In the last few weeks since I last posted an article, I have gone to different football tournaments and joined UNILAG football team in training. I realized that football is indeed not easy and footballers actually deserve the massive wages they are paid but what happens when the players and managers fail to live up to expectations and please their fans by way of trophies and good football. These fans help in paying the players wages especially arsenal fans who cough out the most in England for tickets. You cannot go on and sack an entire football team so the blame will always fall back at the manager in charge who are paid to train and motivate these players. The spotlight is on Arsene Wenger who has managed to bottle Arsenal’s title challenge this season.
In a season when Chelsea have imploded, Manchester United are in chaos, Liverpool are rebuilding (again), Tottenham Hotspur are a young and developing team and Manchester City have been distracted by Pep Guardiola imminent arrival.
Instead, it is Leicester city who are in front. Looking at it hardheadedly, that is an indictment of the underperformance of the big clubs as much as it is a glorious effort by Leicester. And that indictment is at its greatest at Arsenal.
While other big clubs have been underwhelming Arsenal have gone from giving the impression they can capitalise on their continuity to appearing set to be paralysed by it. I had earlier tipped Arsenal to win the title after 18 games, but expectedly I am being proved wrong.
Arsene Wenger has experienced plenty of low points since Arsenal last won the Premier League title almost 12 years ago. Now it feels like the Arsenal manager really is reaching the nadir and the end.
He has no chance of reviving the club’s title challenge this season, not with the type of poison that came from the stands during Wednesday night’s 2-1 home defeat by Swansea.
Those supporters that stayed until the end did not just boo at the final whistle, they jeered the players down the tunnel one-by-one. These fans had enough, storming out of the ground unwilling to watch the remainder of the match despite paying more for their season tickets here than any other club in England. Arsenal have become the laughing stock times without number.
Arsenal are blowing their season and the worst thing is that it’s barely a surprise. This is what they do. Every year. It is as predictable as it is infuriating. After the grim performance in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to an unrecognisable Manchester United team, where a boy still writing exams equivalent to WAEC in Nigeria was allowed to shine, the match with Swansea City who brought their second team to the Emirates Stadium was a chance for Arsenal to respond, to show they have the character to match their obvious quality and win their first title since 2004.
Leicester’s draw with West Brom on Tuesday night had opened the door, only for Wenger and his men to allow it to swing back into their faces and leave them all bloody nosed.
The boos rang around the Emirates, Wenger raged on the touchline, the red-shirted players froze on the pitch.
The message from the supporters is clear. They believe the club but profit before glory, that Wenger is no longer capable of winning the Premier League – a change must surely be on the horizon.
Arsene Wenger’s side missed the chance to close the gap on leaders Leicester City on Wednesday after being defeated by Swansea City and remain six points behind the Foxes.
That defeat followed losses to Barcelona and Manchester United the previous week as Arsenal’s season threatens to derail completely.I feel sad for Mesut Ozil as it would have been nice for him to break the record for most assists with the Premier league title. The latest blow was the 2-2 draw with Tottenham, a game they had no business drawing if they still had hopes of winning the title.
There are valid reasons why Arsene Wenger needs to go, Wenger just doesn’t learn from his mistakes whether it’s sticking by rubbish players, not buying a holding midfielder or tactical errors.
It always seems to be somebody else’s fault and he’s far too stubborn to admit he didn’t get it right and loves trying to prove doubters wrong.When it comes to tactics, Wenger is often found out.
It’s taken him years to finally realise you need to give up some possession for being tighter in bigger games, but there’s still no real variation.
He lines up for every game with a 4-2-3-1 and it’s hard to remember times he’s switched the system to capitalise on another team’s weakness. In champions league nowadays is nearly certain Arsenal lose out in the round of 16 to a big side after a dismal performance in the groupstages. Even Leonardo Di Caprio has managed to win an Oscar before Wenger may ever win the Champions League.
All the top managers have a range of different tactics but Arsenal rarely have a plan B and most clubs know how to frustrate and nick points.
Sometimes football players need to be told they’ve made mistakes and that they let the team down. But even after heavy defeats Wenger won’t slam the players and gives deluded quotes saying they ‘gave everything’ ‘let’s look at the positives’ and uses mad phrases like ‘we played with the handbrake on’. Just be honest about bad performances.
The fans love the club so find it hard to take when it seems like he’s letting the players get away with not being bothered and it’s gone on too long.
The players seem not to believe in him anymore, this is the most concerning of the lot.
In crucial games against Manchester United and then the must-win clash with Swansea, the players didn’t seem bothered. Getting them fired up and going for it is the job of the manager but the players don’t seem to want to fight for him anymore and that’s worrying.
Arsenal’s players say there is good spirit among them so it can only lead us to believe they don’t want to do it for the manager. Surely it’s time to go?
In a summer where it was clear Arsenal needed more outfield player apart from Petr Cech he still failed to bring in these additions. You can’t deny Petr Cech, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were good signings – but they were already superstars and available to sign.
It’s Wenger’s hidden gem obsession that’s the problem. He used to find unknown stars for hardly any money that turned out to be class. Here in Nigeria he is known as Baba Ijebu (one who refuses to spend money or is stingy).
But look at his recent signings of largely unknowns: Gabriel, Yaya Sanogo, Kim Kallstrom, Gervinho, Andre Santos, Park Chu-Young. All flops.
He’s lost his transfer mojo and should go for proven quality over gambles.
This summer will see superstar manager’s rock up at Man United, Man City and Chelsea while Liverpool will spend big with Jurgen Klopp.
I was expecting Wenger to liaise with the board for him to step down and get Pep Guardiola ahead of Manchester City but I guess he still thinks he can cut it with the best. Pep would have been the perfect option to replace him.
There’s going to be scrap for top transfers and games will be more tactical and harder to win than ever. Things are going to get really tough. Arsenal should be sitting pretty, with the largest cash reserves in world football, but Wenger refuses to spend and the club risk being left behind. He’s so fussy with signings and won’t pay over the top for anybody, so all the big players will make rivals even stronger. It’s crazy as little Leicester city have shown that you need not spend over the top to win a title so why is Wenger failing once again. Even the St Totteringham’s Day may not happen this year if Arsenal loses to Tottenham on Sunday ( it is the day when Arsenal fans celebrate the fact that Tottenham can no longer catch Arsenal in the League, It is a movable feast, but usually falls in March, April or May).
Wenger will be just a month short of his 67th birthday when the Sept 16 anniversary comes around and will also be in the final year of a contract that he is expected to see out. Whether he signs a new deal is already in doubt. In six months time he would have spent over 20 years at Arsenal.
There is another way of looking at it: even if Arsenal do win the title, then maybe it is still time for Wenger to step down. How could he top that? He will be well aware that Sir Alex Ferguson quit as United manager once he had regained the title and not before. And did not hang around. Wenger will also be well aware of what has happened at United since Ferguson retired. Much of that was inevitable; much of it could have been avoided with a better succession plan.
Then there is the big question: who should replace Wenger? If Arsenal do not want to completely let go of Wenger. A structure of Wenger as director of football alongside a younger head coach would appear ideal if he can bring himself to accept that.
Big candidates have gone – Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Jürgen Klopp. They would all have quite fancied the Arsenal job. But there are always others – if the right amount of planning is done, if the right man is identified and the right amount of due diligence is completed. Arsenal need that head coach, a younger coach, not a manager to overhaul or rebuild their club. That work is already complete. What is needed now is a change in mentality. And that may require a new manager.
Tochukwu Anosike is a member of the law class of “18, who loves and follows sports. If he were not studying law, he may have been playing for his favorite club, Crystal Palace :). You can connect with him on Instagram @carlsyke.