The end nears for Arsenal's Arsene Wenger
With each passing minute of football, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger slowly dies by a thousand cuts.
Having survived for 16 years in one of the most brutal businesses on earth is a testament to his ability but also his stubborn nature, which is why letting go, is proving so uncomfortable.
Like great prizefighters that don’t know when to hang them up, the ending when it comes is ugly and it’s all played out if front of an audience baying for blood.
There are no hiding places in sports - especially when your opponent is Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson, has done battle with Wenger often enough to know that sentiment is best left in the dressing room.
The question we have to ask now is when will Wenger or his board, realize that the gig is up and the French Renaissance must come to a close.
As we look back on his 16 years, here is the best and worst of the Arsenal manager.
Worst: His stunning refusal to spend big money on a goalkeeper since the departure of Jens Lehmann in 2007 has resulted in the following, Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone, James Shea and Vwojciech Szczesny. Do you need more details?
Greatest: He doesn’t have a statue outside Emirates Stadium like Thierry Henry but one day he will. Emirates Stadium is Arsene Wenger and this is his monument not only to the Arsenal but also to the culture English football.
Worst: Wenger has used the honor of captaincy for the purposes of bribing players to remain with him; it hasn’t worked. From Thierry Henry to Gilberto Silva, William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie the message has been ‘please stay and I’ll make you captain'. Give me Tony Adams any
Greatest: The great Arsenal back four/five of Wenger's glory years was inherited, but he recognized that if it ain’t broke-don’t fix it. Through shrewd management he extended careers of David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn.
Worst: Arsenal used to have heart however that has been replaced by a pea and the Frenchman is responsible for that. He has mothered his players to such an extent that they’re now as soft as a baby’s pillow.
Greatest: Thierry Henry arrived at Highbury in 1999 and under Wenger he was transformed. A transfer market hit and it was all down to a manager who imagined a striker where others only saw a speedy winger (are you listening Theo Walcott).
Worst: Every season since 2005, Arsene Wenger has been involved in a tug-of-war with his best player. They’ve wanted to move, he’s wanted them to stay. Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Robin Van Persie have all demanded to move, and all have had their wishes eventually granted. But the cost has been immense.
Greatest: The Invincibles of 2004 will not be knocked off their perch anytime soon. An entire season undefeated in the modern game has only been match by Juventus. It is a record that will be chiseled on his statue.
Worst: Every manager must have tunnel vision but Wenger has refused to acknowledge his mistakes. The spine of his side has not been the same since Patrick Vieira left North London. It has been mentioned a thousand times but Wenger always deflected the question, perhaps knowing that a ‘Vieira’ could never be replaced.
Greatest: At times over the last six years Arsenal ‘on song’ with everything firing was in my mind the greatest show on turf. Better than Barcelona in pure footballing terms, however they lacked the most magical tool in the game, namely belief.
At his best Arsene Wenger belongs in the pantheon of great managers, at his worst, he’s just like all the rest. The Arsenal board will have to make a tough decision in the next few months. They know what they have to do, its just never easy killing a legend.