Without a doubt, Arsene Wenger will go down as one of the great Arsenal bosses. Three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and an attacking flair that has seen some unbelievable goals and great moments.
But the heat is on. Wenger’s decision to leave out Alexis Sanchez for a second straight match meant there were huge questions asked following their defeat. These were intensified by the fact that Arsenal played so much better once Sanchez came on.
The same faces called for his head. The same faces that were saying it when they didn’t have an ounce of credibility. This time however, you have to look at Arsenal and say, this is a club in need of a change.
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, when Arsenal were paying off debts but still consistently putting together an impressive title challenge and performing well in the Champions League, these calls were irrelevant.
But since those debts have been paid, proven by the arrival of Sanchez and Ozil for a combined total of close to £80 million, the questions have been justified. Arsenal have been exposed badly, and tactically, Wenger has got it wrong all too often.
Even in January, with Arsenal still in the title hunt, facing a Champions League last 16 clash and looking generally quite strong, he could have been quite happy.
But the way they’ve been outplayed by Chelsea and Liverpool, and humiliated by Bayern, has left Wenger horribly exposed.
For years there were calls for Wenger to sign in key positions. A reliable goalkeeper, rock solid centre-back, strong holding midfielder and 25 goals-a-season striker.
With Cech, Mustafi, Elneny and Perez he has signed players in those four positions but it’s not working. Cech is clearly getting worse, Mustafi is only ever made to look good by Koscielny, Elneny is not even a first choice and the same applies to Perez, and both of those latter players are never going to win a side the title.
Recruitment is a key part of being a top-class manager. So too is tactical management in the big games. From their seven games against the top six, Arsenal have just five points. Liverpool have 19 from nine, and to think some Liverpool fans have had enough of Klopp!
It means whenever Arsenal face a top club away from home in any competition, it seems to be almost a certainty that they are are going to get beaten 3-1 or a worse scoreline. I admire Wenger for his attacking principles, but some of their displays away from home have been dismal. That Bayern Munich second half saw £50 million worth of defenders concede 4 soft goals. Arsenal fans, like this writer, must have been squirming in their seats.
I don’t subscribe to the Arsenal Fan TV stupidity that is repeatedly mocked by the footballing community. Nor do I agree with the vitriol posted about Wenger on Twitter.
But I do agree that it is about time that he recognised the end is nigh.
He is immensely stubborn, and this could lead to Arsenal beginning to lose key individuals. Sanchez looks to have had enough, and if the Gunners were to lose him the team would begin to resemble the 2011 vintage that went down 8-2 at Old Trafford.
Let’s not forget, Arsenal is a well-run club. They consistently make a profit, challenge for silverware and play in the Champions League every single year. Indeed, like Alex Ferguson at Man Utd, it may take Arsenal years to find out the best way forward after losing a long-term manager.
Let’s not forget United, since Fergie left, have finished 7th, 4th, 5th and lie in 6th in this campaign. They’re on their third manager and have spent £500 million on transfers.
But even at the end of the Ferguson era, United were going forward. Arsenal this season, more clearly than ever, are going backwards.
And with Max Allegri being linked with a move to the Emirates I would be stunned, and deeply frustrated, if Arsenal stick with Wenger for another year. He is a legend, whose commitment and achievements are evidence of him being a true great, but if he doesn’t quit at the end of this year, the defining memory of his tenure will be of stubbornness, frustration and tantalising disappointment.