Imagine watching a movie on repeat over 10 times. The words will be embedded in your brain, you'll see everything coming, and no matter how many Oscars it has picked up, the likelihood is that the boredom will reach excruciating levels eventually. But this movie in particular, won't be sweeping up Oscar awards - train-wrecks and horror shows rarely do.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger might as well have been playing off a script for the better part of the decade. An optimistic rise, a bombardment of injuries, and then that inevitable crash, or crisis, all culminating with one huge anti-climax. Jumble all those elements up, add some variables and that is the depressing summary of the Gunners past. For some reason, the owners continue to rewind and play that movie again - the fans, watching, are sick of it.
It goes without saying that the pessimistic view is damning. Let's not discredit the fact that despite all the other changes and chaos going around the English top flight, Arsenal have been able to build a fort in that top four, no matter how many critics had written them off and how unlikely it had looked. Champions League football became a regularity - but so did the thrashings and exits they received from it. Toxicity levels continue to build season after season, now the Emirates Stadium is inhospitable.
As the French manager once again stumbles into a crossroads, his legacy is on the line and so is the future of the club. The seriousness of the claims for "Wenger Out" have exponentially increased, the pressure now is heaving. Rather than fantasizing about those romantic times, like the 2004/05 invincibles, the memories of Wenger could be about a stubborn addict who couldn't pull himself away.
They say if you love something, let it go. Similar nuggets of advice must have been shoved down the throat of Arsenal's lead man for years, to no avail. Each passing season is depressingly a passing failure, and while the manager may not be entirely responsible, he will be held responsible. That's just how this game works.
In a day and age of football where the sport moves rapidly, quick to cut ties and play the villain as we saw with the departure of Claudio Ranieri, the impetus being on the future and ever lasting growth to contend with the giants. There's little to contend with other than a FA Cup at this point in the season, something that will be welcomed but not jubilantly cheered about considering its more of a last resort saviour. The league is done, Chelsea have them as a microscopic image in the rear-view mirror, the Champions League ended in catastrophe. All those players, all that money, that stadium, everything - and nothing.
|Image: Getty Images / Metro|
If you put yourself in Wenger's shoes, would you want to leave at the end of the season, on such a bad note, which would potentially wash away the incredible feats in the past? Probably not. He is probably clutching on to the receding hope that he may finish with a fairytale, but it won't be this season. Next season could be even harder when you take a quick glance at the back pages and see the top tier talent getting ready to take a first-class flight out of London when the campaign draws to a close.
Wenger's legacy should still remain highly regarded and possibly the greatest manager in the history of Arsenal, but as it stands that is being torn to shreds by his reluctance and pride. His achievements command respect. It's an admirable stance but one that is incompatible with the current state of the game, with the globalised sport now focusing on results, and constant success, not promises and a waiting game.
For now, it's been merciless to Wenger. He's been given a lot of leeway. The planes, though, will still fly over North London, Arsenal Fan TV will be the source of a comical meltdown, and the ground will be toxic. The reality is that no matter what happens Wenger is destined to be under pressure for the rest of his Arsenal tenure. Maybe it's time to say goodbye now, because while it's comforting to stay longer, the more time Arsenal are left frustrated, the more painful his exit will be - and the more tarnished his legacy will become.
The next few weeks will be gripping to see how tight-lipped he remains on his future and if he will sign an extension which may sent fans into a craze and riot. The West Brom defeat was a crushing reality, the defeat to Bayern was an embarrassing capitulation - but it's been seen before. It's nothing new. That is the biggest alarm of all.