To add more fuel to the fire already threatening to spiral out of control, West Brom boss Tony Pulis has revealed that Arsene Wenger had indicated to him that he won’t be leaving the Emirates this season. “I’ll be surprised if he goes,” Pulis told The Sun. When asked why he held this opinion, Pulis revealed that it was “because [Wenger] told me.”
Another two-year extension is on offer from the higher powers at Arsenal, but their season is also on the verge of collapse after four losses in their last five Premier League games, the club is undercut by pervasive tension and the speculation has continued to unsettle the club, the players and its fan-base. In fact, Arsenal’s only victories in the last six games have come against non-league opposition, Sutton and Lincoln, in the FA Cup.
As Craig Dawson powered in West Brom’s opening goal from a poorly defended set piece, the cheering was drowned out by the noise of the propellers of two rented aircrafts, one carrying a ‘Wenger Out’ banner, the other supporting the Frenchman, such is the divisiveness of the issue. Calls for Wenger to leave the club have reached boiling point after two trophies in the last 12 years and consistent top four finishes have failed to satisfy an expectant fan-base. The writing is on the wall for Mr Wenger, but now may not be the ideal time to make way for a new era.
Wenger’s final swansong
Make no mistake, Wenger is Arsenal’s greatest ever manager. In simple terms, he put the club on the map. He revolutionised English football and introduced meticulous study into tactics, nutrition and other areas of sports science. He deserves one final swansong.
After everything Wenger has done for the club, for him to leave on a sour note would almost undermine his entire legacy at the club. He doesn’t deserve this sort of send-off from a fairly ungrateful group of fans.
To go out on a high is what Wenger would really want, to rally the troops and end his tenure positively, not amid uncontrollable speculation and negativity. A year’s contract would be the compromise on the two year’s originally offered by the board, but it allows the man a chance to redeem himself.
The fall of a dynasty
It’s entirely the board’s fault, but this is the inevitable problem of leaving decision over the future of your manager in the manager’s hands. Only he knows what he’s going to do and he’s yet to clarify his future with the fans and the board. If Wenger was to suddenly decide that he wants to leave in May, Arsenal will be left in a tough situation. No plan B, no back-up, no prospects. They have a serious amount of planning to do, but the board sit idly by as the mayhem unfurls around them.
When Sir Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United, David Moyes was sounded out as his, albeit unsuccessful, successor months before Ferguson actually stepped down. Even Jose Mourinho had been identified as the replacement for Louis van Gaal months before the Dutchman was fired. Manchester City, too, had prepared for Pep Guardiola’s arrival for the best part of a year. Arsenal, meanwhile, are idle. The board pay no heed to the subsequent chaos that follows the fall of a dynasty. You can sack Wenger this summer, but it’ll be years before Arsenal are truly rid of his influence.
If the situation is bad now, just imagine how much worse it would get if Wenger were to step down out of the blue this summer. Arsenal are set to undergo a massive summer of transition, perhaps one of the biggest in the club’s history, but this isn’t something that can be completed off the cuff. It requires meticulous planning by Wenger’s potential successor to know what targets he wants, to identify who he wants to keep from the current squad and so on. This isn’t a task that can be completed in the span of two months, rather years in the making.
To aid in the transition from Wenger to the new era, the Frenchman should stay for one more season. It allows Arsenal time to identify a replacement and plan for the future, whilst Wenger, too, has an opportunity to redeem himself with the fan-base and sign off from a 20-year reign on a deserved high note.
Should Wenger stay for one more year? Let us know in the comments section below.