It is a quiet time for Arsenal and the Premier League during the international break but this only leaves Arsenal fans with more time on their hands to squabble like children in the social media playground. Those who want Wenger to go and those who want him to stay spend all day attacking each other and the rest of the football-supporting world either pity us or laugh at us I suspect.
The latest item on the agenda for both extremes to bash each other over the head with is the huge number of Arsenal players who will have only a season remaining on their contracts come this June. Those who want Wenger and the board to disappear will label this as gross mismanagement to leave so many contracts unextended. Those in support of our manager might reasonably point out that we all know the club has been negotiating with Alexis and Ozil and the vast majority of the others are players our fans have labelled too old or not good enough anyway.
Regardless of your own position though there are many in the group that are a concern and the club has left itself in a position where it does not hold the better cards. Arsenal and Wenger are gambling with our future and as with the casinos you play online perhaps they may win big but they are also highly likely to lose a few. The reason it has turned out to be more of a gamble than anticipated is that at present Arsenal are not looking as if they will be negotiating in June from as strong a stance as expected.
Sitting down with players the club wants to keep having finished outside of the Champions League places for the first time in 21 years will unquestionably make negotiations trickier. Particularly if the club are still not willing to stretch to the salaries on offer elsewhere. We all know that Kante went to Chelsea without Champions League football on the table but we equally know the wages would have been far higher than Arsenal would licence. In addition, the player would have had a very realistic expectation that Cheslea would only be away from Europe’s top table for one season, as has proved the case. Therefore, the question the likes of Alexis, Ozil and perhaps even Aaron Ramsey will be asking themselves in June, if we do finish outside of the top four, is whether they can see the club back there in a year with no change in management, approach or personnel?
The next two matches against Man City in the league and in the FA Cup will give the players and the fans a very clear indication of the direction of travel. If at the end of April Arsenal are out of the cup and still outside the Champions League places I see two possible realistic outcomes. The first is that Kroenke and Wenger will have to change the long-standing salary policy and pay much higher wages to the top players in the squad and to potential new signings. The second is that they stand by their laudable but outdated principles and we witness the largest overhaul of the Arsenal first team squad we have seen since the early George Graham years.
I think we all know that the second option is the more likely and the supporters will face a long and painful summer with the sort of high profile departures we suffered in between 2011 and 2013. Arsenal are still a huge attraction and a big club but unless we see a dramatic turnaround on the pitch in the next month or a change in management we face the unpalatable prospect of being the third biggest draw in London this summer and once again being reliant on unearthing gems and a potential return to ‘Project Youth.