Whilst watching us succumb to yet another defeat in the Champions League first round knockout stage, I felt deflated but not at all surprised. We’ve seen it so many times, that it’s become inevitable and that will continue to be the case, until Arsene’s departure.
If Carlsberg did wake up calls, I would have woken up to the news of Arsene handing in his resignation, with immediate effect, or at least a club statement to announce that this season is to be his last. Unfortunately, they don’t and their lager is as disappointing as our spineless surrender in the Allianz Arena.
In an ideal world, I have always hoped that Arsene would leave with dignity and go out on a high but life is rarely the fairytale that we want it to be and there is no room for sentiment in football. Some supporters will argue that with roughly a third of the season remaining, now is not the right time to become managerless but let’s face it, would we even notice?
Arsene is rarely seen cajoling the team from the touch line, his team selections and substitutions are predominantly poor and he’s not proactive in reacting to in-game situations. I’m sick of hearing the words “be careful what you wish for” too. I didn’t wish for us to managed by a man who sits on his backside all game, fails to get the best out of the players at his disposal and publicly belittles his own clubs supporters. Whilst also blaming us for our lack of success. What other manager in world football would get away with that?
It has now reached the stage where Arsene can’t even get the simplest decisions right. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been our best player recently, whilst playing centrally. What does Wenger do? Moves him out wide. Alex Iwobi’s inclusion was also a surprise as he’s generally struggled in games against the top sides. He’s got a lot of potential and I won’t be too harsh on the kid but he’s simply not ready to be relied upon in games against teams like Bayern Munich.
For the first twenty five minutes or so against Bayern, we barely touched the ball. However, once we equalised through Alexis Sanchez, the home side started to look vulnerable to pace at the back and the game was crying out for the introduction of Danny Welbeck at half time. I wanted him to start but if he’s not fit enough to play for at least forty five minutes, why is he on the bench? We could all see it, except for the man that’s paid £8.5m a year to do so, that is.
The lack of fight, desire and tactical nous on display from our manager, his staff and the players throughout the game was beyond comprehension. Arjen Robben is a player who is world renowned for possessing an exceptional left foot. Instead of attempting to force him on to his weaker right foot, our defenders naively showed him inside onto his left. It’s so basic and something you get taught at youth level.
In the summer, I discussed the areas where I felt we needed to strengthen. Improving our defensive midfield options, was one of them. My first choice was N’Golo Kante, with Victor Wanyama a cheaper alternative. Although I admire the passion of Francis Coquelin and thought he was one of our better performers at one stage, earlier in the season, his recent form has dipped significantly. He also lacks quality in his distribution.
Another priority in the summer, is a new left back. Kieran Gibbs is defensively naive and at twenty seven, he really should have shown some improvement by now, in that respect. Whilst Nacho Monreal has had a poor season and appears to be past his best. The obvious option to fill the position is Ricardo Rodriquez. He’s a player that I wanted in the summer but was told by some supporters that we already had two top class left backs. What do I know?
One thing that I never thought I’d say, is the only player who can take any credit from our midweek mauling, is David Ospina. However, Wojciech Szczesny remains the better of the two in terms of ability. He’s as athletic and is better on crosses, with his height being an obvious advantage. Should Arsene depart in the summer, I believe Wojciech’s form whilst on loan at Roma, makes him deserving of the chance to show that he’s finally grown up. If he hasn’t, then bring in Fraser Forster.
I recently said that our squad was arguably the strongest in the league and that it’s good enough to win domestic trophies. However, as a group, it is clear that the players lack character and natural leadership and I’m not sure that even a new manager can install something that simply doesn’t appear to be there. However, we are a long way off being good enough to compete at the highest level in European competitions. As proved by six, soon to be seven, consecutive last sixteen exits in the Champions League.
Not everything is Arsene’s fault though and had Laurent Koscielny not gone off injured against Bayern, the scoreline may have been closer. The board also have to take a large proportion of the blame. They don’t appear to put Arsene under any sort of pressure to deliver anything more than a top four finish. There is also a major concern that the board aren’t qualified to appoint his successor and in knowing this, perhaps they fear taking any decision about Arsene’s future, out of his hands. Understandable to a degree.
However, with the resources that Arsene has available to him, I believe another manager would put himself under more pressure than Arsene does, to be successful in terms of winning trophies. I also remain convinced that another manager, could get more out of our current playing squad. Were it Chelsea’s Antonio Conte at the helm, it may even be us sitting at the top of the table.
I have heard a potential boycott of games being mentioned as a way of forcing Stan Kroenke into selling the club or at the very least, making a change of personnel where the managers position is concerned. I’m of the opinion that a boycott is not the way to go. The reason? Firstly, because it would be putting one man before the club.
It could be argued that it’s putting the future of the club ahead of one man but when you have been going to games for nearly all your life, it’s difficult to suddenly decide not to go. It’s a release from everyday life and as much about the camaraderie, as it is the football. Besides, why would the board care whether we attend a game that they have already pocketed the ticket revenue for?
My opinion is that instead of making cryptic comments in press conferences, it’s time for Arsene to announce that this season will be his last as our manager. If he loves the club as much as he says he does, then he should do the one thing that would help reunite the fans. It would also serve the board with the necessary notice to begin the search for his successor. A search that you would hope, is already, well under way.
Should Arsene announce his intention to step down, it would enable us all to focus on getting behind the team and hopefully enjoy what is left of the season. Instead, all he’s done is create more frustration and anger amongst supporters. I don’t hate the man and I won’t forget his contribution to the club but two more years, no thanks….