Arsene Wenger’s 18 years at Arsenal have seen the North London club develop their status as one of the most entertaining and successful teams in Europe. The Gunners are now synonymous with playing good football with the relationship between club and manager labelled as the perfect marriage.
However, in 2014, that marriage is well and truly on the rocks with a painful divorce looking increasingly inevitable. Nothing lasts forever, and as fans of the Premier League are reportedly pay the most expensive season tickets across Europe’s top five leagues, they have the right to demand a change.
Wenger’s time at Arsenal seems to be coming to an end for several reasons. The most immediate of which has been a series of questionable tactics and line-ups deployed by the French boss this season. When Arsenal fans first saw their second choice left-back, Nacho Monreal, playing at centre-back alongside a Per Mertesacker, who seems to be suffering from a World Cup hanger-over, optimism wasn’t exactly high at the Emirates.
The fact that Calum Chambers, who certainly looks a lot more comfortable in the centre of defence than he does at full back, is continually being deployed at right-back has also left the Arsenal fans in even more dismay. It seems wrong that a club of Arsenal’s stature can look so weak and vulnerable at the back, with sides such as Southampton, West Ham and even Swansea City achieving better defensive records in 2014/15.
The Gunners have subsequently drawn five and lost four this season, which is exactly the same record as Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United. The Magpies were reportedly in crisis at the beginning of the season, but now after fifteen games played in the Premier League, they sit behind Arsenal in 7th only on goal difference.
Arsene Wenger’s tactical errors are largely part of a bigger issue surrounding the North London club. The Gunners’ transfer policy in recent years has been nothing short of baffling.
Whether or not their French boss is to blame, Arsenal sold Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona without bringing in an adequate replacement. The club have also been forced to make do with a so-so Danny Welbeck, when the likes of Mario Mandzukic and even Loic Remy were available this summer. Seeing one Alex Song perform so well for the Hammers must also be a hard pill to swallow for Gunners fans, as a strong defensive midfielder is another area that needs addressing in this current Arsenal side.
You only need to look to history to see how even untouchable mangers can fall from grace eventually. Nottingham Forrest’s Brian Clough was simply the best during his time at the East midlands club, but as time inevitably wore away at the European glory days Clough brought to Forrest in the mid-seventies, the famed manager departed the club after seeing his side be unceremoniously relegated from the top flight.
Whilst such a dramatic decline obviously doesn’t await Arsenal any time soon, the Clough story clearly outlines that nothing lasts forever in football.
There was once a time when Arsenal couldn’t afford to sack Wenger because there were simply no other managerial names out their worthy of carrying on where Arsene would have left off, but today that is no longer the case. Atletico’s Diego Simeone would certainly seem a suitable candidate, and despite his recent shortcomings with Borussia Dortmund, so would Jurgen Klopp.
Yes, Arsenal fans owe Wenger a huge deal of respect for bringing consistent European football and the ‘Invincibles’ team to North London. Yes, some of the players wearing the red & white have been guilty of under-performing in recent years and should be giving more for their manager.
Yes, injuries to key players have done no favours for Arsene this season – but ultimately, as the same problems seem to be afflicting the Gunners with every passing season, Arsenal are slowly losing grip of their ‘big club’ status and a change is going to be needed sooner or later if they are to maintain it.