Since the turn of the year, the mood at the Emirates has changed, for worse. A poor run of games in the league, the 3 -1 loss to Chelsea being the most recent, has seen Arsenal lose ground in the title race and also exit a cup competition. The club also faces early exit in Europe given its pairing with Bayern Munich, who have knocked them out twice in four years, in the next round.
As is always the case each time things go wrong, there have been growing calls for manager Arsene Wenger to leave the club. For well over a decade, Arsenal, under Wenger, has been locked in a mediocre cycle that sees it start every season brightly only to fizzle out.The repeated disappointments has seen the frustration of some fans understandably grow. On matchdays, at the stadium he helped build, “Wenger Out” protests have become common.
But many of those want Wenger out cannot answer a simple question: who replaces him? For Wenger’s sacking to make any sense, the club must replace him with someone truly better and capable of taking them a step further than where the Frenchman is presently locked in.
While it could be argued, convincingly, that resources at the club can produce much better results under another manager, some of the ‘successes’ taken for granted under Wenger could vanish should he leave. French champions, PSG, are an example.
Laurent Blanc’s sacking last summer was primarily because the fans and management underrated the club’s dominance in the league. The bigger goal was to improve its performance in Europe and so Blanc was shown the door. Instead of expected progress under new manager Unai Emery, the club has derailed badly. Compared to last season where the club won the league by a staggering 31 points, it is presently tied on points with Nice and sits behind Monaco in the league. And how have they fared in Europe? After failing to beat Ludogrets in their final group game, PSG finished second and will play Barcelona in the next round.
Finding a better replacement is as important as sacking Wenger. And except for the fans touting unproven managers like Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, anyone will agree top managers, who represent a true upgrade on Arsene, are presently tied up in jobs elsewhere.
Aside the difficulty of finding a new manager, there is also the small matter of rewarding Wenger’s years of service to the club with a glorious exit. You don’t have to like the Frenchman to admit he has served the club diligently for 20 years, and has delivered unprecedented success. Laying him off, at a time like this, is unfitting and denies him the chance of earning himself deserved applauds on his way out to possible retirement after a disappointing decade of failure on the big stage. Having won before, Arsenal ought to keep faith in Wenger to win again.
If the Arsenal board needs a lesson on what life without long-serving Wenger could be, then Manchester United are offering one and learning the hard way. Ferguson’s exit and a string of poor appointments have reduced England’s most successful club to one that scraping to qualify for the Champions League every season. At Arsenal, Wenger represents that stability. And it shouldn’t be sacrificed on the altar of a pointless change.
Article written by ‘Shina Peter, follow him on Twitter – @Shina_Pitta