When did things go sour for Arsene?

By on March 22, 2018

The Emirates is not a happy ship at the moment. Wenger out banners, angry chants and some colourful interviews (warning: lots of swearing) on ArsenalFanTV show that the majority of fans now think that it’s time for the Premier League’s longest serving, and most successful manager, to move on. And with a poor league standing and no hope of catching up to the top four, it would be a wise bet to back Arsenal to be looking for a new manager come summer.

It seems that a few seasons of not challenging for the title, a lack of progression in Europe and a team that seems to lay down and admit defeat during the big games can’t make up for revolutionary passing tactics and sheer flamboyancy that Wenger brought not just to Arsenal, but the Premier League itself.

Pinpointing exactly when Wenger lost favour with the fans is a difficult task. Arsenal’s last league win was back in the incredible 2003-04 season, but fans were still happy to have the Frenchman at the helm well after that. Arsenal have even won the FA Cup 3 times in the last 4 seasons, so surely that bought Wenger some time? In reality, Arsenal fans are probably tired of the ‘so close, yet so far’ cycle that has plagued Arsenal since the late 2000s.

Arsenal aren’t exactly a small club with limited finances, and their international support and state-of-the-art stadium and training facilities certainly back up the club’s track record of winning trophies. The players that have been at Wenger’s disposal over the last decade or so haven’t exactly been bad either; Players like Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie all went on to win titles and in some cases Champion’s League trophies after leaving Arsenal, so it’s not like the talent wasn’t there.

The first smatterings of ‘Wenger Out’ banners probably started appearing in 2016, possibly even earlier, but it was only in 2017 that the cries became chants. After a dismal transfer window in 2016 that saw 2 big name signings in Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi (compared to Manchester City, who brought in John Stones, Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, Nolito and Claudi Bravo), Arsenal failed to finish in the top four for the first time in 2 decades, meaning their almost automatic Champion’s League appearance was not going to happen. After this, the tide really turned against Wenger and the handful of Wenger detractors soon turned into a majority. Now, 4 out of 5 fans think that it’s time for Wenger to go.

It’s not like the failure to qualify for Europe was a bolt out of the blue either. Absolutely miserly transfer spending and a consistent reliance on young players, which may have worked for Wenger in the past, appears to be a strategy that has no place in a league where individual teams regularly spend over £200 million in the transfer window these days. The trophyless gap, not including FA cups, is too much to handle for demanding Arsenal fans, and it’s obvious that just top four wasn’t good enough anymore. For the team to then finish 5th has definitely been the nail in the coffin for Wenger.

This season’s end isn’t looking good for the Gunners either. The league title is definitely not an option, and an exit from the FA cup and an embarrassing 3-0 defeat against Manchester City in the League Cup final means they could end up with an empty cabinet, although they are second favourites to win the Europa League via 888sport. However, with a current standing of 6th place, 8 points behind rivals Chelsea, Arsenal are in danger of not playing in Europe next season, surely the death knell for Wenger’s tenure. Despite the sad ending, Arsenal fans need to remember the glory days under Wenger, and the innovation he brought to British football.