Arsene Wenger's immunity from the reality of the Premier League's Russian Roulette approach to management has hindered Arsenal for too long.
Let's face it, the Gunners should win the league this season. Each and every year they don't, we're told the same thing; they would have won it, but for a resurgent *insert wealthy club here*.
There's some truth to that. Arsenal always come close, but there always seems to be one club that spends a little more, has a little more luck and does it a little bit better by the time May rolls around.
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But that's not the case this year. Sir Alex Ferguson is long-gone, and Manchester United look like they may never win a football match ever again, their neighbours across the city are struggling with injuries and are failing to put together a string of consistent results, and the champions, Chelsea, are showing relegation form.
Therefore, Arsenal should be running away with it. They're not, and Wenger is out of excuses. He isn't doing anything wrong in particular, either. He bought a quality goalkeeper in the shape of Petr Cech, which has plugged a gap that's been gaping for far too long. He's finally managed to unlock the bags of talent Mesut Ozil has in his locker, resulting in the German putting in some of the best performances the Emirates has seen. And on top of that, Olivier Giroud is scoring goals.
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Seemingly, all of the questions Arsenal fans have been asking for years have finally been answered, but they're still falling short.
A drubbing at struggling Saints, followed by a routine victory against Bournemouth this week tells us nothing we haven't already known about the Gunners for the last decade.
Subsequently, it does add weight the feeling that Wenger cannot physically lift the club any higher than they are now - even if they do win the Premier League trophy in May.
Arsenal aren't a sacking club, and you have to respect that. But the nature of the Premier League today - whether you like it or not - is that every manager (at least in the top six) plays for their job every single week. By and large, if you fail, you're out. Something many, many high-calibre managers have discovered. Those who remain, nine times out of 10, win the Premier League.
However, as time goes on, and Arsenal's last Premier League victory sinks deeper and deeper into the archives, Wenger is allowed to continuously fail without punishment. This attitude has cost the club countless trophies, as well as its standing as one of the best in England.
Despite their consistency in finishing in the top four, and their tendency to spend time at the top of the league each season, Arsenal are closer to becoming the next Liverpool than they are the next Chelsea or City.
And what's worse, they don't have a reason to justify it. For a short amount of time, blame was attributed to the purchase and building of the Emirates stadium, resulting in tight budgets that hindered Wenger's transfer activity. But in truth, that was never really the issue. It was made clear time and time again that Wenger had the funds to purchase whoever he wanted, but he failed to do so.
To rub salt in the wounds, he started selling top players to rivals, with Alex Song moving to Barcelona, the authors of their European downfall multiple times, Ashley Cole to Chelsea, and, of course, Robin van Persie to fierce rivals Manchester United - all so the Dutchman could lift the Premier League trophy.
Wenger's passion for fluid and beautiful football has never been in question. All of his teams have, at times, displayed quite mesmerising build-up play. But their inability to win big games, combined with their consistent lack of depth, strength and character has jaded their chances of winning the Premier League.
The reason isn't that other clubs have spent more, had more luck or fewer injuries. It's that Wenger simply doesn't possess the skill or ability (anymore) to mentally prepare his team to win the league over 38 games.
When Wenger took Arsenal through its most successful period, his one task was to defeat Sir Alex Ferguson. And thanks to the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Tony Adams, David Seaman and Dennis Bergkamp, he managed to achieve that on several occasions.
If Ferguson had an 'off-season' Wenger would take the crown. If Ferguson had a good season, United would take the crown. But when Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, the entire dynamics of the Premier League began to change, Ferguson showed another quality that Wenger never did; the ability to shift with the times.
Time and time again, Ferguson would rebuild his Manchester United teams for the modern era, and prepare them for the slog of another Premier League season. Wenger has never achieved this. He doesn't know how.
In more than a decade since Arsenal last won the Premier League, their one constant has been the manager, and fans have every right to be frustrated. The club's sentimental attachment to Wenger has cost them success, which is absolutely unacceptable for a club of their size.
The only way their relationship is going to end is if Wenger gracefully bows out on his own terms. And given the opportunity the club has this season to end on a high, it would be a tragedy if he wasn't seriously thinking about doing so in the summer.
As mentioned before, Arsenal should win the league this year. The inconsistencies of their rivals, combined with the form of their big players should be enough to get them across the line. But come next year, when City bring in a new manager, potentially in the shape of Pep Guardiola, and Manchester United bring in a new manager, along with several new signings, and Chelsea bring in a new manager, Arsenal are going to find themselves back where they belong, fighting for fourth place.
It would be fitting for the Frenchman to go out with a Premier League title under his arm, but given the time it has taken to acquire, it'll likely be seen more as a leaving present, rather than the start of a new era under Wenger.
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