Arsenal’s shock 2-1 defeat to Watford in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday has once again lead to calls for Arsene Wenger to resign as Emirates boss.
The Frenchman has dubbed criticisms a “farce“, perhaps understandably considering this is the Gunners’ first defeat in the tournament since 2013 and he’s lifted the FA Cup a very impressive six times.
Nonetheless, seemingly out of the Premier League title race and facing a 2-0 deficit to Barcelona in the Champions League, Arsenal’s season is now essentially over. It represents yet another campaign in which the Gunners have ultimately come up short domestically and in Europe, despite the rest of their habitual divisional rivals – Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea – failing to deliver.
Having failed to take advantage, the current campaign must suddenly feel like Groundhog Day for fans of the north London club. With that in mind, here are SIX things that happen at the Emirates almost every season under Arsene Wenger.
Is it time for change, Gunners fans? Let us know by commenting below!
Arsene Wenger is obsessed with defensive midfield or perhaps more accurately, obsessed with continually ignoring its existence.
Indeed, the last out-and-out defensive midfielder Arsene Wenger actually spent some money on was Lassana Diarra in summer 2007, who he quickly offloaded to Portsmouth at a slight profit just six months down the line.
Instead, Wenger finds himself either promoting youth recruits, making free transfers or converting players from other positions to find protection for his back four.
Mikel Arteta played as a wide midfielder for much of his Everton career, Alex Song started off as a centre-back, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are both box-to-boxers asked to play more conservatively and Mathieu Flamini moved to north London on a free transfer TWICE.
There’s nothing wrong with promoting from within or trying to find value for money. But defensive midfield is a crucial position in the modern game that Wenger has continually overlooked, without fail, pretty much since Gilberto Silva left the club in 2008.
Despite celebrating their eternal qualification for the tournament like winning the title itself, Arsenal have surpassed the Champions League’s quarter-finals just twice under Arsene Wenger.
Perhaps more disturbingly, they’ve been eliminated at the Round of 16, usually at the hands of Bayern Munich or Barcelona, for five seasons in a row and barring a three-goal miracle at the Nou Camp will suffer the same fate yet again this term.
That’s in no small part due the Gunners continually underestimating the quality of opposition in the Group Stages with weakened team selections, affecting their seeding for the knockout rounds.
They’ve finished second seven times out of their last nine attempts times and some of the sides to claim pole position ahead of the north Londoners are hardly European powerhouses – Sevilla, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Schalke and Dortmund (twice).
Two trends have become abundantly obvious. Firstly, Wenger doesn’t appreciate how the Group Stages can affect the rest of Arsenal’s season and secondly, the Frenchman lacks the tactical nous to outdo heavyweight opposition in the latter stages.
No doubt, the Capital One Cup is treated with relative contempt by a number of top clubs, in no small part due to the fact it seriously clogs up fixture scheduling after Christmas – those double-leg semi finals particularly – and isn’t considered a prestigious accolade in the same way as the FA Cup.
Nonetheless, Arsene Wenger has almost completely regarded the tournament throughout his north London tenure. From twenty years in English football, during which he’s been in charge of one of its top clubs, the Frenchman has never lifted the League Cup and reached the tournament’s final just twice.
Gunners fans may not be too concerned, feeling their club has bigger fish to fry such as the ever-alluding Premier League title. But that’s still one trophy per season they’re missing out on, simply because Wenger doesn’t have much time for it.
Maybe if the Gunners had someone else at the helm, less apathetic towards the competition, Arsenal wouldn’t have won just two trophies in the last eleven years.
Every season, Arsenal find themselves battling a ten-man injury list that eventually corrodes their campaign as key stars miss important games – the obvious examples this year being midfield maestro Santi Cazorla and versatile forward Danny Welbeck.
Some may place that simply on ill fortune, but the Gunners’ horrendous injury streak has gone on for so long now that it can’t be labelled a mere coincidence. In my opinion, there are three underlying causes that trace back to Arsene Wenger.
First of all, the Frenchman’s training methods must be having some sort of effect. He was dubbed a revolutionary when first arriving in the Premier League, especially in terms of diet and short-but-intense training sessions, but almost two decades later, Le Prof’s training ground routines may be causing more damage than he realises.
Secondly, Arsenal don’t recruit athletes. The physical aspects of the Premier League are more demanding than ever, yet the Gunners continue to target diminutive players, usually measuring below 6 foot, almost exclusively in the transfer market.
Thirdly, Wenger rushes young players into the Arsenal first team. Wenger is often praised for his insistence upon giving chances to young players, but they’re coming into a high-intensity league at an incredibly early age. Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott were all playing regularly for Arsenal as teenagers and all have suffered recurring injury problems throughout their careers.
Arsene Wenger certainly isn’t alone in his apathy towards the January transfer window. The fact of the matter is that top draw talents aren’t usually available, unless you’re willing to pay over the odds, and most major clubs of Arsenal’s stature end up avoiding it almost completely as a consequence.
Nonetheless, after so many years of falling short in the title race – and after ending so many summer transfer windows a few bodies short of a full senior squad – you’d assume Wenger would decide to take a punt in January and try and bolster his roster with a heavyweight purchase at least on one or two occasions.
Yet, in the last five seasons, Wenger has signed just three first team players in January – Nacho Monreal, Gabriel Paulista and Mohamed Elneny – none of whom were capable of making an instant impact or purchased as anything more than squad additions.
Wenger clearly prioritises long-term gain over short-term success but as a consequence, he’s failed to maximise the momentum Arsenal often carry into the January transfer window.
They say you can’t stand still in the Premier League but Arsenal have defied that adage for ten straight seasons.
The Gunners have been stuck in the purgatory of third and fourth place for a decade, rarely proving serious contenders in the title race and rarely looking like dropping out of the Champions League spots, and now eight points behind table-toppers Leicester City, are set to suffer a similar fate yet again this year.
But somehow, Arsenal always do just enough to appease a disillusioned fan base. That has come via their FA Cup triumphs in recent years but the Gunners also have a knack for finishing the season well, which tends to wane the calls for Arsene Wenger to resign just ahead of the summer.
Indeed, Arsenal fans find themselves suddenly renewed with a sense of optimism following an end of season flurry that suggests greater things in the campaign to come. From the last five seasons, for example, the north Londoners have lost just eight of their final 50 league games.
Resultantly, history has continually repeated itself at the Emirates. The fans become starry-eyed, Ivan Gazidis talks up heavy spending during the summer transfer window, Wenger makes a few comments about ‘belief’, everyone renews their season tickets and the issue of the manager’s future is suddenly forgotten.
Eight months down the line, however, Arsenal find themselves once again falling short domestically and in Europe and querying the man in the dugout. Will the north Londoners finally break the cycle this summer? I’m not convinced.