For years, Arsene Wenger must have imagined how his Arsenal farewell would go. Maybe he envisaged lifting the Premier League trophy one last time.
Or perhaps the Champions League trophy for the first time. Either way, the Frenchman’s principles would shine though forcing his critics to admit they were wrong all along. There would surely be some sort of ticker tape reception or open top bus parade through crowds of adoring fans, because that’s how great managers go out.
Just look at how Sir Alex Ferguson brought the curtain down on his career.
There was none of that for Wenger, though. In fact, the overwhelming emotion as Arsenal put on a somewhat forced farewell presentation in his final game as manager was of relief.
There was polite applause. There was respect, but not adulation, certainly not on the scale Wenger must have hoped for. This is, after all, what Arsenal fans wanted and with Wenger gone the club would move forward.
Or at least that’s what many of them thought would happen. At first, the clamour for Wenger to resign or be sacked was confined to the delirium of YouTube channels and social media echo chambers. Over time, however, this viewpoint, that Arsenal and the greatest manager in the club’s history needed to part ways, became mainstream. It became the consensus.
This isn’t to say that the depth of Arsenal’s problems were completely ignored before this season. Stan Kroenke has been a target for years, with fans consistently imploring the club’s board to spend big to keep pace with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and even Chelsea in the transfer market.
However, many believed Wenger to be the head of the snake, the face of the club’s descent into mediocrity. Once the head was cut off, they thought, Arsenal would become an entirely different animal. So much of Wenger’s character as a coach and a person had seeped into Arsenal, the opinion was held that once he left, the club’s identity would change.
So far, though, it hasn’t. Not really. Arsenal are currently battling for a top four place in the Premier League table, with the Europa League potentially offering them their most realistic route back into the Champions League. Their attacking freedom has been undermined by defensive vulnerability, lacking the mental strength to get results against their top six rivals. Sound familiar?