Manchester City 5-0 Arsenal
Anyone who was at the Emirates in April 2016 will remember just how painful it was witnessing our splintered fanbase openly disagreeing about Wenger. But when you grow up knowing nobody else, or at least knowing no success quite like it, it was easy to understand how it happened. With success came longevity. And love, and respect.
The word ‘legacy manager’ (or legacy fans, more recently) has been used derogatively, but that’s nonsense really: Wenger was a legacy manager because he left an enormous legacy, so arguing about his future, even to those who wanted change, felt at least in a small part like a betrayal.
But that was then and those times have gone. We will never see a manager last 20 years again, and more than ever, managers – even if successful – are two, three or four-year appointments.
Arteta will know this, all managers do. They understand the perils of the job, and if they go, they tend to be pretty sanguine about it, as they should be. As fans, we should be less emotional about it too. If it works – fantastic. But if it doesn’t – move on.
With two years of his reign coming up, he has no legacy to fall back on or buy him time. Real progress is needed, not in a year or two, but now. With £125m spent, he’s been backed to the hilt – and now he has to deliver.
It sounds simple
Obviously it’s not, and nowhere more so than at Arsenal, which has been in a state of flux for years.
The frustrating thing, in many ways, is there’s a lot of good stuff going on. There’s the kernel of a really good, young squad, and it’s been added to judiciously. But the winning, scoring, free-flowing formula seems as elusive as ever. We’re flitting between formatations and tactics, resuscitating players who want out, and we’re still relying on players who’ve made one mistake too many but are somehow still making them. We aren’t creating, and we aren’t scoring. Obviously, getting three of his most important players back will help. But possibly only so much, without the winning formula that binds it all together.
But anyway, that’s his challenge. He’s got a month or two, and more likely till Christmas, to find the WD-40 for this squad. To find the lightbulb moment. The combination to the lock.
I hope he finds it. But if not, he’ll be gone and we’ll move onto the next man – and we shouldn’t be too anxious about that.