By Sulaiman Alao:
These are certainly trying times for Arsene Wenger this term at Arsenal, as a large number of fans again staged protests to mount pressure on the manager to throw in the towel at the Emirates. The French coach has walked this route before but it wasn’t as rough as it is now.
And the pressure has indeed gotten to the club directors who have been forced to break their initial silence and have now told the embattled coach to decide on his future at the club during the upcoming international break in order to give the Arsenal board time to search for a replacement.
Wenger’s current contract terminates at the end of this season while a potential two-year extension deal is reportedly already on the table but that is proving a difficult one for the coach to sign on merit. Wenger’s plan, initially, was to wait and see how the season finishes. But the die is cast as Wenger can no longer employ the delay tactics. He faces the decision to either sign or quit the Emirates for good between 18th March and 2nd April. That’s the ultimatum, reportedly.
It seems the Wenger invincibility is finally easing out and the coach may be grappling at straws to survive the sack. With the EPL title clearly out of reach and the ridiculous 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich which resulted in the ouster from the Champions League, the FA Cup and a top four finish seem the best Arsenal could achieve this season but even those are not guaranteed.
The scenario clearly shows an Arsenal board not wanting to take the bull by the horns by sacking Wenger outright. They are shying away from taking such responsibility. Instead, the board is giving Wenger the full liberty to either ‘hang himself’ or stay put. Whichever way, the board intends to ‘feel good’ they have not betrayed Wenger whose body language shows he wants to keep his job.
What seems absurd is that the Arsenal board and Wenger are not really concerned by the club’s interest but about personal sentiments. In the last 12 years since Arsenal won the Premier League, Manchester United have won it five times, Chelsea four times, Man City two times and Leicester City once. While the past two managers to win the Premier League have both been sacked the following season, Wenger has managed to avoid the sack for 13 years now!
In fairness to Wenger, he has done well for Arsenal in the last 20 years – especially in his first 10 years. He won a couple of FA Cups and League Cups and kept the club in the Champions League in all these years but that is no longer enough. Arsenal need to start winning the league title again. Arsenal need to truly compete and win the Champions League. To achieve such will mean a radical change in the club’s transfer policy and players’ recruitment.
Wenger must be ready to effect such a radical change or he himself will be swallowed up by it.