Frenchman’s Emirates Stadium reign ticking towards a painful conclusion.
In a season of more lows than highs the home defeat to Blackburn Rovers was perhaps a sign that Arsenal have reached rock bottom.
Thus far this season periods of poor form has in many ways been glossed over by the occasional inspired performance that has papered over the cracks. Arsene Wenger has consistently pointed to other alternative routes to glory as one by one the chances of securing silverware vanished on the horizon.
Now that the North London club’s FA Cup dream is over there are just two ‘cups’ to play for. The Champions League and the trophy that is a top four finish, a trophy that the Gunners have cleverly created in order assist in their pursuit of some sort of achievement from a season that should really have been a campaign of ‘no excuses’.
After seven seasons of zero tangible success and more worryingly no signs of steady improvement, 2012/13 was seen by many, including a large portion of the Arsenal fan-base, as a ‘last chance saloon’ for Arsene Wenger and if that’s the case then the bar is well and truly closed.
There are some Arsenal fans who are openly hoping that the club fails in it’s pursuit of a top four finish as doing so may well finally be the wake-up call that is needed to shake some life into a club that appears all to happy to consider a Champions League berth as the sum total of their ambitions.
There is no denying the achievements Arsene Wenger has presided over just as there is no denying the failures Arsenal have accrued over the best part of a decade.
Arsenal have moved backwards in recent years and people can argue the reasons for this being external as much as internal, the willingness of other clubs to build up long term debts in order to achieve their goals, the overly inflated transfer market, the lack of loyalty in the game, all of these are moot points. The bigger picture is there for all to see in black and white.
It’s all well and good to plan for the future, to develop top level academy systems and scouting networks that are second to none but it all counts for naught if the club isn’t challenging for major honours.
If the next bright thing to come through the ranks or be spotted on some foreign field starts to make a name for himself at Arsenal, is he likely to remain at the club if a side who is truly able to win top trophies comes calling? The answer is a resounding NO.
Season after season Arsenal have lost their star turns, hell Arsene Wenger has even been happy to allow such talents to join Premier League rivals, which is perhaps the French manager’s worst misdemeanor.
There will be some who, quite rightly, lay the lions share of Arsenal’s failures at the door of the club’s board. However make no mistake, Wenger is also to blame. The manager’s stubbornness when it comes to spending large sums on new recruits has had a detrimental affect on the club’s ability to challenge for silverware.
Prior to the January window chief executive Ivan Gazidis was at pains to state that large sums were available to Wenger if he chose to use them. In doing so he was looking to avert the direction of blame back to the boss, who’s only purchase last month came in the form of Nacho Monreal, a signing that itself was only brought forward from the summer because of injury to Kieran Gibbs.
That lack of activity was either a sign that Arsene Wenger was of the belief that he had a squad that could ‘turn the corner’ or that he felt that he could better use such funds in the summer. As it turns out either decision could in fact prove disastrous.
Some would deem this decision to be inexcusable and others will see it as a sign of Wenger’s arrogance but just about every Arsenal fan will tell you that the decision was the wrong one.
The position Arsenal find themselves is perhaps an all too predictable one. If a club is happy to allow their best players to leave and then doesn’t effectively replace them then there is only really one way direction such a policy will lead to, namely a downward direction.
This issue was never more aptly illustrated than in the period between August 6th and August 17th last year.
Arsenal had in some way acted against type by signing three experienced top quality additions in the form of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. The feeling among some Gunners fans was elation, an elation borne of the relief that their side was finally ready to move on from a prolonged period of transition towards a period of real investment in their squad.
However there were some, perhaps more realistic, supporters who could see the inevitable bigger picture. On August 17th Arsenal accepted Man United’s offer to sign skipper Robin Van Persie, three days later an offer from Barcelona for Alex Song was accepted.
It is perhaps telling that in the past when players had chosen to leave Arsenal the club’s fan-base directed their anger at the feet of those outgoing talents but in recent seasons this has been replaced by an acceptance by the supporters that they could well understand their decision to flee and chose instead to focus their anger, correctly, at the foot of the club that had failed to show the ambition needed to retain their best players.
The rest, as they say, is history. A squad that was already struggling to challenge for the Premier League title was undoubtedly weakened and now Arsenal sit some 21 points behind the side they decided to sell their best player to, out of both the FA and Capital One Cups following defeats to ‘lower league’ opposition.
It is to Arsenal fan’s credit that as a whole they were not baying for Wenger’s blood earlier in this period of stagnation. That they do now is a sign that their patience has worn down to the bone.
If Arsene Wenger does indeed leave in the coming months it should be noted that Arsenal are a far stronger club than when he took the reins. His achievements are undeniable and the successes were plenty.