Arséne Wenger is the longest serving manage in the Premier League. After over 1,000 games, it is time he steps aside.
The season started so promising. After a shock defeat on the opening day to Aston Villa, the Gunners went on a nine match unbeaten run which saw them scale the table and sit comfortably in first.
However matches against their main titles rivals have been disastrous - emphasised by conceding over five goals on three occasions. Now Arsenal face essentially an early Champions League play-off against Everton on Saturday.
The Toffies will certainly fancy their chances against a misfiring Arsenal squad void of any confidence. It is worth noting that Arsenal have had little to no luck with injuries this term; losing Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey and vital times when both players were hitting top form.
Wenger's side are now destined to finish in fourth position for the sixth time in the 10 seasons since their last title. This level of underachievement would not be tolerated at any of the top four or five clubs.
Wenger brought a distinct style of football to Highbury when he was appointed manager in 1995. The flowing style of the beautiful game has won plaudits from all over England and abroad. This contributed to three Premier League titles, two doubles and an unprecedented season unbeaten.
Under his tutelage, players like Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie were allowed to flourish into some of the worlds finest. There is no doubt that Wenger has positively influenced English, European and world football.
He proved that it is possible to win at the highest level in the right way. This has been mirrored by Arsenal as a club. They operate in a sustainable manner which is relatively rare for any team competing year in, year out, in the Champions League. If every club operated in this fashion, there is no doubt that Arsenal would achieve much more success than of late.
Since Arsenal's last trophy (The 2005 FA Cup), The Gunners have rarely mounted a credible title challenge. A reluctance to spend money on high profile players when others were significantly strengthening their squads has hindered Arsenal's credentials year after year.
Their seasons follow a distinctive path of so much promise in January which is ultimately unfulfilled via a poor run in March. Each term, the mental strength of the top players is questioned and consistently found wanting. Many players such as Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Van Persie, whom have all gone on to greener pastures have proven that they have what it takes to win at the top level. This would suggest that Wenger is not getting the most out of the talented players at his disposal.
Expectations set by Arsenal management have switched from winning trophies to growth in profits. Although this blame cannot be held solely by Wenger, by proclaiming that fourth place is better than most silverware sends a message to the fans and the opposition that Arsenal are not the competitive force they were at the turn of the century.
The Emirates does not carry the same fear as Stamford Bridge, Anfield or The Etihad. Mid-table sides such as Villa believe that they can get a result at Arsenal whereas they may be much wearier of going to City or Chelsea. Arsenal's killer instinct of old has been replaced by an aura of fragility which means they drop unnecessary points at key times of season.
David Moyes' woes at Manchester United serve as a warning to Arsenal. When a manager such as Sir Alex (or Wenger) is replaced, the club may have to rebuild for a period of baron years.
Although United fans may be displeased with this season, the past success enjoyed by their club certainly makes up for it. The Gunners do no have this liberty. If Wenger was to leave, the new manager would have to exceed the performances of the near past. However, as Roberto Martinez has proved at Everton, this can be done. Sometimes a fresh perspective is needed to reinvigorate a club.
This article is by no means a scathing attack on Wenger. There is no doubt that his work has contributed to the Premiership becoming the worlds greatest league. He would certainly challenge Herbert Chapman and Bertie Mee as the best Arsenal manager of all time. However it is now time for Wenger to step down, with his head held high and pass the torch to a new manager who can bring Arsenal back to the summit of English football.
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