It has been yet another testing season thus far for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, shouts for his head from various sections of the Emirates “faithful” who have grown frustrated at what seems to be a case of “same ol’ Arsenal”.
There have been arguments from rival sections of support to the contrary that the long serving manager of 18 years should be given more time, but just how much longer can he continue serving up repetitive disasters before his time is up?
Arsene Wenger signed a three year deal back in the Summer off of the back of that infamous and slightly belated FA Cup triumph over Hull City which for most part looked like a disastrous indictment of the season that proceeded it, scraping a win was not the talking point it was the fact that finally there was silverware and the first time since 2005.
Many fans and media pundits alike expected a big season for Arsenal and there were signs that Wenger was ready to spend big. New signings Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers were all signals of intent and followed by Danny Welbeck on deadline day in what seemed a typical Wenger panic buy but nevertheless someone that was needed.
One thing is certain; When Wenger finally leaves Arsenal it will be on his own terms and the club will still be in a stronger position than it was when he took charge back in 1996. When he was introduced to the Premier League he changed English Football for the better, his methods were revolutionary. Training regimes and a player’s diet were big changes and for the first time their was an athleticism about the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger’s first 8-9 years saw Arsenal as a major force in English football and their profile had grown substantially in European football. Winning the Premier League in his first full season was beyond remarkable and this was the first of 11 pieces of silverware in 9 years which is an achievement that should never be forgotten. He followed that League triumph with two more in 2001-02 and the unforgettable invincibles season of 2003-04 which is still to be replicated.
The departure of Vice Chairman David Dein seems to have been a major turning point in the downturn at Arsenal, Dein left in 2007 after “irreconcilable differences” between himself and the board, it had been known for sometime that he and Chairman Peter Hill-wood had a strained working relationship and many believe this to be the reason for his exit.
Dein was instrumental in player negotiations and has been credited with the signings of such Arsenal players as Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry, Davor Suker, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Gilberto, Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie.
His last 9 years have been in stark contrast to his first 9, only two pieces of silverware to show for it and they have only come in an undervalued FA Cup and a community shield victory over a mid table Hull City.
This season has been the worst start to any campaign under Arsene Wenger and there have been signs that he has not got the ability to change his philosophy and that could be what is really needed at the club, he has been found wanting in the big games as was evident once more in the 2-2 draw at Anfield as his side failed to hold on to a 2-1 lead in the dying minutes against 10 men.
Something that has been notable about Wenger’s sides of the past 9 years is the lack of ability to defend, this has constantly been identified as a major weakness and never seems to be addressed. Big away games always seem to highlight this Achilles heal more than most, last season humiliating defeats of 5-1 at Liverpool, 6-0 at Chelsea and 6-3 at Manchester City only brought more pressure on Wenger to rectify this problem but once more this has not been effectively addressed and Arsenal have time and time again found themselves short of options in the back four.
Arsenal started the season with only 6 registered first team defenders which should have been brought into question and with Arsenal’s repetitively poor injury record (something else that has not been investigated) that was never going to be enough to get through a season. In recent weeks Hector Bellerin and Isaac Hayden have been called up from the Under 21’s but this looks more like a case of making up the numbers especially for Hayden who hasn’t played any part so far.
Last season for most part the Centre Back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker looked impressive and won plaudits from many within the sports media, however when it came to the big games especially away from home they were found wanting. There is also no adequate experience in reserve the only other Centre Back at the club is 19 year old Calum Chambers who has looked a little out of his depth in recent weeks after an impressive start to his Arsenal career. In the last 2 games right back Mathieu Debuchy has played alongside Mertesacker and although it has not been an ideal solution the French international has performed well and has probably been the best performer within that back four.
With January just around the corner Arsenal’s transfer policy will once more be heavily scrutinised and rightfully so, Wenger’s conduct in the last few transfer windows have been questionable at best. It is clear to see he does not like the idea of adding to the squad in the New year and would probably prefer just the one window. The Frenchman was criticised last season when the brought just the one loanee in when he signed Kim Kallstrom in and he was injured which made the Winter window a complete calamity for Arsenal and too many in the past have been a non event.
So where do Arsenal need to strengthen? every man and his dog knows the areas that need addressing but whether they will be is anyone’s guess. Before the start of the season Arsene Wenger reiterated that if Thomas Vermaelen left the club he would be replaced immediately this as every fan knows never happened and with the consistent inconsistencies of Per Mertesacker two new central defenders are imperative. Then there is the lack of a defensive midfielder, Arsene Wenger has relied on the ageing Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini for way too long and they have been ineffective this season and last and it is time this major problem is fixed in January.
Since the departure of David Dein there have been various changes at board level the most meaningful change that could be argued is the appointment of Ivan Gazidis as club Chief Executive, but why is this the most important change? Arsene Wenger was on the selection committee which you may think a little strange for a manager to be part of a process that would select his own employer, at what other club or even any other profession would this even be entertained?
Since that day Arsene Wenger has been given more power within and now controls everything from setting training methods, player dieting which is standard but he also negotiates player contracts as well in effect he does his management role which he has carried out since 1996 but now juggles that with doing the very same job that David Dein did impeccably for many years a lot more effective than Wenger has in his absence.
There is a long list of players that came very close to securing an Arsenal future before Wenger himself either changed his mind on the player completely or moved the goalposts regarding either the fee for the player or their wage demands. Juan Mata was a recent situation that the fee was agreed with his club Valencia for a fee believed to be around £20 million he then wanted to pay less that scuppered any deal and saw him make the switch to London rivals Stamford Bridge. This is just one example of Wenger not being ruthless enough in the transfer market and this has happened on numerous occasions.
It has even been suggested that agents prefer to not deal with Arsenal because Wenger has a history of keeping them waiting and as we all know if there is one thing agents hate it is to be kept waiting especially in a transfer window.
With the amount of power Wenger now has at the club you would have to believe that the only way the Frenchman would leave the Emirates is on his own volition. The only way you can see an end to this torturous love affair between the manager and fans would be “supporter power” with support for Wenger seemingly changing game by game but support for the #Wengerout growing you do wonder if he could walk and that would be huge thing for Wenger a man that has never walked out on a contract. Failure to win the FA Cup in May would have seen him leave for sure while some would have sacrificed that trophy for real change at the Emirates others will be blindly hoping that something miraculous changes for the remainder of this season.