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It would be fair to say that Arsene Wenger has been one of the world’s best managers since he took over at Arsenal in 1996. Many would beg to differ with this statement, considering the fact that Wenger and silverware are two words that aren’t always used in the same sentence in a positive light. But the Frenchman is a revolutionary as he introduced a lot of aspects in English football that changed the Premier League forever.
While many managers in England preferred a pragmatic approach towards proceedings, ‘Le Professeur’ brought in an expansive style of play that suited his Arsenal team to such an extent that within a few years of the Frenchman’s arrival, the team from North London were challenging for titles on a regular basis. The pinnacle of Arsene Wenger’s successes at Arsenal came in the 2003-04 season when his ‘Invincibles’ were named champions after going a full season unbeaten.
That, to date remains the last league title won by Arsene Wenger and that’s one common criticism of him. In the Champions League tournaments, a 2005/06 final against Barcelona which they lost, is the closest they’ve come to claiming the title. In recent years, or in the last 6 seasons to be precise, Arsenal have bowed out quite shockingly in the last 16 stage.
Time and time again, they’ve come up against superior opposition and have been taken to the cleaners to say the least. The recent 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich rather sheds light on all the things that are wrong about this Arsenal team. These failures certainly cannot be blamed on Wenger alone, as the team needs to own up to some of the responsibility as well.
At the same time, a team becomes what its’ manager wants it to be. Look at Antonio Conte and what he has done with Chelsea. Before the Italian took over, Chelsea were in a precarious position and ended last season quite disappointingly. But ever since Conte took over at the helm, things have been considerably different and within a year, he’s managed to get them to the top of the table.
Arsenal fans were hoping for their team to finally challenge for the title this season and in the beginning stages, it looked like as though the team was up for a challenge as they made things hard for their opposition. But the perennial Arsenal curse has taken over again and this time, it could be hard to digest for many fans as they are placed outside the top 4.
Wenger has stuck to some stubborn decisions which haven’t helped his team’s cause. His reluctance to part with the funds needed to extend both Sanchez and Ozil’s contracts have irked the fans and pundits alike, who are especially keen on seeing the Chilean powerhouse extend his Arsenal career for a wee bit longer.
Arsene’s contract with Arsenal will expire at the end of this season and it has been suggested that he could extend the deal to stay on for a year or two more. But is this really the way to go for Arsenal? Would they not be better off giving the reins to someone else who could come in with new ideas and optimism as opposed to sticking to the guts of Wenger?
Even the most avid Wenger fan will confess that it’s time for the Frenchman to go. Arsenal fans have seen enough and the team’s progress has been blocked by Wenger’s frustrating and stubborn ways. To his credit, Wenger has done a lot for English football. He has brought through a lot of players and has given them belief. Without him, many gems would’ve been unpolished rocks; just look at Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, Kolo Toure and co.
But in a day and age when other Premier League clubs are spending left, right and centre to strengthen their squads, Wenger continues to rely on some home-grown players that haven’t always repaid the faith he shows in them, with performances.
There are many valid reasons in the fans’ eyes as to why Wenger has to depart and it’s high time the Arsenal board look into this as well. They need to stop being content with financial returns and 4th-place finishes. This is Arsenal Football Club. They need to be much more than what they are now. Perhaps it’s time for Wenger to realize this and step down. Only time will tell whether there will be a change of direction at The Emirates this summer.