Arsene Wenger – A sinking ship?

Unfortunately the Titanic wasn’t remembered for the revolutionary vessel that it was. It was remembered because it sunk. And whilst I use this metaphor loosely, the same is beginning to apply to Arsene Wenger. I am and always will be an advocate for ‘In Arsene we trust’, yet it seems that many fans and pundits alike are beginning to doubt the Frenchman’s ability.

These doubts have grown from unsubstantial murmurs from the footballing abyss to open debates as to whether or not Wenger’s time is up, and have merely been solidified by his bemusing decision to withdraw Oxlade-Chamberlain (easily the best Arsenal player on the pitch) for the ineffective, inexcusable and incompetent Arshavin in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United. Yet are people jumping on the ‘Wenger out’ bandwagon to soon?

Shortly after Oxlade-Chamberlain had cut inside and brilliantly fed Van Persie for the equaliser, I being the pessimist that I am (and many other football fans to) predicted that the teenager would soon make way for the Russian international. Walcott (who is becoming increasingly anonymous in matches) would have been the choice for a substitution to most football fans but Wenger, either doubting Chamberlain’s ability or giving him a chance to rest, thought otherwise. And whilst many journalist’s will concentrate on that decision costing Arsenal the game, I believe that if it weren’t for another substitution then Van Persie’s goal would have been a mere consolation strike. 

Johan Djourou put in arguably the most lacklustre and unimpressive performance that I have seen from him. I get that he isn’t a right back by trade but Nani was winning that battle without breaking a sweat. Wenger perhaps envisioning another heavy defeat at the hands of United brought on the inexperienced Nico Yennaris and it is fair it say that the teenager (making only his third appearance for the Gunners) was steady throughout against the tricky Portuguese winger. If it were not for this decision then I could see Manchester United running away with victory before Chamberlain’s assist.

Whilst I don’t want to dive into to Arsenal’s history and the players that Wenger has brought to the club, it is hard to acknowledge Wenger without commenting on the likes of Henry and Fabregas both of whom are the world renowned players that they are because of him. Yet the current situation the Arsenal squad is in, I do not blame fans for turning a blind eye to it. 

The problem for me lies in Wenger’s stubbornness. Unwilling to offer contract extensions beyond single year deals to players over 30, and also seeming unable to tie players down to contracts before the last year of their current deal, has indeed cost Wenger in the past. His presumption must be that the young players of the squad will hopefully be ready to fill the boots of the senior players when this occurs. This hasn’t been the case. We never truly replaced Vieira, Pires and most recently Fabregas and this has led to the club going slowly but steadily downhill.

Yet for the few that are ready to put Wenger’s head on the chopping block, I propose an idea for you. Wenger will undoubtedly remain till the end of the season at least, if not longer, so if he manages tying Van Persie down to a new contract (as unlikely as that is starting to look), will that suffice and take the pressure off of Wenger? I personally feel that the reason the board has backed Wenger through thick and thin is not only for what he has done for Arsenal in the past, and not only what he has done for Arsenal’s future (the current crop of youngsters look more exciting than ever) but also for the fact that he hasn’t spent huge money.

If a club doesn’t spend money and can still guarantee a top four finish (this is a hopeful statement rather than an assured one) then the board cannot blame the manager if he doesn’t deliver. And despite what revenue reports say, the debt to the Emirates and current sponsorships haven’t left Wenger with an unlimited pot of gold.

If I were the Arsenal board I’d give Wenger an ultimatum in the summer. Spend money on established players that YOU (not the board or the gossip columns) think will catapult us back into title contention. If that doesn’t work then the speculation around his position is fair. One thing that is for certain though, if Wenger doesn’t change something there is the danger that he will be remembered for his failures rather than his success. Until that point…’In Wenger we trust’. 

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