The wheels are falling off at Arsenal with Arsene Wenger coming under much the same pressure he has at the beginning of every calendar year in recent memory. Only this time it looks like the fans really mean it when they say ‘Wenger Out’.
It’s become something of a yearly tradition to enjoy the football at Christmas, ring in the new year, then laugh at the Gunners as they shoot themselves in the foot yet again. However, this time around it’s a little different. While Spurs fans will no doubt enjoy the Gunners’ capitulation in both legs vs. Bayern Munich, the rest of us see a side that is beyond the point of humiliation. If the season were a boxing match, the ref would just stop it now.
Since hammering Southampton 5-0 in January, Arsenal have gone on to win only two of their matches, beating both Hull and Sutton 2-0, and conspired to lose five times conceding 17 goals in the process.
Of course, there are glimpses of hope, such as the second half at Anfield when Sanchez finally came on and looked like turning the game on its head, but these moments have been few and far between since the Southampton match back in January.
So what’s gone wrong? Has Wenger lost the dressing room like Ranieri supposedly did? Or have the team simply given up?
We all know that Wenger is a good manager and some might even say a great one, but he has certainly lost the air of infallibility he earned in the year of the invincibles. His tactical decisions of late have mystified even the most learned of footballing minds.
Playing Giroud and Welbeck vs. Liverpool but failing to put balls into the box is a prime example. There was, of course, a reason behind not playing Sanchez (the apparent training ground bust-up), but when plan B is in place, then it’s the manager’s responsibility to make sure the players on the pitch are aware of it.
Robert Pires amongst others has come out to defend Wenger, stating that Sanchez stormed out of training due to a bad tackle, but all this does is make poor old Arsene look even worse for starting his best player on the bench.
Then came the second leg vs. Bayern Munich and while no one really expected the miracle turn around that was needed, even the most pessimistic of fans (and there are many) would never have expected such a rout. At times the team looked completely lost but rather than the headless chicken look of the first leg, this time they just looked like they had accepted their fate.
There’s something a little sad about watching a team playing with no heart, which is exactly what Arsenal have looked like of late, but if history is anything to go by, then there just might be a silver lining to being schooled by the German champions.
By dropping out of the Champions League at the same point that they have done in the last seven seasons, would it be right to assume that now that they have no European nights that they will, true to form, have a strong couple of months to put them back in the title race? Well, perhaps the Gunners’ fans think or hope so, but the rest of the footballing world are of a different mind.
A look at the odds from Betstars shows us that you’ll now get the same odds for Arsenal to win the league as you will for United. This was unthinkable just over a month ago. In truth, though, should it come down to these two teams competing for fourth spot, you just can’t see the current Arsenal team doing it.
The truth is that whether Wenger has lost the dressing room or not, he has to go. It seems that at long last the rocky marriage has come to an end, and that the only thing wrong with Arsenal is the also-ran mentality that permeates the club. The club needs a change, the fans need a change, and yes, even the players need a change. But will Arsene do the right thing and turn down the contract offer? Or will he stay on for another year and consign Arsenal fans to another year of the same?