“The first trophy is to finish in the top four,” proclaimed Arsene Wenger in the aftermath of their cup exit at high flyers Sunderland.
As the words vacated his mouth a series of alarm bells, klaxons and distress sirens should have been activated and projected into the sky like some sort of SOS Batman signal. Barring an inspired performance against Milan at the Emirates, Arsenal look destined for another intolerable season. Just 12 months ago they were in the hunt for all four possible trophies and now they’re chasing imaginary silverware. I’m sorry Arsene but fourth place doesn’t even get you on a standard podium.
A few days later Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke touched down in London ahead of a board meeting, which will prompt the announcement of a £55m profit from their half-yearly accounts. Topics up for discussion will include Arsenal’s apparent restrained spending in anticipation of their failure to qualify for the Champions League along with various contract negotiations. One issue that is not expected to be up for debate is the future of the Arsenal boss, with Kroenke likely to once again throw his full support behind the Frenchman.
The news of Wenger’s unyielding backing is likely to be spark contrasting reactions. There are still a resolute number of supporters in favour of Wenger remaining at the club, believing not only that he is the man to lead the revolution but that past achievements should allow him the chance to do so. One the other hand, another trophyless season looks like being the final straw for those who believe North London has never looked bleaker.
The consequences of missing out on the Champions League would have a monumental impact on the club, with the Arsenal Supports Trust estimating it would cost Arsenal about £45 million in prize money alongside match-day and media income. With this is mind perhaps it’s time for Kroenke and Co to turn up the heat and deliver an ultimatum that would see Wenger out of a job at the end of the season should he fail to achieve certain targets.
In a bizarre turn of events it seems as though Arsenal’s regular one-man band Robin Van Persie is on the receiving end of this stern treatment. The Dutchman’s contract negotiations had reached a stalemate, which provoked Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis to wade in and declare he would not be allowed to leave the club “at any price” this summer, even if he refuses to sign a new contract. Is this a refreshing measure to combat ‘player power’? Or is it inexcusable treatment of the club’s standout performer? It begs the question, why hasn’t Wenger received similar treatment?
It’s often amusing to see clubs issue the dreaded vote of confidence to their faltering manager. It’s a move that is meant to signal solidarity at the club but instead only serves to grease the wheels on an impending departure. Perhaps it would be better to announce a statement of intent, stating that if certain requirements aren’t attained then appropriate action will be taken. There would be no need to specify names heading for the chopping block – that much would be obvious – but at least it would prove to the fans that the owners won’t stand on the sidelines, like everyone else is forced to, and watch the ship go down.
The 7-1 thrashing of a frankly hapless Blackburn side has done little to disguise the fact that Arsenal have been on decline since the year of ‘The Invincibles’. The team no longer looks promising, with only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Emmanuel Frimpong really providing evidence that they could establish themselves in the first team sooner rather than later. Arsenal fans will no doubt be sick of looking over their shoulder at the teams gathering pace behind them and a defeat in the North London derby this weekend could be the spark needed to implement drastic measures.
There is no questioning Wenger’s achievements in management but considering he has always seen out his contract, perhaps he needs the motivation of working under that increased pressure. It could be argued that his resilience and faith in certain players has mutated into a kind of arrogance, trapping him in his own little world. The chairman and board members should never interfere with matters on the pitch but maybe Arsene needs to be put in his place by a higher authority.
Despite Arsenal’s recognised impressive finances, it has recently come to light they boast the fourth highest wage bill in the league. When you consider the recent departure of high earners Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri it becomes apparent that a number of fringe players are receiving extortionate wages.
The Arsenal Supporters Trust recently commented:
“The wage bill of £130 million is sizeable and in the view of the AST there is clear inefficiency in wage spend evidenced by poor performances on the pitch and the number of players the club have either on loan (ie can’t be sold) or deemed not good enough to play in the first team,”
If Arsene is not willing to accept defeat with his failed transfers and inflict a ruthless clearout then maybe it’s time to bring in someone who will.
The problem with foreign ownership is that they will always be ‘distant’ from ongoing events at the club and never be regarded as fully understanding the club’s long-standing history and traditions. You only have to look at rivals Tottenham to see a shining example of chairman and manager working in perfect harmony. Perhaps Wenger needs the presence of an unsympathetic figure looking down on him, ready to voice their discontent but alternatively issue a pat on the back when it’s deserved.
Is it time Arsene was pushed towards the edge of the cliff, so his attention isn’t focused on the horizon but just how far Arsenal could fall?
Join me on Twitter @theunusedsub where I’m currently trying to wrap my head around Stewart Downing’s inclusion in the England squad.
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