Sunday, 22 April 2018

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye To Arsene Wenger

It finally happened on Friday and when it did it came out of the blue and took us all by complete surprise. Arsene Wenger will no longer be the Arsenal manager next season after the club announced his departure once this season ends. For a man who has always seen out every contract it was a shock announcement as he still had a year left on his current deal, but one which the club had little choice in.

It’s difficult to believe it was a decision he came to on his own and I personally think the club probably told him they had decided to terminate his contract if he didn’t choose to call it a day. It’s a decision I have to agree with when you see where we have gone in the last two seasons in particular. There hasn’t really been a genuine title challenge since the Invincibles, but this season and last season it deteriorated even more.

While winning cup competitions and reaching finals is great, it’s not the bread and butter and it doesn’t bring the real money in. The failure to qualify for the Champions League last season and again this season (unless we do it by the back door in the Europa League) has cost the club a lot of money and that had to be a big factor in the decision. It doesn’t really seem to matter that all we could manage in the Champions League was qualification from our group before exiting in the last 16 season after season.

The problems only increased this season with the chances of the sixth richest club in the world finishing outside the top six in their own league still being a very real possibility. Since our top four chances disappeared the fans have voted with their feet and there have been huge swathes of empty seats at the Emirates. Those seats might be sold to season ticket holders, but the fact they couldn’t be bothered to come and watch a team they had already paid to watch was telling.

On a footballing front things haven’t been good either with out worst away run in 34 years and a team that seem incapable of playing the football in which we once led the way. It looked like the manager no longer had the coaching know how or motivational ability to inspire his players and it can’t have been lost on those in charge. The squad needs huge work done on it and they have obviously decided it’s better for that work to be left to someone else.

It’s a decision I’m in total agreement with which doesn’t mean I excuse those in charge for the demise in recent years. They’re going nowhere though so we have just got to hope they’re prepared to bring in someone who can make us exciting to watch and able to challenge at the very top again. No team is guaranteed anything in football, but a club of our stature needs to be challenging at the top every season.

Having said all of that it’s still a very sad day for Arsenal and me personally and it’s going to be emotional for the rest of the season. He completely revolutionised Arsenal and English football when he took the reins in 1996 and he brought us football we could only have dreamed of prior to his appointment. In the first 10 years the trophies flowed and we played the football of Gods even if there were a few bumps on the road.

His eye for bringing in talent at a good price and turning players who had been overlooked or written off into world beaters was incredible. He brought us Patrick Vieira, Thirrry Henry, Marc Overmars, Manu Petit, Freddie Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka and many more in those early days and we marveled at the football they produced. We won three league titles and two of them were part of a double season and then came “The Invincibles”.

While our standards might have gradually dropped over the years since there was a new stadium to pay for and he still managed to bring us exciting football and top class players. When the stadium debt had reached a manageable level we were supposed to be able to challenge the pace setters again, but we have only gone backwards since then. We have won three FA Cups in the last five years though and those trophies helped to paper over the cracks.

Arsene Wenger transformed us and English football and as fans we have an awful lot to be grateful for. His love for the club is beyond question and he has always tried to do his very best for the club and in a dignified manner too. He never backed down from a challenge and he has always put on a brave face despite some awful criticism at times. If you want to see what sort of a man he is you just have to read the glowing tributes to him from so many current and former players as well as many of his adversaries too.

The rest of this season is going to be strange knowing that he leaves when it’s over. Hopefully his impending departure can galvanise the players and the fans too and help us to finish the season strongly. We still have a trophy to play for and we need a few more points to make sure we stay ahead of Burnley to finish sixth in the Premier League.

I can’t imagine we will see too many empty seats at the Emirates in his last three games starting with today’s game against West Ham. I hope the fans can get behind the team and the manager in those games and give him the send off he deserves. It’s time for the abuse he has received from sections of the fans to stop and for fans to unite behind the team and the manager until the end of the season.

I imagine we will rest a few players today ahead of our biggest game of the season at home to Atletico Madrid on Thursday night. It would be a fitting way for our greatest manager ever to depart if he could do so on a high with his first ever European trophy. It’s a huge ask for the players to overcome a very good Atletico team over two legs, but trying to do so for the manager might just be the incentive they need.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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