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Arsene Wenger's Arsenal on a downward spiral

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arsene wenger 2390067b e1354531900381 Arsene Wengers Arsenal on a downward spiral

Before this weekend, Arsene Wenger was a manager under pressure. After successive draws Arsenal sat five points off the top four, and there was a morose atmosphere at the Emirates. This was not a kneejerk but the growing concern that a club was on the domestic decline.

Initially, I dismissed this as doom-mongering. Fifteen years of consecutive Champions League football, sob sob sob. Last home game won 5-2 against your bitterest rivals, oh woe is me, my sarcastic mind declared. These were football fans who had gorged on success and were moaning when the plates full of food stopped being piled high in front of them.

Perhaps I was wrong, because Saturday was different. There was a genuine low about Arsenal. There was no vigour, no invention, no spark and no verve. Wenger’s teams of previous seasons have lost home games but on those occasions there was a sense of ‘one of those days’ with posts hit, shots blocked and goalkeepers rejoicing with Man of the Match champagne.

Against Swansea, Gerhard Tremmel was left worryingly untroubled. Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere attempted to create during passing periods of possession, but Arsenal’s quality of creativity was woefully inadequate.

Swansea dominated Arsenal. They out-passed, outfought and out-thought their hosts. Wojciech Szczesny was comfortably the busier goalkeeper and the only surprise was that it took 88 minutes for the Swans to take the lead.

At the final whistle boos rang out, audible to the thousands already streaming towards Holloway Road. There were calls of ‘Wenger Out’ as season ticket holders pleaded that they ‘want their Arsenal back’. The neat triangles had stopped working. The two-touch passing on the edge of the area had seemed sluggish and without attacking probe. The entertainment and enthralling of home fans had ceased to occur. It felt like the end of the era.

Arsene Wenger can point upstairs to the management of the club, and this theory had pre-match support. Two thousand fans met to demand resignations from a board that they felt had forced the club into stagnation through crippling under-investment, but unfortunately for Wenger, this season’s performances are not solely due to the inactivity of player investment, and the buck must stop with the manager.

Arsenal’s starting eleven against Swansea contained seven players bought for £10 million or more (Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Cazorla, Arteta, Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Podolski), with another two (Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain) on the bench.

Swansea’s entire starting side cost £10.8 million. And they taught Wenger’s side a footballing lesson.

Michael Laudrup this week ruled Arsenal out of the title race:

“The title is between three teams – the two Manchesters and Chelsea. Arsenal cannot buy the players that Manchester City, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid can.”

Whilst Laudrup is correct in his assessment, he is missing the point here. Wenger cannot be blamed for not challenging for the title, but he must be responsible for creating a side that is now languishing in tenth position.

West Brom, Everton, Swansea, West Ham and Stoke City are the five sides now directly above Arsenal. Matt Jarvis is the only player amongst the 55 starters for those five teams to have cost more than £10 million. David Moyes, Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce are all managers performing their roles at levels above the Frenchman, a statement that almost fails to comprehend in footballing brain.

This is extreme under-performance. A manager’s goal is to generate performance from his team beyond the sum of the individual parts. Wenger currently has a squad of talented players operating at a substandard level both individually and as a collective. In football, as is patently evident, there is only one available fall guy.

The saddest aspect is the stench of the inevitable, the mindset that there is little that can be done to resolve the current situation.

Even if Arsenal do respond, as could be expected with games against Wigan, Reading, West Brom, West Ham and Newcastle United before the New Year, and they do snatch fourth place, what should fans want? Can supporters protesting against underinvestment not expect the club to also twist rather than stick with their manager?

The obvious retort to such an argument is that Arsenal fans don’t know how lucky they are, and that my first paragraph should ring true. Unfortunately (and certainly in football) success wasn’t built on the limitation of thought. Stability is a myth and is the foundation of stagnation if left unchecked, and the Premier League is a stage on which standing still is moving backwards.

Author Carl Sagan puts it better than I ever could:

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”

Whereas before Arsenal fans were thankful for the comfort blanket of Wenger’s reassuring presence, they now dare to wonder whether his continued employment is stunting growth and development.

This is in no way an advocation of the Chelsea model or managerial instability but could Jurgen Klopp be tempted from Dortmund? Or could Dennis Bergkamp (now assistant manager at Ajax) be groomed as heir to the throne, very much akin to Pep Guardiola’s managerial grounding?

This was not intended as a ‘Wenger Out’ piece, but the crucial development to me yesterday is that it is no longer treason to question the validity of the King. Until now, proponents of the view that Wenger may be implementing a downward spiral were very much limited to the fringes of Arsenal’s support. Yesterday that seemingly shifted.

Wenger’s previous successes earnt him a deserved degree of untouchability, but this has now been dangerously eroded. And if insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then Arsenal’s current plight begins to look mentally unstable.

Follow me on Twitter @danielstorey85.

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Comments (8)

  1. arsenal will fight back have been put down by ex players from the watch paint dry years and constant media battering and fans that fall in line to this but they are a young good side and will get back

    • Sorry g’clarke,

      Not sure i can agree with you. Not on the matter of fighting back of course, i certainly hope we can fight back as its not really too late. However, i think our reliance on the excuse of being a young side is tired, most of the players from yesterday have played over 3-4 years of top level soccer. For the first time i am beginning to agree with the view that Wenger may need to leave. It would mark the end of a truly wonderful era, and yes there is no guarantee that the next person can measure up to his record. However, i think this combination of Mgr, players and fans have reached the end of their usefulness. a new combination would be useful if only to teach us to better appreciate Mr. Wenger’s past achievements before he totally erodes them from our memory.

    • Arsenal have been a young side for quite some time, mainly because most of the maturing players in this cycle have been sold once they entered their prime.

  2. There bounce back can not guarranty us top dont decieve us. This is not the beginning wenger and stan should lèave for now.

  3. If wenger failed 2 resign voluntarily,the learned fans of arsenal shd compel him 2 quit.Enough is enough,we’ve been deceived enough and now we’re tired of deceit.Gooners have been made unhappy for 8yr.,As if it is not enough,wenger is still bent on putting more misery on the fans.I learnt his parents have German lineage.No wonder he prefers 2 b force out.

  4. I do not tink players ar d problem, d main problem is arsene!! Arteta is not cdm, wenger continues playing him dia, we really miss song because he is a box 2 box player, diaby couid hv fitted perfectly but he is injury prone player, nothing arsene tells d players motivates them anymore , i bet if all our players were 2 be @ man u, they will surely have a better mentality!.why? Because result matters 2 them, ferguson picks his team based on their performance, So it is high time arsene throw in towel, his time is up.

  5. Naseria i Mac City said we have players you just turn up to receive their weekly fat pay,we became angry at him for saying so,RVP said there is lack of ambition in the club,we all just want to see him hang,but are they not the one having a laugh right now ? we buy either potentias,l or players looking for a nursing home to settle down.How can we then expect anything great.At present we dont have a team cabale of winning anything great,we cant be in top with this team, It is just a luck to be even in 10th place,we should be happy with that,with the team we have anything else is seriously underating the PL

  6. It’s an interesting point in EPL history. Arsenal and Chelsea currently represent two extremes for ways clubs can lose their identity and support. Arsenal are finally acknowledging that they have a crisis of stability at the expense of ambition, while Abramovich’s ambitions have once again hurt any chance at stability for Chelsea.