Connect in the back of the net

Back-to-back FA Cup wins may have ended Arsenal’s trophy drought but in reality they have merely papered over the cracks that have been glaringly obvious for many years in North London.

There are sections of the Arsenal faithful that have wanted Arsene Wenger to leave for a long time now and nothing we’ve witnessed this season has changed that perspective. If the Gunners fail to win the Premier League this year with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United nowhere to be seen and Man City struggling then the ‘Wenger Out’ camp might just get their wish.

Their problems can arguably be traced all the way back to the departure of Patrick Viera in the summer of 2005. Not only was the Frenchman a colossal presence in the Arsenal midfield, he was in his own mild-mannered way an incredible leader that without having to say much commanded the respect of opponents and teammates alike.

Viera has never truly been replaced either as a defensive midfielder or a captain, although he was by no means the only leader in the Arsenal dressing room during their title winning years of 1998, 2002 and 2004 and you could look from 1 to 11 in all three sides and not only pick out fantastic players but strong characters, natural leaders and born winners.

Over a decade on from their last Premier League win and the Gunners still have some fine individual talent but at times it is abundantly clear that they are lacking in the other three areas.

 

Mystery

Wenger’s initial ability to transform a misfiring Arsenal side into champions in the late 1990’s and then repeat the trick twice should never be forgotten in North London. However it only adds to the mystery of why he has veered unsuccessfully away from that winning formula over the past decade.

The team has been crying out for leadership and a physical holding midfielder to support their attacking talent for most of that period. The departure of Robin Van Persie in 2012 meant you could add ‘natural goalscorer’ to that list but despite a large increase in funds Wenger has failed to find the solution and to that extent the recent criticism has been entirely justified.

Arsenal fans were patient with the side during the early years at the Emirates when the club was faced with the task of paying off debts towards their swanky new stadium.

Wenger’s success in keeping the club in the top four during that period was a genuine achievement and should be treated as such but the £42 million capture of Mesut Ozil in 2013 and £31 million signing of Alexis Sanchez in 2014 looked set to mark the start of a bright new dawn for the club.

Almost two years on from the arrival of Sanchez and the jury is firmly still out on whether or not Wenger is the right man to lead Arsenal into that new era. Lack of funds can no longer be used as an excuse for lack of league or European success and Wenger’s stubborn refusal to seriously adapt and fix problems such as the glaring lack of leadership in the squad are hard to believe from someone who is clearly highly intelligent and found solutions cheaply and quickly during his early years at Arsenal.

 

Make or break season

FA Cup final wins over Hull and Aston Villa may have extended his time at the Emirates but this season’s Premier League really has a make or break feel to it as far as Arsene Wenger and the club he has managed for 20 years are concerned.

A title win, however it comes could help generate a spirit and winning mentality at the club that has been lacking for so long and would give Wenger a real foundation from which to build once more.

However failure to deliver the Premier League title in this bizarre season, particularly if it ends up at Leicester or even worse across North London at White Hart Lane would surely be a sign that the time has come for change at the Emirates.

 

Awkward position

The Premier League this year is the golden ticket that Wenger has been waiting for since the Invincibles of 2003-04 and it is one that he daren’t pass up. If Arsenal fail to land the Premier League it will force Wenger into an awkward position where his best option would surely be to immediately walk away at the end of the season with his held high and a fine legacy just about still intact.

Any other decision would surely lead to a severe souring in his relationship with the Arsenal fans and he’d run the risk of being forced out of the club which would be a really sour way to end what has predominantly been a fine chapter in Arsenal’s history.

 

Written by Mark Sochon

Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol

Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!

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