Friday 20th April 2018 will be remembered as one of those “where were you when you heard” days. For Arsenal supporters at least. I’m of course referring to the announcement that this season will be the last campaign of Arsene Wenger’s managerial reign at the club. My phone rang and it was a fellow Arsenal supporting work colleague. All he said was “he’s going” and I responded by asking “who is?”. Not for a split second did it occur to me that his next two words would be “Arsene Wenger”.
After initially believing that he was winding me up, I have no shame in admitting in that once confirmation of the news had been received via the internet, I let out a cheer that drew the attention of my colleagues in the office. I’ve wanted him gone for seven years and my wish had finally come true. I suddenly felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that the dark cloud that had been hovering above the club for several years, had started to disperse. My optimism and excitement had returned.
Like all Arsenal supporters, my phone and social media accounts went in to melt down following the news and there hasn’t been a single person, who knows me on a personal level, that I’ve encountered since, who hasn’t mentioned it to me. Although most have said that there has been no need for me to say a word as the smile on my face, has said it all. However, Arsenal supporters can be a funny bunch and typically, many of the people who have been criticising Wenger and calling him all sorts of derogatory names for months, if not years, are now mourning him as if he’s died and demanding that he’s given respect.
In my opinion, these supporters need to get a grip of reality because not even Arsene’s biggest supporters are actually saddened by the departure of the manager of today. Their sadness is based on his longevity and on the manager he was over a decade ago. I know this, because aside from sentiment, not one of Arsene’s fan club has been able to offer a reasoned footballing argument as to why he should remain as our manager, for several years now. It’s the end of an era and there is bound to be a strange feeling about the club once he’s finally gone but it’s a change that needed to happen and we have got to start looking forwards.
He was a great manager and revolutionised not only the club but English football on a whole. I’m aware that some may disagree but I certainly consider Arsene to be the best manager the club has had during my lifetime. I’ve never attempted to diminish his achievements at the club and I’ll always have admiration for them too but the key word is that he ‘was’ a great manager. Quite simply, I don’t believe he is a great one anymore. I’ve made it public knowledge for years that I’ve wanted him gone, since 2011 in fact, so now that he’s going, I’m not going to pretend I’m upset by it. If you live by the sword, you die by it after all.
There is a concern about the board making the right appointment as his successor but I’ll give the new man, whoever it may be, a chance and my full support. To start with at least. Provided that I can see that progress is being made and that he’s taking the club in the right direction, forward, he will retain my support. I’m not fearful of change and I’m excited about the next chapter in the story of Arsenal Football Club. That said, I wish Arsene Wenger both health and happiness for the future but I believe this is the right decision for all involved.
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve read or heard the words ” I hope we win the Europa League for Arsene” in the days that have followed the announcement about his future. Hang on a minute but how about winning it for the club and the fans? Whilst I’d like him to go out on a high, we are the ones who give up our time and spend our money following the club all over the country and abroad. Besides, we’ve had to endure some abysmal performances and spineless defeats over the years and this season has been no exception.
The players have done far too much talking, particularly apologising, of late. The Europa League gives them the opportunity to finally do it on the pitch and prove these aren’t just empty words. Au revoir Arsene…..