This was it.
This was supposed to be the year, after 12 long years, where Arsenal were going to reclaim their Premier League crown.
The season had begun promisingly for the Gunners and, with Chelsea and Manchester United faltering and Manchester City performing inconsistently, Arsenal fans were getting ready for a major celebration in May.
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Fast-forward to the present day and we have, once again, witnessed the traditional Arsenal post-Christmas capitulation and, while the Gunners seem to have secured Champions League football for yet another season, there is a strong feeling that this was the perfect opportunity for the north London club.
Having won the FA Cup consecutively in 2014 and 2015, Arsene Wenger had been given a stay of execution by many Arsenal fans, but this season’s failings have stirred what had been intermittent outpourings of discontent, on phone-ins or social media, into acts of mutiny at the Emirates.
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In the 12th minute against Norwich on Saturday evening, some disgruntled fans held up posters stating that it is “Time for a change” at the club.
While the protestors were in the minority, it marks a change at the club where fans are now using organised protests within their home stadium to attempt to oust their legendary manager.
It was highly significant that the minority were shouted (or sung) down by the majority who began to stand-up and defiantly declare that “There’s only one Arsene Wenger!”
Arsenal, it seems, are a club who are on the brink of a civil war breaking out at the Emirates and Wenger will be well aware of this fact.
The Frenchman has played an enormous role revolutionising, not just Arsenal, but English football itself. He most notably brought about a change in attitudes in England towards how clubs viewed the training and diet of players in the mid-to-late 90s when he first arrived on these shores.
His haul of three Premier League titles (the last of these coming with the “Invincibles” in 2004) and six FA Cups has guaranteed him legendary status at Arsenal, but it is Wenger’s failures that have been haunting him over the past few years.
Consistently finishing in the top four season-after-season is a remarkable achievement for any club.
However, in football, fans demand improvement, and Wenger’s apparent blindness to his squad’s obvious deficiencies has, ultimately, proved to be his Achilles heel in the quest for that elusive Premier League crown.
It is more than likely that the Arsenal board will continue to loyally stand by Wenger and give him the opportunity to call time on his career which, in fairness, he has earned.
But a great leader should also be able to recognise when it is the right time to call time.
Wenger should see the obvious signs of growing discontent and be aware of the danger of a divided club. He should step down as gracefully as he can at the end of the season, abdicate his crown and allow the Gunners to move on.
It should be remembered, however, that the process of moving on from an all-powerful leader can be a tricky business and certainly does not guarantee success. Just ask Manchester United fans.
Arsenal fans should be careful what, or who, they wish for.
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