t the first manager to appreciate that pasta instead of chips and a pint are better for a professional athlete’s body and diet.

Nor is he in anyway professioral in style apart from being French and quite posh looking . He isn’t a master tactican and the malaise in terms of playing style and squad depth is almost entirely of his own making.

These false myths built up around him at the height of his success appear to be the very things hindering him most now. He isn’t all of a sudden a complete dunce, but at the same time, the personality cult based around the principle of ‘Wenger knows’ is equally just as ridiculous a notion.

Against AC Milan, his face had the look of a beaten man already resigned to his team’s fate. He is continually let down by a group of players that he has emplaced so much belief in. He lauds their ‘mental resilience’ at every turn and to what effect? They were out-played, out-fought and out-thought.

Is it simply that Wenger has raised expectations so high by over-performing in the past that he is now unable to meet them with an inferior squad? Or is it more to do with the modern-day football fan and their penchant for knee-jerk reactions and drama?

Of course, as is often the way with issues as complex as this, the truth lies somewhere in between. To criticise Wenger, as his supporters often complain, is not to completely disregard the job that he has done in the past. His successes in the past grant him a degree of freedom, a measure of credit if you will, but it’s worth noting that he is becoming in increasing danger of fully cashing that in now.

The rumbles on the terraces are growing and Wenger looks to be running out of answers. Is fresh impetus needed? Most definitely, but that doesn’t neccessarily mean a change in management, it could simply mean a new coach or two, perhaps even a new assistant manager instead of Pat Rice; but most importantly, someone with new ideas willing to challenge Wenger’s all-encompassing authority.

Wenger can be criticised for a lot of things – a near constant obsession with planning for the future, a failure to spend money in positions that require reinforcements and the failure of the experimentation with club’s change in playing style.

However, should the club banish a manager after so many years of  distinguished service after one and a half seasons of indifferent form? We are often told that no one person is bigger than the club, but when it comes to Arsenal, that just simply doesn’t apply or ring true.

Arsene Wenger is Arsenal. If the club’s fans think that a change in manager will supply a quick fix to a team and infrastructure formed completely in Wenger’s image, then they have another coming. Any decision to remove Wenger could have wider-held implications to the club than we cannot possibly fully envisage at the moment. This is not the time for snap decisions based on a bad performance or two.

It’s easy to criticise the manager when performances go south, and Wenger certainly deserves a lot of the flak that goes his way, but the influence of the manager is often overstated in today’s game. The players simply aren’t holding their end of the bargain up.

Results are the managers perogrative, performances are the players. So far, against the odds, Arsenal are on course to secure Champions League qualification for the 12th successive season, which in itself is tantamount to a title win at the moment; a salient point worth remembering for Arsenal fans everywhere in the aftermath of a what will ultimately go down as a deeply humiliating evening for the club.

You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1

 


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