It’s been a good run, but Arsene Wenger must go

You’re at a dinner party. The conversation is flowing almost as readily as the wine, the music is merging with the chatter of voices to give your ears the equivalent of an acoustic hug and your gorgeous conversation partner is hanging on your every word. And then you say it: I agree with Piers Morgan.

Across the room, a woman swoons. A child begins the kind of wailing only usually found on transatlantic flights and, suddenly, a perennially lycra-clad Alan Sugar emerges from behind a large pot of petunias to punch you in the face.

 

This unfortunate individual is me. Granted, there was no dinner party, my conversation is less than enthralling and the closest I’ll ever get to Alan Sugar is watching re-runs of The Apprentice, but the sense of shame is all too real.

For if there is one sin that cannot be forgiven, it is that of a Faustian agreement with Piers Morgan. But I do agree. This season must be Arsene Wenger’s last.

Due to not being an Arsenal fan, I’m not prone to the bouts of hysteria, hyperbole and post-transfer melancholy that reach epidemic proportions in the streets of North London every September.

This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a failure to sign Karim Benzema, who is hardly the most realistic of targets, or a criticism of Wenger’s inability to win the league. I’m much quieter than Morgan: I will not be seen taking to the streets in demand of Wenger’s resignation.

Rather, in the sleepless depths of the night I’ve stumbled upon an insurmountable truth: that, come 2016, an amicable parting of ways is in the best interests of both the Gunners and Le Professeur himself. This is to be no Russian Revolution; more a Velvet Divorce.

In general, much of the criticism directed towards Arsene Wenger is unfair. Between Arsenal’s last Premier League trophy in 2004 and their FA Cup victory over Hull in 2014, ending a dry spell of silverware that had reached monumental proportions in the minds of the Gunners faithful, Wenger did little wrong.

Given the rise of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City on a rising tide of money and the changing landscape of the league at the same time as Arsenal’s transition to a new stadium, to expect Arsenal to have won the title is naïve.

Arsenal are a smaller club than they would like to admit. Often, Wenger did exceptionally well to achieve top four status give the limited squads at his disposal and the rise of promising challengers like Redknapp’s Tottenham.

Further, in that trophyless decade, the FA Cup was only twice won by clubs weaker than Arsenal, with Portsmouth’s victory in 2008 and Wigan’s in 2013.

Whilst Wenger can be praised for generally achieving as much with the squads at his disposal than any manager could have done in the same period, he can be criticised for little more than failing to win more League Cups. And, if we’re being unfair, we can pin that one on Laurent Koscielny.

Unlike Morgan, I’m not beholden to a longstanding vendetta against Wenger fuelled by incessant ranting to pass the lonely nights on Twitter. Whilst I’d like to think that this isn’t the only difference between me and the former editor of the Daily Mirror, it’s one worth noting.

I like Wenger’s attention to detail, his at times avuncular manner reminiscent of a relative who means well but can’t quite remember your name and his penchant for oversized apparel.

I like his ability to downplay ‘pizzagate’, I like his ability to shrug off his tag as a specialist in failure and, most of all, I like his ability to encapsulate a bygone era perfectly by chain smoking cigarette after cigarette on a match day at Monaco.

Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end and few know this better than the man who oversaw Arsenal’s move to The Emirates.

The Gunners could have achieved little more at Highbury than they did, but there comes a time to say thanks for the memories but goodbye: it’s time to enter the modern era, and nothing can last forever. Now, it is Wenger who is Arsenal’s white elephant.

 

Guus Hiddink may have been perhaps the best manager of the century’s first decade. Few could question his Midas touch, his messianic role as a Promethean bringer of light to the outer reaches of world football, serving as the harbinger of hitherto unknown success in South Korea, Australia and Russia.

Come the end of the decade, however, and the sands of time were slipping through the Dutchman’s fingers. He had not the tactical touch of ten years before, and so it is with Wenger.

Wenger’s fault is not so much his transfers. Being the only team in the top five leagues to not sign an outfield player this summer is inexcusable for a club of Arsenal’s grandeur, but ultimately, it would take three or four major signings to raise Arsenal to the level of Chelsea or Manchester City.

What is less excusable is the manner of Arsenal’s failure, in being beaten to Sami Khedira by Juventus, to Pedro by Chelsea and to Karim Benzema by absolutely no one at all. Attempts to deflect attention onto Manchester United now seem desperate where once they proved effective.

All indicators this season, however, point to the fact that transfers would not save the Frenchman, who is no longer the tactician he once was. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect Arsenal to win the league, but Arsenal fans deserve more than to see their team succeed solely as FA Cup stalwarts.

Now, the truth is clear. Wenger is incapable of bringing Arsenal forwards.

The writing has long been on the wall. Arsenal’s home defeat in last season’s Champion’s League round of sixteen to Wenger’s former club Monaco epitomised the Frenchman’s increasing tactical naivety.

Frequently, Wenger’s teams have no plan B; whilst seeking to overload the midfield in order to create majorities in the final third, if resisted by a well drilled midfield centred on as energetic a presence as Geoffrey Kondogbia, the Gunners are highly vulnerable to counterattacks.

Line-up against West Ham
Line-up against West Ham
How Arsenal should have linked up against West Ham
How Arsenal should have lined up against West Ham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Anthony Martial and Dimitar Berbatov opposed by the lone figure of Laurent Koscielny, few were surprised when the Bulgarian finished with aplomb.

Nor does this require a team of special skill; Arsenal’s opening day defeat to West Ham saw the Gunners frustrated by an organised Hammers side who packed the centre of the pitch. Frequently, Mesut Özil fills the role of scapegoat but this seems increasingly insufficient. Ultimately, Özil is merely a very expensive sacrificial lamb.

Whilst it is easy to criticise the German, a man whose aspirations reach as high as the Ballon d’Or but whose motivation seemingly languishes much lower, Özil was exceptional for Real Madrid when played behind forward players who stretched the defence and created pockets of space for him to drift into.

Reece Oxford played well beyond his tender years but was ultimately the beneficiary of Wenger’s tactical shortcomings: with so little space Özil could do little but concede possession.

Even when Arsenal are not stung on the break, as against Monaco or West Ham, this tactic often proves deficient. Gone are the days, apparently, when Arsenal could reasonably expect to inspire fear at home in a Liverpool side, with one of the most uninspiring Liverpool teams of recent times holding Arsenal to a goalless draw.

Against James Milner, Lucas Leiva and Emre Can it was always unlikely that Arsenal, with so narrow a midfield, would be able to create the space they needed yet it wasn’t until the last quarter of the game that Walcott made an appearance.

It’s not Wenger’s failure to get down and dirty in a sordid world. It’s not his inability to win anything more than the FA Cup. It’s not even his apparent unwillingness to make transfers.

But, Wenger must go: his increasing tactical shortcomings show that he will never take Arsenal any further, his gameplay is increasingly characterised by peculiar shibboleths and the Frenchman is now at risk of tarnishing his own legacy.

With Jürgen Klopp available and master tactician Diego Simeone unlikely to take Atletico Madrid any further, though his ties to the Vicente Calderón are more than professional, there is unlikely to be a better time.

It’s time for Arsenal to say thanks Arsene, we’ve had some good times – here’s a director’s seat and maybe even a statue – but the journey is over.

Author Details

Thomas Wyer

Student and football fan. Aspiring Guillem Balague but have more in common with Chris Kamara. Managing to support both Ipswich and Galatasaray which, like being indifferent to marmite, makes me a bit of an oddity.

26 thoughts on “It’s been a good run, but Arsene Wenger must go

  1. wel said wenger should just leave and leave younger managers to take over…he is an old manager with nothing new to our team

  2. Having observed Wenger’s teams for the last decade i am also convinced that its time for him to go. With or without Benzema, his tactics wont work consistently throughout the season. Its time for him to go.

  3. To the point. You can’t make the same mistake year in year out and expect a different outcome. Wenger’s refusal to learn from his mistakes and adjust to the times has cost not only titles, but lives. He is a disaster that has happened several times over

  4. Arsenal wins the next three successive games and these very same people now calling for Wenger’s exit will sing his praises to high heavens. Shakespeare abhorred plebeians – it is easy to see why!

  5. Thanks all.

    Kenneth Kwama: not sure what you mean by it costing lives?

    Kenneth Onyejiaka: I agree. Generally I’ve had a lot of dislike for people who call ‘Wenger out’ too early, particularly on the basis of results. But my argument isn’t results-based: it’s that Wenger has shown, tactically, why he’s no longer up to it regardless of how the results fall this season. (Obviously notwithstanding a surprise treble victory of course…)

  6. Glad you are not the GM of AFC.
    Been a fan longer than you have been alive mate, and you and your lot are short-sighted and really don’t get it! Arsene is a lot like Popavich in the NBA. Want my teams to look and play attacking futbol and be entertained. Anyone can coach and put all 10 men in the 6 yard box and play counter attacking futbol and some see that as brilliant. I will however, turn off the telly for good, if that is what Arsenal come to. The financial situations of Real and Barca are not sustainable and they will go bust sooner than later, the oil and oligarch money will only stop if the EPL goes to salary caps like the NFL which work quite well and cannot be weakened like FFP was by the slimeball attorneys.
    Give all the manager the same talent and Arsene wins the league 9 time out of 10.
    Long live AFC, go Gunners!

  7. Aaron: Perfectly respectable standpoint to say that you like how Arsene’s teams play, and that it’s entertaining. If you’d rather play entertaining football at 4th than win the league with backs to the wall stuff, that’s perfectly admirable. My argument is entirely results based.

    Nonetheless, the second half of your comment goes off the wall a bit. There’s simply no way Real/Barca will go bust, FFP wasn’t ruined by slimeball attorneys but rather a lack of appetite from most within the game besides fans and there’s absolutely no argument that Arsene is the best manager in the league all things being equal.

  8. If you want to watch Old school Italian futbol be my guest.
    I personally can’t stand the way moaninHo’s teams play, considering all the great players he has! Look at the way Germany played in the world cup against Brazil if you need a reminder or what wonderful attacking futbol looks like.
    If you want a revolving door of inferior coaches and losing records more often than not, be my guest, look how that has gone for tot’s and LFC.
    And yes, the money situation does play into account, we cannot compete with the bankrupt policies of Bara and Real for talent along with chelski, city,psg, monaco etc. Yes, mate all things go bust when any company is run into the ground by debt financing. Finally, yes it was the slimeball attorneys that represent city, chelski, Mmonaco, psg that undermined FFP, read a little it will do you well.

  9. Aaron: Not my team – not about what I want! Although yes, I’m always a results man.

    The classic Arsenal griping about Mourinho ultimately falls down when you realise he’s the best manager in the world. Sure, you might not like his style – but he wins, and that’s what he’s there to do.

    If I may, I’d recommend you the book Soccernomics, which has a brilliant account by a sports journalist and an economics professor who’ve both thoroughly researched this sort of thing on how every club in modern football runs a debt and this is perfectly sustainable, as well as why FFP was never undermined but rather is disliked by all clubs in any case, regardless of their rhetoric.

  10. Ok one last retort, and I am done with the results based fans.
    moaninHo is not the best coach ever, now and into the future.
    He takes talent laden teams, Porto, Milan, Real, and chelski 2x and drills and kills them into utter oblivion, and they play classic defense style first futbol unitl your eyeballs fall out.
    He has never taken a team like Swansea, Malaga, Hannover 96, or Verona and turned them into winning sides, he would never take on that challenge as there is no chance of success.

    So, if you are not a fan, why write this drivel, continue to divide support like all the other blogs, rags and e-zines just to get clicks, or worse create hysteria among fans who don’t get it. Like the way fans treated Arsene at the train station: good thing I was not there as that would not have ended well for the person.

    Cheers mate and along you go……….

  11. Idiotic in the extreme. Part of his logic for Wenger Out is that we lost out on Khedira, an injury-prone player who doesn’t fill any need in the squad, as he isn’t an outright DM? Sure, okay. Pedro lost out to Chelsea, when it’s been pretty much established the price just got too high and Pedro still hasn’t been able to save a lackluster Chelsea squad? Not to mention LVG also “lost out” on Pedro, and yet this article doesn’t talk about him.

    The truth is that Arsenal don’t need just average forwards. Their attacking line is very good. It doesn’t even need depth additions. If someone comes in, they really have to be a guaranteed starter. Aside from Benzema, who was never likely to leave a club where he earns more and is first choice, no option was available that meets that criteria. Even Pedro may not always start, although he likely would. He is not, however, the Suarez-like figure people take him to be.

    It’s amusing how the author admits that for ten years until 2014, Wenger did nothing wrong. Then in two subsequent summer windows, he signed the steal of the window and made arguably the best signings of those windows. One window goes by where he doesn’t sign a forward, and it’s Wenger Out. Absolutely ridiculous.

  12. Aaron: have to disagree. Winning the Champion’s League with Porto, and even Inter a year after they’d sold their best player, was nothing short of miraculous. He’s earnt his right at clubs like Chelsea (who never did so well without him) through brilliant achievements elsewhere. Arsenal fan’s can be jealous of Mourinho all they like – but the only manager even near him right now is Guardiola, who your arguments apply infinitely more to.

    I’m voicing an opinion to initiate discussion, a discussion you’re a part of and that we’re both enjoying. I think it’s very telling that you’re the only pro-Arsene commentat so far.

    thedefect: You’ll notice that my argument explicitly says that it’s not in response to the lack of transfers. Wenger deserves criticism for that, but that’s not where ‘Wenger Out’ is coming from. My argument is based on tactical inability, not transfer insufficiency.

  13. Alright full stop: You are data skimming for your arguments while I present the facts!
    Di Mateo won CL with chelski…that is not winning?
    moaninHo won with teams that are always in top 2 by miles, full of talent, and money hand over fist.
    You have not presented a viable case in the least as to his successes..
    As to Arsenal, am not some fair weather chap, and have supported Arsenal for over 40 years, thick and thin, and if I was not a fan, I would support some other small team forever over a results oriented fan base that disappears the moment fortunes begin to wane.
    Everytime a lower level team beats chelski my heart grows warm with the knowledge that money could not buy that win. Just look at lasts year final game for chelski, laughed all the way into summer….
    Glad to know you are not cheering besides me at games, as first sign of a blip and your seat would be empty…..

  14. Aaron: I would be interested to hear these facts – the purpose of this is to initiate a discussion, after all!

    di Matteo won a Champion’s League, yes, but Chelsea’s most consistent periods of success come under Mourinho. Similarly, I don’t praise Mourinho for winning the Portuguese League with Porto – you’re quite correct – but rather the Champion’s League, where they were a long way away from being favourites – same with Inter. Further, Inter weren’t even necessarily in the top two teams in Italy – don’t forget Milan and Juventus.

    As I said, I’m not an Arsenal fan. Were I an Arsenal fan, I’d likely be heavily biased one way or the other and so my seat would not be empty. As an Ipswich fan, I’m quite used to failure.

  15. Tactical inability, last season Arsenal was 7th after 4 games, now Arsenal is 5th after 4 games, i consider that a slight improvement.

    4 years ago people were wondering if Arsene Lost it by bringing Bellerin and Coquelin from La Masia Academy for less than 1 million pounds, now Bellerin was the breakout star of last season in defense, and Coquelin won Arsenal’s Player of the Month for August 2015. Arsene knows potential.

    in 2002-2005, Arsenal won 2 FA Cups in a row, bought Jens Lehman as GK, and won the league the following season.

    2013-2015 Arsenal won 2 FA Cups in a row, bought Petr Cech, and … history can repeat itself.

    let’s look at Chelsea right now, sold Petr Cech, bought an ineffective Begovic as his replacement, and could only buy Pedro, and no one else. They drawn with Swansea, beat West brom, and lost to Man. City and Crystal Palace, the worst start of the Abramovich era at 13th place, and people are starting to lose faith in Jose(but that’s another story for you to report)

    Arsenal lost to west ham, but beat Newcastle and Crystal Palace, yet they were robbed against Liverpool, after the replay showed the Ramsey was onside before he slotted a shot past Mignolet, but that match ended 0-0, hope the season doesn’t end with City winning the league by a single point over Arsenal, or that linesman is going to get death threats from irate Arsenal Fans come May 2016. yet Arsenal is 5th with 7 points, hold the judgement until the Boxing day fixtures.

  16. This is so tough a swe owe AW so much. I cannot think of another manager other than AF who would stick around his club knowing he would need to sell his best players and depend on youth to survive let alone finish top 4 every year while others spend 100’s of millions. However now that we have the money and have spent a couple of times I am on the fence if AW is willing to do and spend what it takes to be the PL champs. He has been too loyal to players even when their play on the field does not deserve it and our play has suffered because of it. Also the lure of some top managers means we really need to look at long term here since AW cannot coach forever and missing on a good coach could hurt us for years, just look at MU.
    Win or Lose though we need to support the team.

  17. George: Arsene does know potential, but Arsenal need more than potential to kick on. Coquelin would be admirable to have in your squad, but you will not win the league with Francis Coquelin as your defensive midfielder.

    Worth bearing in mind that, considering they have Courtois, Begovic is irrelevant to this. I happen to rate him very highly, but Cech isn’t being compared with Begovic – he’s being compared with Courtois, who is simply better.

  18. Enough is enough for the Arsene Wenger´s haters. If you really pondered well, you would see that Arsene is the not only but will be the only option for Arsenal of the future. Football nowadays is plagued with money and grab system, myopic administrators but managers like Arsene are the only ones that can save the sport from the impending doom of the effect of overspending and overvaluation of the top elite clubs. Afterall we all seem to forget that football is supposed to be entertainment and should not be run as casinos.

  19. Lol Tom you can’t be serious! This is the man who trusted Cocquelin and made him the player he is, and kept faith in Giroud which has made him one of the top 5 strikers in the world! His tactics have won usmore than Mourino since he came back!

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