2 years ago it was considered blasphemy. Only the odd, slightly mad or slightly too drunk, radical Arsenal fan would suggest that Arsene Wenger should go. The suggestion would be met with cold stares and cold shoulders along the Holloway Road. Nobody questioned the leadership of Professor Wenger.
That was four years after Arsenal’s last silverware, the barren spell has grown to six and the unrest is more widespread. Disillusionment was so rife by the end of last season you would think Arsenal were heading for relegation. The players made a lap of honour to an abandoned stadium. They were dark times for the Gunners.
The problem, most Arsenal fans believe, is Arsene Wenger’s inability to improve his squad in the right areas. The problem seems so clear, the solution so simple. This is the cause of such frustration.
A centre-back, a goalkeeper and a striker that isn’t Nicklas Bendtner is all that’s required, yet summer after summer, Wenger signs a couple of promising youngsters and leaves the same gaping holes in his squad, ready to be exposed by another gruelling season.
This summer is unravelling much like those before, despite Samir Nasri challenging Wenger to show ambition in the market, he has signed the 19 year-old Charlton right back Carl Jenkinson and Lille’s Ivorian striker Gervinho (who may, finally, be the Bendtner replacement).
After six years without a trophy, it is fair to ask the question, would it be a backward step for Arsenal if Arsene Wenger left?
I believe it would, I believe that what Arsene Wenger manages to squeeze out of his squad every season is phenomenal. Everything about Arsenal football club screams Wenger, those are his players, many of them nurtured by him and his staff, it is his squad, his stadium, and the fans watch his football. (The Emirates fans are known for booing the long ball). Attempting to place another man into the perfectly Wenger shaped driving seat at Arsenal would be a painful, destructive process.
To the layman the squad looks thin, in recent years it has often looked worryingly thin in August only to surprise everyone, except Wenger himself, by still challenging for the title in February. Another man would no doubt feel the need to throw serious money at it. And whilst perhaps Wenger should too, he has shown his squad to be capable of competing with the best ever since he took control at Arsenal.
Replacing Wenger would take Arsenal back to the foetal position, a huddle of cub scouts missing their akela. There are no leaders in that group, no brave John Terry’s. There is a footballing philosophy, one that has driven Wenger’s transfer dealings for years. Pace and passing, pace of passing, either way, he has built a team to play a certain way, to replace him would be suicide, bringing in a non-believer would negate this team’s ability.
It makes sense to call for Wenger’s head, it is the role of football fans to be fickle and scathing and constantly demanding, irrespective of what has come before. Arsene Wenger has not won a trophy in six years, and even though he has provided Arsenal with 13 years of fantastic football, it is inevitable and essential that he be questioned. He is a long way from his invincibles.
He is however, the beating heart of Arsenal football club, he is the one constant from the doubles at Highbury to the big European nights at the Emirates, Wenger has presided over it all. Arsene may be a stubborn man, refusing to compromise his own beliefs, but his beliefs are now so intertwined with Arsenal football club, it would be disastrous to separate them.
It is easy to call for a replacement and then impossible to think of one who would be an improvement. It may be a frustrating time for Arsenal fans but it is only because Wenger himself has lifted their expectations so high.