Arsenal recently reached the FA Cup final, after managing to get past Championship side Wigan Athletic on penalties. They are now 90 minutes away (or 120 with extra time!) from their first silverware in nine years. However, the most important question regardless of the outcome of that final is whether Arsene Wenger will remain at the Emirates after this season.
During post match interviews conducted by the Daily Mail Arsenal fans were asked whether they preferred a fourth placed position or the FA Cup trophy. After nine barren years, majority went for the Cup while very few selected the coveted Champions League position.
Nevertheless, the most interesting answer was from an extremely frustrated Gooner who lamented that he would give up both the FA Cup and the fourth place spot on the condition that Wenger left the club during the summer. After a disastrous run of results, is this simply a knee-jerk reaction or a genuine call for a managerial change?
It is common knowledge that this debate has been on going as the manager only has a few months left on his current contract and has yet to agree a new one. After the Christmas period, while Arsenal were still on top, the fans were jubilant and not many had any issue with the Frenchman staying.
But, after a disastrous March, a feeling of deja vu culminated as Arsenal were eliminated from the Champions League and realistically stopped challenging for the title.
This article will examine the most common problems fans seem to have with Wenger and will try to put up a case in defence of the Frenchman. At the end, a personal point of view will be stated and the readers are encouraged to express their own in the comment section.
Issue of Spending
This is perhaps the most prevalent issue as the Arsenal boss has come under major scrutiny over reluctance to sign players. Although, he did break the bank with Mesut Özil last summer, he failed to reinforce during the January transfer window (which has ultimately led to his downfall this season).
Arsenal desperately needed a striker, which the manager failed to buy. Theo Walcott was injured and out for the rest of the season, with the lack of pace, it seemed eminent that the manager would buy, yet he failed again. Lastly, the only transfer he did buy in Kim Källström was injured! He only played two months after his arrival which was not soon enough.
In defence of the manager, he was probably holding out for a world class striker, non of whom were available during the winter (he did try to sign Luis Suàrez in the summer after all).
He might have thought with Oxlade-Chamberlain returning, he had sufficient backup (Walcott picked up an earlier injury and the team coped well without him or the Ox). Lastly, for Källström the Arsenal camp were aware of the injury but still loaned him regardless, injuries to other players meant we did not have the luxury to wait.
The Arsenal boss was extremely criticised by both media and fans as Roberto Martinez outwitted him tactically in the recent 3-0 thrashing at Goodison Park. Also, he's been famously criticised for not having "a big game plan" as Arsenal has consistently suffered against top Premier League opposition this season. Too many times this season it seems like Arsenal do not have a plan B and have been heavily battered by the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Admittedly, conceding a grand total of 17 goals in three away games against the aforementioned teams does not help the case of the manager at all. However, with all the injury problems that the team has been going through, it is not easy to compete without having a full squad.
In terms of not being able to compete with teams tactically, the manager has had his fair share of problems. But he must be given credit as he made a brave substitution during the FA Cup semi final which contributed to the win. That being said, tactics or not, good players are required to win matches (with the amount of injuries Arsenal have, any team would find it hard to compete), when the other team has better players, they are most likely going to win that match (unless you are a tactical genius like Diego Simeone).
For many seasons now, a seemingly overarching theme of Arsenal always playing "pretty football" has been illustrated and their inability to "dig in" and find mental strength has been repeated. Long gone are the days of the 'Famous Back Four' and now Arsenal is perceived as a club that does not know how to defend properly.
However, contrary to general perception, statistics show that Arsenal's defence has improved greatly after Steve Bould joined the team as assistant manager and having the second best defence last year depicts that example nicely. This season Arsenal has the second highest number of clean sheets (13), only second to Chelsea who have 16.
The only thing that ruins Arsenal's defensive record are those heavy beatings that it sustained against the top three teams in the league. Apart from that their inability to "win dirty" is simply a myth that is still associated with the club.
It has been nine years since Arsenal last won any silverware and fans are understandably growing frustrated about the situation. But it should be remembered that prior to the arrival of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal did not have such high expectations, reaching the Champions League every year was a luxury not a minimum requirement.
Nevertheless, as much as Wenger could be described as a victim of his own success, should he go as he has nothing to offer the club anymore?
From my personal point of view, I think 'NO'. Any new manager that replaced him now will most likely have to go through another season of adjusting this squad to his own personal demands. It will be another season of rebuilding and that may not be what many Arsenal fans want right now.
Besides, with Wenger, Arsenal fans have had the assurance of Champions League football, year in year out. With a new manager, there is no imagining what may happen. There would be so much uncertainty around the club and expectations may fall dramatically.
For example, Brendan Rogers is currently in a good position to land Liverpool their first title in the Premier League era but his reign did not start smoothly. David Moyes who took over from Sir Alex Ferguson has also found it difficult to cope with the demands of a massive club.
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