Iâ€™m still here, just about – much like Arsenal this season.
Moving on up
Last time I posted here, about a month ago, I pretty much couldnâ€™t see anything other than a summer exit for Wenger. Things felt bleak: itâ€™s been a season that has careered from one statistical zinger to another. The stats still donâ€™t paint a pretty picture, but it comes as no real surprise that things have picked up since then (won four, lost one since sinking in the snow to Man City in a half-empty Emirates).
Why? Well, it was clear we were playing below our capabilities, for starters. But also, this is Wenger: a man whoâ€™s mastered the art of conjuring good finales to disappointing seasons. Here he is again, attempting to sing his signature tune – qualification for the Champions League. And heâ€™s five games away from doing it via the back door.
Moving on out
It doesnâ€™t change the fact that many – most – would like him to bow out gracefully in the summer, but it might persuade the majority owner, if indeed he needs persuading, that Wengerâ€™s the man for another year. But anyway, thatâ€™s a circular argument nobody is going to win right now. Weâ€™ll find out soon enough.
Time to break free
In idle moments, I do wonder how Wengerâ€™s European record will be judged. Accentuating the positives, youâ€™d say perennial qualification for the Champions League was pretty good, and there was one memorable run to the Champions League final – the first time weâ€™d ever been there in our history. There were alsoÂ twoÂ Uefa Cup finals – one with Arsenal and one with Monaco. But on the flipside, the last seven years in Europeâ€™s leading competition have been wasted, and it doesnâ€™t really feel like we ever got to grips with it. We look further away from truly competing in it now than ever.
Nothing can stop me
Wengerâ€™s never won a European trophy. So for a leading coach – and he has been that – his European record is not that great, especially if you judge success by lifting cups, as you should. Nor indeed is Arsenalâ€™s European record that great as a club, to be honest. One Fairs Cup, one Cup Winnersâ€™ Cup.
But here Wenger is, facing Moscow in the rarefied atmosphere of a Europa League quarter-final. Of course we have a chance. And how many more chances will Wenger have to win a European trophy? Iâ€™d say this is probably his last realistic chance. If he doesnâ€™t win the Europa League this year, it makes the argument for his departure almost impossible to ignore. He could move to another club that offers European football, but heâ€™d only have a few years, in all likelihood, to have another crack at winning in Europe, and thatâ€™s a tough ask indeed.
And if he does win it this year and stays at Arsenal, what chance does he have next season – which we can assume really *will* be his last – of winning the Champions League? Given Arsenalâ€™s historical record in it, and given Wengerâ€™s own painful maulings in recent years, Iâ€™d say itâ€™s zilch.
So this yearâ€™s Europa League really is it. This could be your last realistic chance, Arsene.