Arsene Wenger’s time was up a few years back.
My opinion has never waivered. I felt that during the 2006-2012 period, when money was extremely limited due to stadium debt and front loaded sponsorship deals, that Wenger did a good job steering the HMS Arsenal through choppy waters.
We might never know how restrictive our finances were during the period, but it is clear to anyone who read the accounts that we had to sell to buy. That we could not pay the wages others did.
I back Wenger during the bad years. Of the opinion that he had helped build the club in those years to become more competitive. A sacrifice of short term glory for long term success. My opinion was that after seeing Arsenal through the choppy period, Wenger should get the first at spending that money.
It was the summer of 2013 my faith in Wenger started to waiver.
Money had become available, through renewed sponsorship deals and new TV deals. We chased Gonzalo Higuain, and then had the infamous £40m+£1 deal for Luis Saurez.
On the Suarez deal, I actually do not attack the club for the failed bid. As I outlined at the time, Liverpool basically told Suarez to “take them to court for breach of contract”. The £1 above a minimum release clause is common, and it was only because the press needed the advertising revenue from clicks that it became such a big story.
Arsenal did not wrong. Liverpool refused to honour Suarez’s contract. Suarez himself would have had to have taken them to court, and instead settled for a big new contract with a new release clause meaning he could go abroad in a year.
But that summer was a fiasco.
Mesut Ozil did join on deadline day, but the only other two signings were Yaya Sanogo and Matheiu Flamini. It should have been our first big summer. Instead it was one of many frustrating ones to come. It was at this point, I wondered if Wenger was still the right man. We had the money, we were just not spending it.
A year later and Arsenal had won the FA Cup and spent nearly £100m – including Alexis Sanchez. Wenger signed a new contract, and everything seemed to be moving forward. It was at this point, in hindsight, that Wenger should have gone.
We should have built on that FA Cup win, on spending £100m on new players. Instead, the next year, 2015, we returned to type.
FA Cup winners once more, we spent just £10m on Petr Cech. It was a disgraceful transfer window.
Having got in the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in the previous 2, we should have built once more. Added what we needed. The striker, the centre back, the midfielder. But we did not, and it was clear Wenger was past his best.
For me, after the 2014 victory, that is the natural time for Wenger to have left.
When he signed the contract last summer, it was to extreme disappointment. It was a cowardly move by the board to offer him that contract, and Arsenal have suffered since.
It feels, however, that the club have seen the light.
Led by Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal have had a massive backroom shake up. A new Director of Football (in all but name), a new Head of Recruitment, a new contract negotiator. The decks have been cleared of Wenger’s yes men, and hopefully it leads to the biggest change of them all this summer; Arsene Wenger leaving.
There has been massive talk of Joachim Lowe being lined up to replace Wenger.
With the German Sven Mislintat as the new Head of Recruitment, Per Mertesacker about to get a plumb Academy Job, and Shad Forsyth as Head of Performance, the back room staff is having a very German look of it.
Forsyth is an American, but he spent 10 years working with the Germany national team and was part of the coaching set-up during their 2014 World Cup success.
You then look at the likes of Mesut Ozil, Shkodran MustafiPierre-Emerick Aubameyang,Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Granit Xhaka & Sead Kolašinac, Arsenal are collecting German players (or former Bundesliga players) like they are Pokemon. Lowe is increasingly looking like a natural fit.
But just because Wenger’s time is coming to an end, it does not mean that we should stop back the team to the end of the season.
At the end of the month, we have a League Cup final.
Someone recently said to me “Arsenal should lose to Man City 4-0”. This is the defeatist attitude we do not need in the lead up to a final.
City “should” have beaten us in last years FA Cup semi-final. Chelsea “should” have beaten us in the FA Cup final. And the west-London side “should” have beaten us in the League Cup semi-final. But Arsenal won, against the odds.
When you actually look at Arsenal v Man City head to head, Man City have won just 2 of the last 10. So to start writing the club off is just agenda driven drivel. It is rubbish.
We also have the Europa League to look forward too.
A big black mark against Wenger is his failures in Europe. 22 years in charge, 2 European finals, ZERO wins. There are some out there who do not want Arsenal to win in Europe so that this black mark stays against his name.
It is Arsenal FC, not Arsene FC.
I want Arsenal to win every tournament they enter. And the Europa League is one I would love us to get our hands on. A trip to Lyon on May, lifting Europe’s second trophy, a potential Europa League / League Cup double.
There are plenty of reasons to still back the team, even if you want Wenger to go.
Winning trophies is what it is all about, not progression and fake records.
Arsenal could end up with two at the end of the season. Despite it clearly being Time to Change, I will continue to support and back the team. That is what real fans do. And hopefully I am rewarded with that trip to Lyon in May.
Wenger Out – Back the Team