Published on The Arsenal Review
The fanbase is as divided as it has ever been lately.
Poor results and the lack of a concerted title challenge for a length of time not fitting for a team of our stature, has served as an accelerant to the flames which now lick lasciviously at Arsene Wenger, Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis and the underwhelming players.
The root cause for our long-term malaise is also at the centre of every point of consternation between us Gooners right now. The barometer of opinion swings wildly when it comes to players, whilst Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis have long been the subject of ire from us all.
Arsene Wenger though, is now feeling the heat that Gazidis and Kroenke now attract. It hasn’t been instantaneous, and there has been pockets of fans calling for his resignation for some time now – but as of right now – the vast majority of Gooners can see no successful future with the Frenchman’s hand on the tiller.
The last few campaigns have merely added weight to the claims that Arsene is not the man of old, the brain responsible for some of the brightest lights we have glittering in our history. Just like these moments now encased in nostalgia, he too is a thing that should be consigned firmly to the past.
It was perhaps the 2015/16 season though, that broke the camel’s back in terms of being able to validate any argument in terms of supporting Wenger. Leicester City of course, were the victors, as we finished in the runners-up spot a lengthy ten points behind.
The Foxes lost only three games that season, but it isn’t the credentials of Leicester that were up for question, it was the fact that the title was evidently up for grabs and with the right level of acquisition in the transfer market, as well as avoiding sloppy mistakes, could well have seen the wait for a first Championship since 2004 ended.
Last season then saw us fall further behind, as the usual suspects who had slumbered the previous season, had now woke up. It saw our team finish outside the hallowed Top4 for the first time since 1996, and it fully emboldened the groups who were calling for Wenger to depart.
Now, we look back on the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, in the shadow of a transfer window which was an unmitigated disaster. Once again we enjoyed a great start with the shrewd purchase of Sead Kolasinac and the marquee signing of Alexandre Lacazette.
The hole in our central midfield went unheeded though. Again. This is yet another barb that can be aimed squarely at Wenger. The lack of a decisive midfielder who is positionally astute is leaving Mesut Ozil roving deeper than he needs to be to deliver passes to our strikers. It also sees counter attacks from the opposition filter through unhindered.
Lessons unlearned. Much like losses against Stoke and indeed, Liverpool. Heavy defeats that would normally see a coach get the chop, are now annual occurrences. Too much faith placed in players that have let him down on numerous occasions. Playing players in positions that do not optimise their talents.
Three FA Cups in four years have made him the most fruitful Manager the competition has ever seen, and has given him enough slack for him to continue in his work. Another season of not challenging at the top though, beckons. A 4-0 loss at Anfield saw us play so contrastingly with the vibrant Reds that it was unclear what League we were meant to belong in. It was embarrassing, and yet it has happened before, which is not acceptable.
Wenger has admitted doubting himself, but this was before deciding to sign another two year extension. He still feels he is the person to continue to push our club forward, but before he can do so – can he prove he is the man to apply the handbrake and arrest our slide?
With Man City, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool all flexing their financial muscles and our hated neighbours looking forward to a bigger stadium from next season, can we even consider ourselves standing toe-to-toe with these clubs? Have we slipped so much that we can’t close the gap?
Wenger will not leave before his contract ends, so there isn’t much choice but to get behind the man. We can question his approach though. We can voice our displeasure just as we can roar in approval if needs be. That is every supporters right.
What is now clear is that Wenger – even if he is still capable of delivering – is now making more mistakes than he has ever done before.
We have a squad that is capable of doing so much, but with an owner who does not inject a penny of his own into the club, a Chief Executive more adept at spinning the media than propelling us into the future and a Manager who appears to be losing grip with the sharp end of the Premiership, we may be slipping into the void.
The fanbase may be divided, but ultimately, with every disappointment, it unites that little bit more for a change in direction – from top to bottom.