Where did it all go wrong? Who is to blame? How will they recover? There are many questions being asked of Arsenal this season and in particular, Arsene Wenger.
Chairman David Dein appointed the Frenchman as Arsenal boss in October 1996. Wenger was relatively unknown at the time having only previously managed Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan and Monaco – the Evening Standard’s headline infamously read ‘Arsene who’ – but he quickly answered his critics. Wenger radically changed the public’s opinion of Arsenal, and it didn’t take him long.
Under Wenger, Arsenal played beautiful passing football, unlike the side that was managed by George Graham. The French tactician won the League and FA Cup double in his first full season and won three more FA Cups and two more league titles before the end of 2005. Arsenal’s team of 2003/04 is the only side to go a whole league season unbeaten – a feat unlikely to ever be repeated.
There was heartache for Wenger and Arsenal in 2006 as his side narrowly lost the Champions League final to Barcelona after goalkeeper Jens Lehmann saw red early in in the game, and it’s true that continental success has evaded ‘Big Weng’.
Recent years have been difficult for the Arsenal faithful. Arsenal’s strike force has been downgraded from the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires to options such as Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh and Olivier Giroud
Fans were furious as Arsenal, over the next few years, sold star players such as Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri, all to Premier League rivals. To add insult to injury, Henry and Cesc Fabregas headed off to Barcelona.
Wenger has been known to have a stubborn approach in the transfer market and has very rarely bought the stars that the Arsenal fans feel the team need.
Eventually, after 9 long years Arsenal won their first piece of silverware since 2005, the FA Cup, which they regained the following year, but fans had high expectations going into the 2015/16 season. No key players left in the summer and veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech signed from Chelsea. Arsenal beat Cech’s former team in the Community Shield at Wembley in August and the red half of North London was very excited for the upcoming season.
Arsenal sat top of the table on New Year’s Day but just a few months on they find themselves in a very different position. Arsenal are currently in fourth position, five points behind arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur, a team who Wenger has never finished below.
Arsenal fans have held banners with quotes such as ‘every good story has an ending’ and ‘enough is enough’. Supporters are clearly unhappy with a side that have only won six games in 2016.
Arsenal’s title hopes are over and the club look as though they will finish behind Tottenham for the first time in 20 years. Their fourth place spot is even in jeopardy if the performances don’t improve soon.
It is certainly disrespectful to abuse the most-successful manager in the club’s history, a man who transformed the club, but perhaps after another under-performing season, the Arsenal fans have the right to vent their frustration.