Is time up for Arsene Wenger?
By Chris Higham
I've been around the game of football for many years and one pet peeve I have is fans and media who advocate for a manager's dismissal. However, in this case, I have chosen to break my own golden rule and declare that Arsenal need to look for a replacement for long serving manager Arsene Wenger.
Wenger has enjoyed a stellar career at Arsenal and is possibly the only current manager who can hold a candle to Sir Alex Ferguson in terms of success, longevity and loyalty. His "trophy cabinet" is a testament to his abilities with three Barclays Premier league titles, four FA Cup's and a 14-year record of successive Champions League Group Stage qualification including a final in 2006.
He is and will always be, one of the League's best ever managers. Despite that, over the past several years, rumblings of discontent have been echoing through the corridors of The Emirates. Wenger's teams haven't won a trophy in seven seasons and a consistent stream of top players preferring to leave the club and play elsewhere indicates that a lack of enthusiasm is possibly taking over . The sale of Robin Van Persie at the start of this season to Manchester United brought matters to a head as Van Persie has firmly established himself as United's best player, much to the anger of Gunners fans everywhere. The club's apparent unwillingness to spend money to replace those lost stars has been blamed on the Frenchman who refuses to deny those allegations.
Wenger has always been a little different to most managers in England. Being French, he is more refined and is well educated, carrying a degree in Economics from the University of Strasbourg. He has always concentrated on an attractive, passing style of football rather than the more physical approach of a typical Premier League team.
His ability to buy relatively unknown talent at bargain prices and produce international class players is unrivalled. His club, Arsenal, are one of the few clubs in the Barclays Premier League that make a profit each season. Wenger is also the club's highest paid employee, including the playing staff. A most unusual statistic.
His critics have said that his teams lack spirit and fight, which is fair comment, but that failing has always been tempered by an ability to outplay many opponents with their superior ball possession skills. I believe that over his career, only Barcelona has had a more successful philosophy in this area of the game.
However, all that being said, I feel there are two reasons why he should now be replaced.
Firstly, his teams have forgotten how to compete at the top level. For a few seasons now, Arsenal have been simply brushed aside by the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City and frankly, the players have not had the mentality to change that. Twice already this season, Arsenal have simply not shown up to play in the first half of crucial games against top teams. If you are to compete for trophies and Champions League places, that simply cannot happen in this League.
Secondly, and something which I have always disliked about him, is his willingness to excuse his team's bad performances to the media by blaming unrealistic external factors such as referees, bad luck, injuries etc. In any workplace, when a boss or manager defends mediocre performance from his employees, accountability sails out of the window. Wenger will hardly ever state that "we were beaten by a better team", and frankly, his comments last weekend following his team's loss to Chelsea where he said that "we were unlucky", were laughable. I think that Wenger really does believe that his team is competitive still, and therein lies the issue. Insanity is defined as repeated behaviour with the expectation of different results.
I think it's time for a change now, and I know many Arsenal fans agree too. The sight of him standing on the sidelines flapping his arms around has become all too sad. The agony cannot continue and if Arsenal fail to finish in the top four this season, most likely natural selection will take over and the Frenchman's reign will end.