Arsene Wenger has shown remarkable longevity in 21 years at Arsenal, but it’s now time for the Frenchman to step away from the Gunners
The Invincibles, the Champions League final in 2006. A revolution in English football. A pioneer, and a successful one too. Arsene Wenger was all these things. Something huge for Arsenal and for the Premier League. A tornado of fresh air, innovation, records, results. It will always be impossible for an Arsenal fan to hate Arsene. But it’s been time for him to go in a long while.
Results and trophies are the ultimate recognition in football, and these have been lacking at the top level for a while now. The last Premier League victory goes back to 2004. And since then the Gunners have struggled to even get second spot. Sure, Arsenal have won two FA Cups in the past three years, a great result, undoubtedly. But the disappointment with Wenger, the players and the club as a whole goes way beyond just trophies.
Trophies, or to be precise the lack of them, are a direct reflection on how the club has been run. Wenger has been stubborn, and has had few people to confront him at Arsenal. His power is almost total within the club. He is now the longest ever serving manager on a Premier League bench, making home almost unsackable. But also making him the best example of pure stagnation.
Some of his most stubborn ideas, from being convinced Manuel Almunia could play in goal, to putting trust in the likes of Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott and many more who have failed to deliver consistently, from spending whole transfer budgets on players Arsenal did not need (for example Mesut Ozil), to never buying players in the key positions that have been left empty by Sol Campbell and Patrick Vieira, both on and off the pitch.
Arsenal have lacked a solid, consistent centre back, and a box-to-box and holding midfielder for a decade. And not just for their role in the eleven, but also for their personality in the changing room. Wenger has either been convinced for years this isn’t needed, or has not realised it is a problem. Most Arsenal fans have. Players who are ready to give everything for this club haven’t been seen in far too long.
Pressure on the players has disappeared: if winning was central to the first Wenger years, it is now an optional feature of playing for Arsenal. The biggest sign of the decline is this. Arsenal are supposed to play this somehow fun and flowery style of football, and if results come with it then all the better, otherwise a fourth spot in the table will do just fine.
This is the exact opposite of how any big, winning club should think. And the feeling really is that Wenger has given this mentality to any player that joins. No wonder the likes of Alexis Sanchez are ready to leave. Nothing has changed in the Chilean’s time at Arsenal. The decline is slow but steady. A decline into mediocrity.
Losing Alexis Sanchez on a free or for little money shows everything that’s wrong at Arsenal at the moment: no foresight, no future thinking, no strength to progress. Mediocre stagnation at its finest. It would be great to find a solution under Wenger, for what he’s done for the club, but the solution might simply have to be for Wenger to leave.