It all seems to be going the same route once again for Arsenal and the fans, with the yearly spring time implosion of February and March seemingly in full swing after the game against Chelsea. A 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the title rivals, and against old foe Jose Mourinho, has made this another promising season gone bust. With yet another year where the fans would have to end up settling for a top 4 finish, the question is once again being asked: Is it time for Arsene Wenger to step down?
At first glance, it may look like an overreaction. After all, the man has dedicated more than 15 years for the club, has given them some exciting teams and great records and title victories, saw the move to a spanky new stadium, ensured that the club never dropped out of the top 4 with a shoe-string budget. He’s won 2 doubles, had an invincible season, been in the knockout stages of the Champions League continuously all these years. These are not achievements that can be scoffed at, considering there are not many managers out there who have been able to replicate any of these on a consistent basis.
But then again, over the past 9 years, Arsenal have not won a single trophy. Looking at it in isolation, it is indeed unpardonable that a club of the stature of Arsenal can afford to go close to a decade without winning even a single competition. After all, if you want to be seen as one of the biggest clubs in the world, you cannot afford to keep losing every year. But if each season is taken into account, one can see that it is not doom and gloom for the club.
For example, take the 2007/2008 season. It was the summer when Arsenal legend Thierry Henry left the club for Barcelona. All round the media, there were doom-mongers claiming that this is the end of Arsenal and that they cannot survive without their talismanic striker. Some even went to the extremes of claiming that Arsenal would go on to get relegated that season. But contrary to popular opinion, Arsenal had a splendid start to the season, were league leaders most of the way, playing some scintillating football with a very young side. If it wasn’t for the unfortunate incident involving Eduardo, the season would have ended successfully for the club. Similarly there were one or two other seasons where the club was indeed in contention for the league title.
However, the past 3 seasons have been a different story altogether. While in the past a top 4 finish was never in any doubt, it has been a struggle the past couple of years. Constant battles with Tottenham to finish in the top 4, waiting until the last day of the season to confirm their place in the Champions League spots has left the fans frustrated with the direction the club was going. It was not that they believed that they should win all the trophies all the time – it was the fact that they were not even in contention for any of them is what disappointed them.
Another factor that was a constant debating point was how the club was never ready with the players needed when the season started. Every year, it was always about last minute signings, which ended up coming too late because the team already dropped points at the start of the season. It was the same this season too, and even though it was Mesut Ozil who was signed, it was right on deadline day.
This season has been particularly horrid for Arsene Wenger and questions are being asked as to whether he can cut it in the Premier League anymore. Of course, the club has had a great start, they were in contention most of the season, they still have a slight chance of winning the league even now. But the focus will be on 3 particular games against the rest of the title rivals. They got spanked 6-3 at City, 5-1 at Liverpool and now 6-0 at Chelsea. It is all very well to be winning against the smaller teams; it is important too. But beating your title rivals is equally important and such an implosion 3 times in a season does not reflect well on the manager.
And it is not an isolated thing for the club in the last couple of seasons. There have been other such bad defeats on a regular basis, the 8-2 at Old Trafford comes immediately to mind. For a manager that does not believe in studying the opposition and rather depends on the excellence of his own team to win games is all well and good when it works. You can beat a Southampton or a Cardiff with such an attitude. But when you are up against teams that can go toe to toe with you, if not have more talented players, you have to be more tactical, study the opposition, and expose their weaknesses to win the game.
It seems that Arsene Wenger will not do that this season or for any future seasons either. And while he is known to be a stubborn man, if this does not change, then it is time that Arsenal look for a successor as times have changed and we need a manager that can evolve with the times as well.