After another dismal cup defeat to lower league opposition - this time a 1-0 loss at the hands of Championship side Blackburn Rovers - uncertainty is once again looming about Arsene Wenger's credentials as Arsenal manager. After sixteen years at the helm, is he still the man to take Arsenal forward?
Opinion appears to be split among the Arsenal fans; many are satisfied with a top four finish each year and believe with the money he has spent, that he is doing a satisfactory job. His loyalty and past glories also earn him support from his backers. However, some believe that his failure to deliver a major trophy since 2005 (no, Arsenal fans, the Emirates Cup is not considered a major trophy, I'm afraid) and an apparent reluctance to spend money warrants his sacking. Many also fear that unless a change is made soon The Gunners may slip behind their fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are currently four points clear of Arsenal, leading to concerns that they may miss out on Champions League football for the first time under Wenger's stewardship.
It is true that Wenger has not bought many big-name signings over the past few years, which has drawn criticism from several fans and pundits. But it is unclear how much money he actually has at his disposal - is it that he is reluctant to spend a large fee on a player or that the board are unwilling to support his ambitions? If another manager was to come in, would he be able to improve the squad significantly if he has the same financial restraints as Wenger? Also the loss of key players recently, such as Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, have hampered their progress. If Wenger is responsible for these transfer dealings then he should quite rightly be under scrutiny. But surely the board must take some responsibility?
The signings he has made have been questionable: though Santi Cazorla has shone and Nacho Monreal appears promising, Per Mertesacker, Gervinho and Andre Santos (to name but a few) have looked unconvincing and Wenger seems to have been oblivious to the glaring need to sign a centre-back and defensive midfielder for years. Still, he has nurtured an abundance of exquisite young talents such as Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, useful attributes to a club who lack the financial clout of the other big sides.
Wenger's saving grace has always been his ability to finish in the top four, regardless of the circumstances. This season though, this is in doubt. He is still able to rely on his illustrious past, having delivered 11 trophies during his tenure and has been lauded for his style of play, but for how much longer? The Arsenal squad this season has looked like a tired one, in need of reinvigorating. Perhaps it is time, despite Wenger's achievements, to look elsewhere.
But who would take the job at the Emirates? Jose Mourinho? Unlikely, particularly with the riches of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain rumoured to be pressing him. Jurgen Klopp? He would be the ideal candidate but appears committed to Borussia Dortmund. David Moyes? Certainly a possibility, but again could be tempted by an offer from another club, or may wait for Sir Alex Ferguson to step aside. Other candidates include club legend Dennis Bergkamp, Rafael Benitez and Frank Rijkaard, but all seem unlikely and whether they are stronger propositions than Wenger is dubious.
The fact of the matter is that, although Arsenal need to change, the board are unlikely to dispose of Wenger. There is a lack of suitable candidates (in my opinion Moyes is the only realistic target who would make a success of the club) and a sense of nostalgia could prevent them from sacking the most successful manager in the club's history. However, this means that the club must change its philosophies in order to, firstly, appease the fans, and furthermore to return to former glories. They must begin by taking the cup competitions seriously and fielding full-strength sides.
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