One Last Roll of the Dice for Arsene Wenger
As the fans lash out against the manager, is time up or should the Frenchman have one last season?
Flailing banners and posters reading "Support the team not the regime," or "Every good story has an ending," some North Londoners were demonstrating their frustration as the side yet again failed to mount a title challenge when the opportunity was there's for the taking.
Arsene Wenger remained defiant, as has been the case during his tenure as the club's manager. After all these years, his resolve remains a tough one to break, and what in the end was a minority of fans making little impact other than for the cameras wouldn't come close to testing it.
It's been a season where most conventions have been rewritten and where normality is a thing of the past. Arsenal, however, remain a rarity in the fact that they are on course to complete the season like previous occasions: top four.
That phrase and finish begins to take its toll on the fans. No matter what else changes outside of that circle, the Gunners maintain that level. Dependant on which supporter you're talking to, its either a consistent high level, or a glass ceiling - a blockage from elevating themselves back to the summit of the English game.
Change is certainly coming to Arsenal. Arsene Wenger's era is surely in its twilight phase, but that's been the prognosis of many for quite a while. Each time round, it comes to a few essential things: transfer policy, a title challenge, and whether or not anyone can waltz in through the doors of the club and maintain the consistency of their predecessor.
Loyalty is a depreciating asset in football. But its something that the club still hold with the Frenchman, and something certainly returned. Whether or not the loyalty is in the right place and benefits the club is yet another part of the Wenger conundrum up for immense speculation.
Over the past few weeks, the atmosphere around the Emirates Stadium has been on the brink of toxic. The energy does seem zapped out of the fans with things directionless at times, and Wenger too has acknowledged it. Even if the fans protesting against him were small in number, it remains an obstacle to overcome.
As the great Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." While the German physicist passed away when the current Arsenal manager was just five years old, and on the other side of the Atlantic, his quotation remains very relevant in context of the club today.
Perhaps many fans would argue that Wenger has expected or at least looked to fulfil fan expectations of the title by the same sequence, not getting enough business done in the transfer window and subsequently settling for top four and not doing much else. It seems like the fan backlash to this is something of an annual occurrence.
Frustration is justified. But by getting rid of Arsene Wenger, the Gunners must be prepared for a sizeable transitional period, one where they may get through a few managers before finding the right replacement. It will take a lot of sacrifice, it will happen sooner or later, but it's a case of if it's on Wenger's terms or if the club finally deem that enough is enough.
|Arsenal were victorious against Norwich but the reception around Emirates remained subdued. Image: Telegraph|
There's no doubt that Arsene Wenger's achievements have not only embedded into Arsenal folklore but into the English game and perhaps beyond that, but soon enough the more recent shortfalls may tarnish that illustrious reputation.
In the win over Norwich, the fans weren't in extreme numbers, but they were there. If this continues, the numbers may only grow and become overwhelming. Ticket prices are one thing, but this could evolve into a whole new matter.
One more year can't do too much harm. A changing of the guard is due, but with Wenger's contract set to expire next season unless the Gunners extend it again, the Frenchman's unparalleled contributions to the club should buy him some more time. After all, he has allowed Arsenal to hover up there with the top four each time, in a game so volatile as in the Premier League that's hard to attain when you study the cases of Chelsea and others.
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