It has come down to this, in what could be the final bow for one of the great managers of the English Premier League. I really admire Arsene Wenger for the years he has spent and the tremendous transformation he was able to bring to Arsenal Football Club. He is undoubtedly the greatest manager in the history of the club and remains one of the greatest as well in the history of world football at large.
Now, before anyone says anything, I am a die-hard Manchester United fan from New Jersey. I’m sure many people are aware of the following the club enjoys in the U.S.A. The heartbreaks of many years are equally felt by the enduring fans of the club here as much as it is felt by the local London fans and those in other parts of the world. Not many sporting organizations have such a huge reputation yet bring such huge disappointment to its fans like Arsenal football club has done in the last twelve years and I have not seen any other group of fans who can remain as loyal despite the serial failures of those years.
It has become very embarrassing as Arsenal have become a laughing-stock for the supporters of other clubs. Blame the board and you will be right. Blame the attitude of the players and you won’t be totally wrong. You could blame it on many factors including the scouting, transfer and wage policies, but putting all the blame on one man could be cruel, though I sometimes blame him too, not for the poor results but for bringing himself this low and making himself the scapegoat for every other person’s sins. Now, what could be wrong with Mr. Wenger? Almost everyone wants him out and that’s understandable because this is not the Arsenal FC we used to know and this is not the Arsenal he built. Okay, I understand he’s given his best but I’m sorry I have to blame him for taking the grace of God upon his life for granted.
Before now, Sir Alex Ferguson was the longest-serving manager in the same league. He had his own challenges while managing Manchester United FC, but he remained productive till his old age and eventual retirement. Wenger right now is not even as old as SAF when he retired, but his abilities have really dwindled. As successful as Ferguson was, he many times contemplated on his retirement but he hung on because he wanted to leave on a high note and that was exactly what he did when he poached Robin van Persie – who scored twenty goals to win him the club’s 20th league title. To the surprise of everyone including his own players, he smartly announced his retirement immediately and that made his a glorious goodbye.
Unfortunately for Mr. Wenger, despite his achievements in the 90’s till the FA Cup triumph of 2005, Arsenal was trophyless for eight seasons until they won another FA Cup in 2014. I understand we didn’t have as much investment in our squad as Ferguson or other managers had in the big clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City. In fact, it was so bad that Arsenal became a feeder club to these moneybags who came every summer to snatch away our best players. Still, Wenger managed to keep the Gunners in the top four of the Premier League. As commendable as that is, I think it beclouded Mr Wenger’s sense of judgment; he became mediocre in a game he once ruled.
While many fans called for his retirement during this trying time of “no trophy”, Wenger was seen by some others as a man giving his best but lacking financial support as a result of the club’s economic strategies. It is obvious now however that Arsene – with all due respect – is a major part of his own problems. After spending much on players like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka, Mustafi etc. he still has not managed to bring the glory days back to the club which is a sign that times have changed and he has refused to change with the times. His excuses don’t work anymore and he has begun to sound like a broken record. Quality, motivation and steel are some of the values missing in the squad Wenger has built and you can’t blame anyone else for that except the manager himself.
If Wenger was humble enough to know that his time was up, he could have ended on a good note when he broke the trophy jinx in 2014 and bowed out leaving the club in a good financial state, playing in the Champions’ League and having won the prestigious English FA Cup. That was God giving him a chance to leave in a big way but he refused it. God gave him a second chance in 2015 when he finished 3rd and won the FA Cup back to back, yet he refused to heed the warning. From then on, things began to go from bad to worse.
For me, 2015/2016 was the worst season for Arsenal in about 10 years, a season when our major rivals all performed woefully, giving us an opportunity to win the league, yet we still ridiculously lost it to a certain Leicester City FC and got knocked out of every other competition. Rather than see it as a disaster, Wenger believed and even claimed that the team was on the rise having finished 4th then 3rd in the previous seasons and 2nd place behind Leicester in 2016. In his utterances, the next position for 2017 was to finish 1st and win the league for the first time in 13 years, but his tactics failed him, his players failed him and his general abilities have failed him totally.
Well, it is 2017 already and if you thought 2015/2016 was our worst, then you would believe 2017 is worse. What could be worse than finishing fifth? Well, there is finishing three places below Tottenham. There is playing Europa League next season. There was the worst humiliation ever in Arsenal’s history of participation in the UEFA Champions League, losing 10-2 on aggregate against a very beatable team like Bayern Munich.
Arsenal is now fifth with one more round of games to play. If Liverpool and Man City are not stupid, they are bound to miss out on top four for the first time in 20 years. Does Arsene Wenger need a prophet to tell him his time is up? Everything is working against him, isn’t it obvious?
The Gunners have always been bullied in the transfer market by richer clubs. Now out of the UCL, they will find it even harder to lure big players to join. Then, you would add to the difficulty in keeping their own biggest players. The situation is very bad right now. However, a lifeline has been provided in order to still finish on a high. This is the 2017 FA Cup. I respect Arsene Wenger, but I think it is time for him to go. My head was thinking he may be forced to leave if they fail to win any trophy and miss out on the top four. But, he has done so much for Arsenal that for him to end it this way would be a shame.
Assuming we do finish fifth, my heart prays he wins the FA cup again. It won’t be easy against the champions Chelsea. The last two FA Cup finals were won against lower teams like Hull City in 2014 and Aston Villa in 2015. So, this is the real test of character and if truly they are willing to bounce back to good times. This is where to prove it, ahead of next season.
The FA Cup is the only hope of a trophy this year. This is Wenger’s last chance for a happy ending. Though judging by his body language, Wenger may refuse to leave until he wins the league. To him, that might be the only level of success close to “leaving on a high”. But learning from Liverpool and Manchester United, it’s hard to come back when a big team drops out of the top four. I don’t think Wenger deserves anything to further dent his records and achievements. If there’s indeed a “God of soccer”, I’m sure he loves Arsene and may he give him victory once again! Now use your last chance of a glorious exit. Use it well, win that trophy and go home as the legend that you truly are.