The ‘Wenger Out’ brigade have resurfaced in recent weeks. You hear it in pubs, at the games, on the Internet – some people have had enough. The fact that just before Christmas the very same people were saying they had never lost faith in him, even after Old Trafford, is neither here nor there. Football is a fickle business to be in, managers understand that and although I do fully support Wenger I also reject the claims that all who doubt him don’t know what they are talking about, and that those fans are ungrateful. People give Arsenal fans a lot of stick for complaining about Wenger but I doubt you see any Spurs, Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea or Liverpool fans supporting their manager if he went as long as Wenger has without a trophy. The fact that Wenger still has so much support is testament to the respect the fans have for the manager and the gratitude for all that he has done for the club from the fans.
Like I said, I don’t want Wenger to leave; however there will come a point when the fans will have to accept that our slide down the table can go no further. At first it was frustrating that we were not winning the league, then it was frustrating that we were not serious contenders, last year a collapse lead us dangerously close to finishing outside the Champions League places and this year we are battling for fourth. Every few years the expectations of Arsenal fans go down, just because the decline is gradual, it doesn’t mean it is not real.
I don’t think deadlines or ultimatums are helpful, however it has got to the stage where Wenger could be approaching the most important six months of his Arsenal career. You could argue that us coming third or fourth this year doesn’t really matter, that we can simply rebuild next year if we finish outside the top four. Maybe that is true, but I think that if we finish outside the top four this year then it could be the first time that Wenger is really undoing some of the work he has done at the club. Wenger and the board also have to realise that to go without Champions League football next year will encourage a whole new section of the fans to turn against both the board and the manager.
This is an important point as well. With Kroenke having seen what happened at Liverpool with Hicks and Gillett, or how quick the United fans were to turn on the Glazers he will be concerned with how the he and the Arsenal board are being perceived. I don’t think an angry reaction from the fans would see Wenger sacked but I do think that it may have an influence if the board ever had to make that sort of decision. In the past, despite not winning trophies, Wenger’s job has been safe because he has continuously made money for the club whilst guaranteeing them Champions League football. If that trend starts to fade then the board will be in a position where they have to put sentiment aside and consider the Frenchman’s future.
Players around Europe are aware of what is happening at Arsenal. The other risk that Arsenal are running at the moment is that soon they may be unable to attract big players. This is already the case to an extent but the situation will deteriorate with Arsenal’s standing in English football. Clearly Wenger has been unlucky with injuries to key players and Barcelona consistently poaching key men from the team. The rise of Chelsea and Manchester City has also weakened his crusade. However, ultimately none of that really matters. Arsenal are where they are and there is no point blaming our position on external factors. You have to take your own mistakes in to account if you are to progress and this is exactly what Wenger needs to do over the next six months. Wenger should not leave; he is still a great manager who encourages attacking football and nurtures young players extremely well. However he is not perfect. He has obvious glaring flaws that he needs to address and as much as he has an admirable philosophy he needs to understand that the club is bigger than him, that our longevity is more important than his pride. To be fair our transfer dealings in the summer suggest that he has accepted that but more needs to be done if Arsenal are to return to where they belong. The second half of the season will be a telling half, it could be the biggest of Wenger’s career.
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