Same old, same old

In an era where managerial sackings occur with alarming regularity and armchair managers give the impression of knowing better, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger — now seen as an obstacle to progress by faithfuls after some catastrophic results — reportedly has a two-year contract offer on the table.

Wenger’s current deal expires at the end of this season and, as with all his other contracts, the only person who will decide whether he signs or walks away is him.

The Frenchman, who has vowed to remain in football management, may be under the impression that a second- or third-place finish in the Premier League and an FA Cup triumph will help his cause, but several fans have already made up their minds that top-four finishes have had their day.

The Wenger years
  • Since his arrival from Japan, Arsene Wenger has been a fixture at Arsenal for more than two decades. How has he coped with English football’s changing landscape?
  • Golden Age (1996-2005): Win% 57.56; 3 League titles; 4 FA Cups
  • Revolutionises the league with his attention to fitness and nutrition
  • His lopsided 4-4-2, with a playmaker No. 10 instead of a second striker and a bombing wide midfielder, gives defences a new tactical problem
  • Goes unbeaten an entire season with the 2003-04 Invincibles
  • Battling billionaires (2006-2012) Win% 56; 0 trophies
  • Takes the risk of moving out of Highbury and tightening finances; the building of Emirates Stadium is to guarantee increased future revenue
  • But the arrival of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City complicates matters
  • Makes the Champions League every season – vital to the club’s ability to pay back the stadium loan – but is forced to sell his best players
  • Renaissance? (2013-) Win% 59.75; 2 FA Cups
  • The signing of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez signals the end of the selling era
  • Two trophies follow. Arsenal finishes 4th, 3rd and 2nd in successive seasons, but is no closer to winning the league
  • 2016-17 begins to unravel after a promising start, increasing the pressure on Wenger

It is sad to see Wenger, who has revolutionised Arsenal in his 21 years at the club, denting his legacy by holding on to the job.

After the magnificent 10 years and belt-tightening five, Wenger had wonderful opportunities to reclaim the big prize in 2011, 2014 and 2016.

A lack of strong leadership in the mould of Patrick Vieira or Tony Adams derailed those campaigns. There was no one to show the youngsters how to get over the line.

The core of the squad has been fragile, unable to cope when an opposing manager decides that the beautiful game will not get him points but two decks of four in the box might.

“Some teams come to the Emirates and play very, very deep, and are quick on the break as well. The physical power and potential of teams has improved and it makes it more difficult. They do not die in the final 20 any more,” he said recently.

But this has been happening for a while with the likes of West Brom, Crystal Palace and Stoke massing players behind the ball for a long time and getting goals through set-pieces.

Having Steve Bould, part of the famous defensive quartet with Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon, on the coaching staff and conceding goals off set-pieces is embarrassing.

The principal reason for Arsenal exiting the Champions League early is Wenger’s failure to change the system when things are not working. For instance, at Monaco in 2014-15, Arsenal needed three unanswered goals to progress. The Gunners scored two and were eliminated on away goals.

The host was defending very deep to preserve its lead. Wenger could have played with three defenders and pushed Per Mertesacker into the rival box to create confusion. Gerard Pique does exactly this for Barcelona.

But then, the Frenchman has seldom adapted to match situations unlike Chelsea’s Antonio Conte and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, who have altered their teams’ shape to provide freedom to attacking talents and more protection at the back.

Even though Arsenal possesses players for the 3-4-3 system, which gives Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil more space to make weaving runs, Wenger is unlikely to make the change.

The debate on whether Wenger is still the right man for the job will rage. The best thing for him would be to see out the season and walk away as the fans’ anger has reached tipping point.

For, team owner Stan Kroenke will certainly not sack him. In Wenger, he has a manager who always has the club in the places that matter, financially!

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 9:08:52 PM |

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