Will he go or will he stay? The question of Arsene Wenger’s immediate future at Arsenal is certainly one of the biggest talking points in the soccer world at the moment. The Frenchman has been with the north London outfit since 1996, and is without a doubt the club’s best manager in their illustrious history. However, the Gunners are currently in the midst of their worst run of form in years and sitting sixth in the Premier League table (although they do have two games at hand over fourth placed Liverpool).
If Wenger was in the hot seat prior to Arsenal’s last match away to West Brom, the seat is practically on fire now. The Gunners looked toothless against the Baggies, losing 3-1, and were shambolic defending set pieces. It was a match in which the body language and mood of the players were much worse than the actual scoreline.
The lack of confidence in the team is something that has been going on with Arsenal for some time now, and this can surely be put on Wenger’s shoulders. It seems after 20 plus years of having Wenger man the sidelines, it is time for a change at the Emirates. While the Gunners are in need of a fresh approach, there is, however, no need to abuse the Frenchman. He deserves the respect of the true Arsenal fans.
Looking back on Wenger’s tenure with Arsenal, there have definitely been more bright spots than dim ones. After all, he has given the Gunners three Premier League titles, six FA Cups, six Community Shields, and a spot in the Champions League in every season during his time in north London. Wenger also navigated the club through a difficult financial time following the move to the Emirates in 2006.
When Arsenal built the state-of-the-art stadium at around $500 million, the club’s board asked Wenger to qualify for the Champions League in three out of five years while the team financed the Emirates. Wenger and the Gunners managed to qualify all five years following the request. The feat was not easy, as the club’s move also coincided with the departure of important players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Lauren, and Ashley Cole.
Without these outstanding players, the Gunners had to rely on cheaper players such as Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner, and Park Chu-Young. Nevertheless, Wenger somehow still kept the Gunners in the the top four of the Premier League and into the Champions League group stages.
One misconception of Wenger is that he is a habitual penny pincher. Between the 2006/07 and 2012/13 seasons, during which Arsenal were financing the Emirates, the club made a net gain of about £72 million in player transactions. However, since the summer of 2013, the Gunners have a net spend of around £190 million. This includes bringing in players such as Mesut Ozil (£42.5 million), Alexis Sanchez (£32 million), Granit Xhaka (£30 million), and Shkodran Mustafi (£35 million).
There is no doubt that Wenger has been a brilliant manager for Arsenal since his arrival over 20 years ago. Between his accolades and financial astuteness, the Frenchman will be looked back on as a major success. In fact, Wenger will certainly have a statue resurrected outside the Emirates some day alongside club legends Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams, and Herbert Chapman.
In saying all of this, Arsenal now appear stagnant on the pitch. The club seems to be in a position with an aging legend on the sidelines and in need of change. Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United have all finished outside of the top four in recent years, and they also all made managerial changes to help take their respective teams back to the promise land (Champions League).
With potentially 13 matches left in the current campaign, Wenger and the Gunners can still finish inside the top four and bring home yet another FA Cup trophy. This, however, looks increasingly unlikely, as they will face Manchester City in the FA Cup semis and still have to go against both Manchester clubs, Tottenham, and Everton in Premier League play before the end of the season.
Along with the bleak outlook on the season, Arsenal also have contract issues with their two superstars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Both only have a year remaining on their current deals and are reportedly asking for £300,000-a-week.
If Wenger, Sanchez, and Ozil depart, and the team misses out on a top four, it could be an uphill battle looking forward. This is certainly a time in which the north London club needs to flex their financial muscles on both superstar players and a potential new manager to lead the club into the future. What happens at Arsenal during the next six months or so could very well define the next five years at the club.