It’s not a matter of if, but Wenger

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It’s been a tumultuous week alright. There have been moments – days, weeks perhaps – over the past 21 years when I’ve thought it could be the end for Wenger. The 8-2 at Old Trafford and the 6-0 on his 1,000th match in charge felt seminal, for example. But he hasn’t lasted this long by chance; he has an incredible eye for reinvention and survival that makes him, by some distance, Arsenal’s longest-serving manager.

The pattern often goes like this: there’ll be some damaging reverses, resulting in exiting two competitions in short order; but just when you think the mood couldn’t darken more, Wenger rounds up some form and takes us on a 10-match unbeaten streak. The needle moves back out of the red zone. We qualify for the Champions League. Off we go again.

We are in poor form (let’s be honest, we looked an absolute mess of a side after half-time in Munich) but I wouldn’t bet against something similar happening now, because this is a strong Arsenal squad and Wenger has been here before many times. The difference now is that I don’t think it will make much difference to what happens next. It feels like these next few months are Wenger’s last; that change is upon us.

“No matter what happens, I will manage next season, whether it’s here or somewhere else.”

Said Wenger in yesterday’s press conference. On the one hand it tallies entirely with what Amy Lawrence wrote about Arsene knowing nothing but football and being lost without it. On the other, it feels like a message to his detractors, to the board, and probably to the fans.

I don’t think he’ll be here because the siren call for change is only getting louder. The players – not exempt from criticism, as I said on yesterday’s Arsecast – look like they need it, many fans crave it, and Wenger would probably benefit from it. I don’t think two more years would do anyone any good.

Would I begrudge him a move to a big European club? The man is an Arsenal legend and there’s nothing I would begrudge him, short of rocking up at Spurs with a Chas and Dave single under his arm.

Whenever it happens, it will be moment of huge sadness and reflection for me. His legacy is huge, his achievements myriad, and he has been a master of intelligence, courtesy and good humour. On top of that, and this is a selfish point I suppose, Wenger has been a constant for me for nearly half my life. Job changes, house moves, marriage, two children – Wenger has been there all along (metaphorically of course – I can confirm he wasn’t at Barnet General Hospital shouting ‘little bit push’).

In a world where things are changing fast and in unpresidented ways, there’s Arsene, with a cheeky smile and a throwaway quip. His departure will be a challenge to my own world order.

What happens next is in a big way up to him, but not entirely – and he will know that. Sometimes these decisions take on a life of their own.

Looking back to 1996, all it took to assuage the swirling chorus of ‘Arsene Who’, was Patrick Vieira’s introduction against Sheffield Wednesday. The new man had pulled a rabbit out of the hat and things seemed immediately rosier. That was one bookend.

For the other bookend, he has to cajole everyone into believing, at least for the next three months, so that we can find another rabbit, and another magic hat.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Don

    What top European club would give Wenger a job.No league title since 2004.A complete disaster in the CL.With the exception of the wonderful Sanchez the transfer policy in the last 5 years has been a disaster. Podolski Gervinho Giroud Xhaka Chambers need i go on.The awarding of long term contracts to downright average players Walcott Ox Gibbs Ramsey Wilshere defies belief
    Yes remember Wenger up until 2004 but dont forget the absolute dross of the last 13 years.Wenger ‘s legacy will be he installed the mantra that 4th place was acceptable and unbelievably was a trophy
    At any other top club in the world he would have been sacked 10 years ago

  2. athreya

    Top blogging. I laughed out loud at ‘little bit push’. Nice touch with unpresidented.

    On the subject itself it seems to me he used the press conference to throw down the gauntlet at the fans and the Board. Doesn’t look like a man who is itching to leave.

  3. Jim

    Thanks! No, I’m sure it would be a wrench for him. But he won’t be blind to outside sentiment – nor indeed to performances.

  4. Pii

    Accepting the ‘failures’ you highlight Don (although I’m not sure our recruitment is any worse than the other major clubs) I feel quite proud that Arsenal are not ‘any other top European club’. I’m proud that ‘at worst’ we have shown loyalty and gratitude to a manager who has given us unparalleled success and whose vision, intelligence, tenacity and ability has made Arsenal ‘a top European club’.

    Don’t get me wrong I want more than we are currently achieving but I am willing to suppress my personal greed to show my gratitude to a manager who has given be some footballing moments that I never imagined I would experience as an Arsenal supporter before his arrival.

    I know stats can be made to tell many stories but I did see a Sky graphic that without grotesque manipulation of the data show that Arsenal are second only to Man City in success over the last 3 years. Munich was a bad defeat but at such times perspective is required. Change is coming and I hope the club manages it with style and dignity.

  5. John James

    He may stay, Ozil and Sanchez will go.
    We will finish outside top four
    As Robby Keane said after 5-1 debacle
    What did you expect? They have two good players, the rest are average.

    Brutal but true.

  6. Jan

    As long as we agree that a new manager is needed and inevitable this summer I am all for style and honours with respect to Monsieur Wengers departure from the current position. He could even be positve acquisition to the board. Bur announcement of change and a proper successor (There are at least a handfull cheaper, available and with a better understanding of modern football than AW out there) is urgent.

  7. Carl Craig

    Would anyone begrudge the man if he rocked up as Barca Manager next season and won every darn trophy out there? Failing that, PSG would take him on in some capacity. He will have no shortage of offers if he leaves the Arsenal.

  8. ED

    I’ve been an Arsenal supporter for more than 40 seasons. In the last 20 seasons, I’ve enjoyed the football we’ve played a lot more than I did in the previous 20. That’s mainly down to Wenger. I loved Highbury, but when I go through the turnstiles at The Emirates it feels like I’m entering a great cathedral of football, a fitting location for our great club. That’s mainly down to Wenger. Arsène and Arsenal… if you were a romantic you’d say it’s like he was even named for us and we were destined to travel a path together. If we’re coming to the end of that road, let’s do it the Arsenal way…without the nasty abuse…with a little class. It’s the very least we owe a guy who loves the club just as much as we supporters do.

  9. Roger Pryer

    It seems to me that in all this wailing and gnashing of teeth over Arsene Wenger we are addressing the wrong problem. After Wenger there will not be a straight replacement, but a change in corporate governance. And that, or rather the lack of it, is the most important thing that Stan and his board have failed to do. What is required is a Panchen Lama to Wenger’s Dalai Lama, an Archbishop of York to his Archbishop of Canterbury. I somehow doubt that anyone has filled that role in recent years, but in the early years there were David Dein and Pat Rice, whose own standing was sufficiently strong that they could provide balance. And Stan just heaps the sole responsibility onto his shoulders because it seems, financially, to work. Wenger had broad shoulders. It is to his great credit that he bears that responsibility, and no man is infallible, it must take its toll. It sometimes seems as if Arsene’s mood verges on depression, and cannot be healthy for the team, let alone himself. If the issue of another big figure, sharing the load, providing balance, is addressed, then issues of succession and continuity can also be addressed, and in a responsible way. If not, we are in for many years in the wilderness. And make no mistake, that it will be Stan’s fault, not Wenger’s.

  10. Rectum Spectrum

    Yes Ed. 100% agree. But we need to know if this is the end, and if it is, we’ll sing his name every minute of every game remaining

  11. John Bruton

    Can there be a second Arsene Who(?)somewhere out there ? But who have Arsenal got to find him this time around?

  12. Jim

    Two $1m questions!

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