Is it the end for Arsene Wenger?

Written by Carl Walker

Tuesday night’s result away at Bayern Munich may finally be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Arsene Wenger as it looks more and more likely he will retire and leave Arsenal when his contract is up in the summer. His 21 year reign at the club, looks to be coming to an end. He himself, is the last of a dying breed, a manager that has given unbelievable longevity in a ferocious and fierce football world in which clubs change managers more often than they do their toothbrushes. After Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 he became the last man standing.

When he first arrived in England from Japan, he was an unknown quantity and his appointment certainly raised a few eyebrows as did his methods of change which his implemented immediately into Arsenal. No more drinking, the correct diet and training tailored for each player amongst other methods that no one had seen done before. His first 10 years were a triumph, three Premier League titles, four FA cup titles and four community shield wins and not to mention the invincibles. However the last ten or so have not been anywhere near good enough, the club have won just two FA cups in the last twelve years. Unacceptable for a club of Arsenal’s size.

Wenger has been in a comfort zone, where if he qualifies for the Champions League each season everything is fine with Kronke and the board, this is something that Arsene has managed to do in every single year he has been at the club which again is a fantastic achievement of continuity, but whats the point in being in a competition that you are never going to win?

I am well aware that Arsenal were fifteen minutes away from winning the Champions League in Paris in 2006 but it was not meant to be, that’s football and Barcelona were the better side. If they had won the trophy though would things have been different? We will never know. I’m certain that it’s Arsene’s biggest regret not lifting the holy grail of club football.

credit Abir Anwar

The truth is Wenger should of gone seasons ago, the fact that he has been allowed to decide his own fate for so long by the board shows how poorly run the club is in terms of an actual club and making club decisions. It’s a unique situation, something I’ve never seen at a club before. Sir Alex Ferguson was always given contact extensions but he was also very successful.

In the past twelve years, what has gone wrong at Arsenal then? The move from Highbury to the Emirates was always going to be tricky and that is something that Wenger was entrusted to oversee, while trying to remain competitive. The fans were very understanding given the circumstances. Investment and recruitment would take a short term hit, in the long run the new home would allow them to compete with the European heavyweights such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Good deal right?

Tuesday nights result should tell you all you need to know. Big players left the club in order to win trophies, and they were justified in doing so. Clichy, Adebayor, Fabregas, Song, Nasri and Van Persie saw that they couldn’t achieve this with Arsenal and were right to move on. This was also at a time when Arsenal were a selling club, finances were tight and Wenger persevered.

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The recruitment to replace those players has not been good enough I’m afraid. Giroud still splits opinion, Podolski has come and gone. Arteta struggled with injury and was collecting a wage and the list could go on. It was only in recent season when Wenger decided to loosen the purse strings, slightly, and bring in Ozil and Sanchez but unfortunately the damage is done. Arsenal have fallen too far behind.

The squad’s that he builds are left together for too long and become stagnant. Arteta should of been sold but was allowed to retire. Abou Diaby played 125 games in 9 years at the club before finally leaving on a free, Rosicky a similar number over 10 years. There a similar stories through the years. The current squad of players is no different.

Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson, Gabriel, Yaya Sanogo none of these are good enough to play at that level. Theo Walcott has not achieved anything at the club in ten years and has overstayed his welcome. Wenger allows players to stay longer than they should and then they either get released or sold for a very small fee. For someone who was financial astute and weary of spending he certainly doesn’t know a bad investment when he sees one.

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Wenger is a stubborn man, who deeply believes in his principles but those principles are not working and have not been for a while. The club have not progressed in the last decade and as tactics and managing has evolved, he has not. Same approach, same results.
There is a big big question about the mentality at the club, it’s too weak and I think most would agree that’s the case.

Clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City are ruthless, and that ruthless streak goes right through the club. If the manager is not performing, he’s gone. Chelsea have had 13 managers since Arsenal last won the title, Some permanent, some interim. Has it proved successful. Absolutely. Four Premier League titles, four FA cup wins, Three League Cup win and one Champions League win.

Manchester City were a different club when Wenger last won the league but since then they have had 7 managers and have been relatively successful. Two Premier League titles, one FA cup win and two League Cup wins. Manchester City also have healthy investment which will allow them to grow year on year and a modern manager who is not afraid to spend.

Arsene has come under fire for his tactics and man management in recent seasons and again with good cause. The squad rotation means there is never a settled team and when up against the top four or top six teams the record is very poor. The club will get results and play beautiful football against the lesser teams, where they have plenty of possession but struggle against top opposition. Arsene has not evolved as football has around him.

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Once he was the pioneering manager who was the catalyst for change, now others around him do so. Pep Guardiola has brought a new style of play with a sweeper keeper who can be used as an additional outfield player, full backs who tuck in and play as central midfielders if needed. This itself has had some teething problems but he is getting there and with a few additional signings you will see a Pep Guardiola team next season.

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp has brought the high energy, high intensity game he developed at Dortmund and which Barcelona are so famous for. Press as high as you can, as soon as you have possession, there are four runners all making different runs. Its fantastic to watch.

Jose Mourinho builds his teams to adapt to every situation. Attack and win at all cost’s with fast, pacey wingers and score plenty of goals. He has players that are physically strong and tall for when he needs a defensive performance. He is like Pep meticulous in his preparation and adapts to his opponent and atmosphere.

More worryingly is what his happening across North London with rivals Tottenham. Pochettino has created a young and vibrant team. They set up as a 4-2-3-1 and when attacking the centre half’s split, the defensive midfielder drops in the gap and the full backs push on to make it a 3-1-5-1, all out attack at a blistering pace and its paying dividends. Pochettino himself has been linked with Barcelona job in recent weeks due to his style of play.

So why now? Stan Kronke wants Arsene to stay and give another two years, this again shows the way the club is run. It’s not driven by trophies, the club see Champions League qualification and the financial rewards from that as it’s trophy. However with Wenger’s contract up this summer and the result in Munich on Tuesday it looks to be final straw for the professor, after the game he looked a completely broken man.

credit Ronnie Macdonald

The atmosphere amongst the fans is toxic, there is a real split between the Wenger in brigade and the Wenger out brigade but with the contract due up it looks like the penny may have finally dropped for Arsene that his time is up with the club although I must stress, not announcement has been made yet.

The Arsenal board are hesitant to sack Wenger, partly due to what he has done for the club which is magnificent, no one can deny that, but you wonder if the club have looked at what happened with Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson retired. United have had three years in the wilderness, no where near there best and under Van Gaal played some turgid football, Jose Mourinho is rebuilding slowly and the signs are now positive.

Arsenal should look across London to another one of its rivals in Chelsea, when Jose was sacked in December 2015 the club was in a real bad state, but careful guidance up to the summer from Hiddink and with a great selection of replacement in Antonio Conte, Chelsea are back and are looking rampant. Change is not always bad. The Arsenal board and Kronke need to know this.

Who’s next for the hot seat then? There will be plenty of names interested in the job but lets have a look at some of the favourites.

Massimiliano Allegri – Juventus

The current Juventus manager has openly stated that he would like to take over once Arsene leaves and has achieved success with Juventus in his two seasons at the club so far. Two Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia’s and a runner up in Champions League too. He also won the title and Supercoppa Italia with AC Milan in 2011.

Eddie Howe – Bournemouth

Eddie Howe is a young and vibrant manager who has masterminded Bournemouth’s metoric rise through the divisons and has made them a Premier League team. His style of play would suit Arsenal’s philosophy and with knowledge of the English game it could be an easy transition.

Diego Simeone – Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone has made Atletico a real force not just in Spain but in European football. He has conquered La Liga in 2013-2014 and has also steered Atletico to two Champions League finals in three years. He is a very committed maanger who demands his players buy into his methods. Recently signed a contract reduction so the compensation would be minimal.

Thomas Tuchel – Borussia Dortmund

Tuchel has followed in the work started by Jurgen Klopp and kept the full throttle, high intensity football working at Dortmund. This could be a welcome change for Arsenal having seen what Klopp has done in a short space of time with Liverpool.

Luis Enrique- Barcelona

Another manager where it looks as though his time is coming to and end with the club. Enrique picked up where Pep left off and has added to an already world class squad. Has won two La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey’s and one Champions League title plus furter silverware. Said he has been left drained after the intensity of the job has taken its toll on him. May need a break before returning to management.

What ever is decided in the next month or so, Arsenal should certainly have a shortlist of replacements lined up for Wenger, he wont go on forever and it looks as though his tenure is over, but on his terms as it should have been anyway.

Thanks for the memories Arsene.

Do you share the same thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!