No one truly believes Arsenal can beat AC Milan, let alone win the Europa League, so what else could Arsene Wenger do this season to further alienate the fans and shovel another mound of dirt onto his already half-buried managerial coffin?
Winning the Premier League was an unattainable achievement even before a ball had been kicked this season, let alone now with them nearly three-dozen points worse off than leaders Manchester City.
Not even ending the campaign miles behind the top four will be much cause for chaos, seen as it’s been known for some time Arsenal would not be good enough to manage such a task (also it helps that they finished outside the top four last season as well).
So what else is there? Have Arsenal reached a stage now that whatever happens in their remaining games, whatever embarrassing score-line or miserable performance that befalls them, it won’t actually, really, truthfully matter? Is that the definition of rock-bottom?
Allowing Burnley to overtake them in the table could be the final humiliation to this season which has been a starkly defining one in the context of the steady, undeniable decline of the Premier League’s longest-serving manager.
At the end of the 2013/14 season, Arsenal were seven points shy of the victors, Man City. The following campaign, the gap between themselves and winners Chelsea was twelve points. The following season, ten points.
The season after that, 18. Currently, Arsenal are looking at a 33-point gap between them and City, and it’s extremely difficult to see that figure being shrunk down come May.
Should Wenger decide, out of sheer stubbornness or otherwise, to stay put in the summer and see out the final year of his two-year extension, it will be met with a lot of anger, there is no question.
What this manager has proven over the last decade is that despite his insistence he can lead the club back to glory, he very much has triumphed in not doing so. What would make next season any different to the last dozen or so, the many fans who are now firmly of a Wenger-out persuasion would ask.
If the Arsenal board are to bite the bullet and make the change, it surely must be this summer. The next big question is who will take over.
Several names have arisen as possible candidates to replace Wenger, some more credible than others.
Names tossed about have been the likes of World Cup-winning Germany coach Joachim Low, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and, rather surprisingly, Thierry Henry, who more so threw his own name into the mix rather than being touted as a possible replacement.
However out of the rather small list of potentials, Carlo Ancelotti is one manager who seems to have gained the most traction and garnered the most approval from the fans, but what those who would welcome the Italian’s arrival at the Emirates may fail to overlook is the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager’s tenure at Bayern Munich.
Shortly after Ancelotti had been sacked following his side’s 3-0 defeat to PSG in the Champions League last September, it was reported that some of Bayern’s players – including the likes of Thomas Muller and Franck Ribery – had grown so tired of their manager’s relaxed, lethargic training sessions that they had organised their own private sessions behind the manager’s back.
Throughout his time in Munich, it hadn’t been made much of a secret that many of the players were not happy with their manager, with Arjen Robben reportedly claiming his son’s training sessions with his school team had more intensity.
If there is one team in England that could do without training sessions that lack energy or enthusiasm, it’s surely Arsenal.
Despite this, Ancelotti is still a proven manager and remains the only manager to have won the Champions League three times.
However, there is another manager whose name is barely even whispered when talk of Wenger’s replacement comes up. It’s the man who could very well match Ancelotti’s Champions League record this season.
Zinedine Zidane will do well under the regime of Florentino Perez to remain as Real Madrid manager next season, even if he does collect a third Champions League trophy in the two and a half years he has been a senior-team manager.
The La Liga title has been Barcelona’s to lose for months now, with Real Madrid struggling badly throughout, and it has always been the case that Perez won’t hesitate even in the slightest when it comes to giving a manager the chop.
But even if Zidane were to win the Champions League this season and maintain Perez’s trust in him, it could be argued that he may want a new challenge.
He won the double with Madrid last season, claiming the La Liga title and a historic consecutive Champions League trophy that had never before been done in the competition.
But Zidane, who took over as manager in January 2016 following Rafael Benitez’s unceremonious dismissal, may well feel he wants to flex his managerial muscles, and where better to do that than at a club poised for a big change, where fresh ideas and a new voice are desperately sought.
Zidane signed a new contract late last year with the reigning European champions that takes his current deal into 2020, however the former French captain and World Cup winner, when asked to comment at the time, stated: “it means nothing”.
“I go match by match, year by year,” he said, and having won eight trophies during his time in charge of his former club, there is every possibility Zidane may soon feel a move away would help his progression as a manager.
That’s not to say, however, that Zidane cannot further improve and grow at Madrid.
With young players such as Marco Ascencio and Lucas Vasquez still developing at the club, Zidane may feel obliged to stick around, if only to help the progression of these promising talents.
There is a chance at Arsenal to start from scratch. When Wenger eventually departs, whether willingly or by force, he will leave behind a massive hole in the club, even despite the way in which Arsenal have performed for the last decade.
Wenger has so deeply embedded himself into the culture of Arsenal that whether he leaves the club in turmoil or in healthy shape won’t change the fact his absence will be noticed.
Whether Zidane would want to take up the challenge is something no one but the man himself knows. Whether he’s even aware of the current situation at Arsenal is another thing. But Ivan Gazidis, Stan Kroenke and the rest of the decision makers at Arsenal may want to consider the Frenchman currently on the road to securing a third successive Champions League title.
It’s hard to see how even attempting to lure Zidane to London would do anything but get the fans back onside, if only for a brief time.
Zidane has proved he can handle coaching some of the biggest football stars on the planet, and not only that, he can win consistently with them too. It is unusual that the Frenchman has not come into consideration for the Arsenal job should Wenger leave as much as perhaps his recent record demands.