Arsenal: Arsene’s agony and greatness in tatters

10-12 years ago, no one, not even the most pessimistic fan would have uttered the phrase ‘Time Up Arsene’. The French man affectionately called Le Professeur was having the time of his managerial career winning League titles and domestic cups. The fans were happy, the critics reluctantly applauding.

The French contingent of Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Sylvain Wiltord, Gael Clichy were ably supported by Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Ashley Cole, Gilberto Silva, Kanu, Dennis Bergkamp, Freddie Ljungberg. All of whom have since moved on. The likes of David Seaman, Lee Dixon, and Tony Adams who were in the twilight of their careers handed over responsibilities to the younger generation with the hope that success would continue even in their absence.

Arsene Wenger has won 3 EPL titles, 4 F.A cups (only second to Sir Alex Ferguson on 5), reached the 2000 UEFA Cup Final (L to Galatasaray) and the Champions League final seven years ago (2006)-(L. to Barcelona).

All these have since been forgotten because since the 2005 F.A Cup triumph (D. Manchester United), the Gunners have come up short in no less than three finals including most recently the League Cup final loss to Birmingham. A match that still lingers in the memory of die hard Arsenal fans.

That final in 2011 represented Arsenal’s best chance of ending their six year (at that time) long trophy drought which has since been extended to 8 and counting. Arsene is beleaguered and under immense pressure to deliver at least a trophy. This season has passed by him once again.

Beaten by Bradford in the League Cup quarter-finals, defeated at the Emirates by Blackburn in the F.A Cup 5th round and now obliterated by Bayern in the 1st leg of the UCL Round of 16 on their home turf, the fans, majority of them, have seen enough. In their view, it is time for Wenger to call it a day. A breath of fresh air is needed. But the big question is who will SUCCEED ARSENE WENGER? I will get back to that.

Arsenal’s well documented implosion has brought the club to its knees in the eyes of everyone connected to football. The decline of one of the World’s richest football clubs is a miserable situation for the fans and the manager. However, whether the Board feels the same way is another matter entirely.

If not, how can you explain the fact that a club like Arsenal cannot boast of a 30 million pound/Dollar/Euro player? It is preposterous and utterly shocking especially with the healthy financial state the club consistently find themselves in. Wenger has brought more money than he has spent. But success has been hard to come by.

The supporters are tired of reading financial reports and listening to the balderdash Mr Gazidis the CEO and other Board members feed them with, what they want is on the pitch success not off it. Whatever happens off the pitch is immaterial if trophies are not resting in the trophy room. Wenger, Gazidis and co have failed to understand that football is mostly about what you win and the history you create with what you achieve or have achieved.

Yes, the Gunners are one of only two English clubs to have gone unbeaten in a League season. The INVINCIBLES they call them (the players who made it possible). But that was 9 years ago. No player in that great team is at the club today. This development has seen Arsenal tagged ‘the Market for top European Clubs’ or the ‘Selling club’. It is disheartening to note that the oldest player at the club is Lucasz Fabianski if my memory serves me correctly. Jack Wilshere was only promoted to the first team in 2008, although he has been at the club since 2001.

Look at clubs like Manchester United who still have Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes (retired and re-signed), Wayne Rooney all of who have spent 9 years or more at top level. When Wenger came on board in 1996, it was a two horse race for the EPL title from then till Mourinho was appointed CF manager in 2004. How things have changed.

The most distasteful EPL season probably was 07-08 when Arsenal led for much of the campaign until a serious knee injury sustained by Eduardo Da Silva at St Andrews coupled with poor form led to the Gunners eventually finishing in 3rd place behind eventual winners, Manchester United and runners-up, Chelsea. Although Arsene has led them to 16 straight UCL campaigns, that is no trophy and the fans are tired of qualifying for Europe every season and faltering at important moments.

The loss of 2 captains (Fabregas and RVP) in two consecutive seasons to Barcelona and more painfully, Manchester United has been crushing to the supporters of this great club. No sane board would sanction the sale of its two most important players to major rivals. Kolo Toure, Adebayor, Nasri and Clichy were all sold to Manchester City and 3 of them (excluding Adebayor) won the EPL albeit dramatically, last season. Mathieu Flamini who was sold to Milan has won the Scudetto. Henry won the treble with Barcelona in 2009, Hleb won La Liga, and others have gone on to be successful at other clubs. Robin Van Persie the latest player to be shipped off to an arch-rival is well on his way to claiming his maiden EPL title and leads the scorers chart in the EPL with 19 great goals.

The experience has been terrible and tormenting for Arsenal supporters even if some never admit it. The sale of RVP to MUFC can be likened to that of Figo to Real Madrid from Barcelona.

Since the departure of David Dein, Arsene has been knackered and debilitated. He has not hidden the fact that he misses the friendship, trust, advice, and know-how of the former Vice Chairman who oversaw the purchases of some of the greatest footballers to ever play for the club.

Since he left in 2007, the Frenchman has not been himself and success has been wide off the mark. His replacement, Ivan Gazidis, has been a figure head whose specialty and stock in trade is to sell the best and most valued Gunners to rival competitors. The Keith Edelman successor took over the many roles played by Dein but hasn’t emulated the former Supremo’s exceptional leadership skills and transfer dealings. Le Prof has persistently clamoured for the return of David and his wish should be the Board’s command.

Admittedly, Arsene Wenger has under-performed and under-achieved in the last 8 years. It might interest you to know that the Frenchman has only won trophies in 5 out of the 17 years he has managed Arsenal. The Double ( EPL and F.A Cup) in 98 and 02, the F.A Cup in 03 and 05 and the EPL in 04. 7 trophies in all. Major and super fantastic.

Notwithstanding, the bar has been raised by the likes of SAF, Mourinho, Gaurdiola, Mancini, Ancelotti etc, so he must rise up to the challenge beginning with the 2nd leg of the tie v Bayern. Seemingly a lost cause but if we remember how a Thierry Henry inspired Arsenal went to the San Siro and annihilated Inter Milan 5-1 10 years or so ago, then the 1-3 deficit can be overturned at the Allianz Arena. IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING.

Lastly, I wouldn’t sack Wenger. He should be allowed to finish what he started. He has a young squad capable of achieving great things in the near future. Besides, only a few managers in world football have the credentials to replace the Prof. The ones available are currently employed. The likes of Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain  can go on to become world beaters. The leadership and experience of Arteta, Vermaelen and Santi Cazorla could also prove vital in this trying time.

Whatever ends this saga and however it plays out, Arsene’s place in Arsenal’s history is secured. The club’s most SUCCESSFUL manager deserves a great deal of patience from the fans. Case rested.


Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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