There have been banners, planes flying with messages, fans have aired their opinions, pundits and journos alike have shared their thoughts, even the players have said a thing or two but it’s down to the folks that can actually do something about it – Stan Kroenke and the Arsenal Board of Directors.
It has been labelled as Arsene Wenger’s worst season in his 21-year stint with the club. He crashed out of the EFL Cup to eventual finalist, Southampton, but that competition isn’t high on Arsenal’s priority list, so the home defeat didn’t matter. Then there was the embarrassing elimination from the Champions League in the hands of Bayern Munich. Losing yet again in the Round of 16 for the seventh season in a row wasn’t news, but the manner at which the team crumbled against Bayern was a real cause for concern. For the first time in 20 ish years, Arsenal finished below fierce rivals, Tottenham, in the Premier League and failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time under Wenger’s reign. However, the FA Cup triumph added some gloss to what was really a torrid campaign.
There were several factors that led to the team’s poor campaign this season, which I really don’t want to dwell on, but I must admit that Wenger’s future played a role too. It was the discussion of the Press almost every other week even to the point where the manager stated that they lack creativity. The uncertainty surrounding his future was quite tiresome, but now that football is out of the way, it’s time to sort it out once and for all.
The Board has to let everyone know their stance on the issue. If Wenger is staying, let them be clear on their expectations for the team and provide the funds he would need to buy world class talent. If he’s not staying, let them announce a succession plan, which would include the new manager and their aspirations for him.
It was believed that there was a board meeting yesterday on this matter and I’m guessing we will get feedback in the coming days.
Time for some closure on Arsene Wenger’s future.
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Friday – the day of the week we workers look forward to for more reasons than one. The best part of this Friday is that there’s some Arsenal football tomorrow after the club’s ambassadors had quite a productive window. There were goals for Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Chuba Akpom, Serge Gnabry and even Joel Campbell. As for Mesut Ozil, he assists when he wants.
The best part of the international window was that there were no fresh injury concerns to contend with. However, the manager has shed some light on the current situation of the club’s injured lot. Laurent Koscielny would face a fitness test to confirm his availability for the Watford game but I’d prefer him to be rested for the all-important clash against Bayern Munich on Tuesday. Besides, Gabriel has been playing well and he needs more games under his belt. As for the English duo of Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere, Wenger confirmed that the most optimistic time of seeing Welbz will be January 2016. Knee injuries are nothing to be joked with… you can look no further than the likes of Liverpool’s Joe Gomez and Danny Ings that are now out for the rest of the campaign.
Wenger spoke about Alexis Sanchez red-hot form and he hopes it continues. The Chilean has scored nine goals in his last five games for club and country and like a juggernaut, it would take some stuffing to bring him down. Alexis is such an infectious character that rubs off his influence on his teammates and we would be hoping for another class act at Vicarage Road. The boss also talked up Ozil’s performance against Manchester United and he expects the German schemer to get more goals under his belt as the campaign progresses. Ozil is the kinda guy that would rather find a pass for a teammate instead of putting the ball at the back of the net but at Real Madrid, he scored 10 goals on two occasions in the 10/11 and 12/13 seasons.
Wenger is also hopeful for the lads to reconnect quickly against Watford because it has become a norm for players to have rather disjointed performances after an international break. There is the issue of jet lag due to travelling and just that general tired feel but I expect the lads to be buzzing after such an important psychological victory against one of the teams they usually get poor results against a fortnight ago. Players like Per Mertesacker, Francis Coqulein and Nacho Monreal would be refreshed because they spent the break at home watching their teammates score goals here and there.
Wenger was asked a couple of questions about his thoughts on the Premier League title race this season. Arsenal is currently two points behind Manchester City and even though its ‘early days’ in the campaign, staying close to the top gives you a realistic chance of winning the title. The defending champions, Chelsea, have lost three of their last five games (only Aston Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland have worse forms) and they are currently eight points behind the league leaders, Manchester City. That’s three games they need to win and hope the Citizens lose if they wanna catch up. Things are pretty tight up there with the likes of Manchester United (level on points with Arsenal at 16 points) staking a claim for the title, Crystal palace and Leicester locked at 15 points each, and West Ham, Tottenham, Southampton and Liverpool not far off.
Wenger was asked about Chelsea and as you’d expect from the classy man, he maintained focus on his own team. If it was the other Portuguese bloke he would have been running his mouth like a leaking faucet. What really interested me was when Wenger was asked if this is the best chance for the Gunners to win their first league title in 11 years (damn., that’s quite some time),
“At the moment we are in the fight and that’s what you want. I believe we have the potential to do it and that’s what we want to show now in the coming games. I’ve been here for 19 years and we had some turning points in the history.
When I arrived we had the financial potential to fight for the titles. After, when we moved into the new stadium, there was a period where we did not have the opportunity to fight for the title but we had to work very hard to stay at the top.
In the last two, maybe two-and-a-half years, we are back in the fight because we have the financial potential again to get the best players. When you look well at the last two years, we’ve brought in Ozil, Alexis, Petr Cech. That shows that we are back and are capable to fight to get the best players.”
It’s agreeable that money plays a huge role in winning titles and Manchester City has proved this fact, even though they have splurged quite exorbitantly. However, if you use good money to sign quality players, their quality will obviously shine through in the club. You can look no further than the two players Wenger mentioned in his response – Ozil and Sanchez. These two have galvanized the team and Alexis has risen to a talismanic status on the end of his brilliant debut campaign. It’s heartwarming to know that he has picked up where he left off.
It’s going to be a long campaign but the Gunners are on the right path at the moment.
Thanks to Arsene Wenger.
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Arsene Wenger was once an enigma, or maybe he is still an enigma who was young, fresh with ideas and had a fire in his eyes. He could go toe to toe with the legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson and come out unblemished. He wrestled the title from Manchester United more than one time and he made history with the last Premier League title he won in 2004, earning him a place in English folklore as the manager that was the mastermind behind the Invincibles. 26 wins, 12 draws, 0 defeat. History makers.
The last time I saw that fire in Arsene’s eyes was the recent defeat against Chelsea. You won’t like this but the only man who inspires or challenges or pisses off Wenger off these days is the man you love to hate, Jose Mourinho. In 12 duels with the Portuguese manager, Arsene Wenger is still searching for his first victory, and many wonder if it’s ever going to come. The Gunners lost the Battle of Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from Eden Hazard and the hotshot, Diego Costa, but for the first time in a long while I saw something stir inside Wenger. Energy which I think can be channeled properly, not in shoving Jose but in inspiring him to be better than we are now. Take a cue from last season – he labelled Wenger as a “specialist in failure”, Wenger won the FA cup while he went trophy-less.
It’s quite puzzling to know that the Arsenal board and entire management only makes him relaxed and contented with where we are. They have fueled his arrogance and they have exaggerated his capacity especially in these modern times. In an organization as big as the Arsenal, someone has to call the shots. I won’t dispute that but a look at the modern football world and you would see a common trait; a football structure which self-innovates, a structure that motivates, inspires and challenges everybody in the club to be better. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona, Manchester United and most recently sides like Altetico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, models which was mentioned just recently by Ivan Gazidis as models we aspire to become and exceed. We can’t achieve that when one man thinks for all of us, when one man’s head is empty and we would all keep quiet, when one man seems to lack modern ideas and we all sit and watch.
When I think about Sir Chips Keswick’s quotes in the AGM, it gives me a food for thought,
“If he (Wenger) has a plan, we back him. If he doesn’t have a plan, we keep quiet”
The chairman openly admits that we pay poor ol’ Arsene to do all things for us. In all things, I mean everything and everything can be turned into everything else. Contrary to what some Arsenal fans would have you believe and no matter how good Arsene was he can no longer do all these things by himself, not anymore, not in these football age when everything has changed. In football world these days that can be quite exhausting and a burden on any young man like Pep Guardiola, let alone an aging man like Arsene Wenger. That was part of the reason Pep left Barcelona because at a stage he became exhausted from all the work especially during the Barca presidential tussle when he did everything by himself with little support.
Scouting of players, player transfer business, senior and youth team management, football philosophy and tactics, players health and fitness management, corporate business management, day to day running of club, balancing the cheque books to keep the board and owners happy at same time winning games and trophies to keep the fans happy; all these in modern times have been innovated to a whole new level that one man cannot control them any longer. Even Liam Brady’s replacement, Andries Jonker said recently he noticed before you get anything done you have to go through Wenger.
“Almost every day, Wenger and I go through a number of things. “He is approachable, but I do have to show him what we are doing. We must not go behind his back. Everybody at the club has the feeling that they need to have the green light from Wenger before they do anything.”
The situation we find ourselves now is that if Mr Wenger doesn’t think, no one else is allowed to think and believe me Arsene hasn’t been wearing his thinking cap lately or at least not to full capacity. This is evident in the poor run of games despite acquiring priced commodities in the face of Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers, David Ospina and Matt Debuchy for some serious quid.
I welcome the effort we are making in some of these, though their fruits are yet to be seen. I see some movement recently from Ivan Gazidis towards this. I admit it won’t be easy but we have to plan it to coincide with Wenger’s three years contract. He either goes at the end of three years to allow the structure take place or we whip him into accepting the new order of things. What if the Arsenal management decides to push Wenger, to help him think? What if they set up a structure which lifts the burden from Wenger so he can concentrate mostly on football coaching? What if they compartmentalize Arsenal into the modern structures all working in synergy to rotate the full machine called Arsenal?
But as it stands, Arsene Wenger is Arsenal, yes, Arsenal.
This guest post was written by Austine Onono, or @nwakibie, as he’s known on Twitter. Feel free to follow him.
Bonus Reading: Only Wenger plays the piper and dictates the Arsenal tune – Canon Crested
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