The year is coming to a close, which means that the annual managerial merry-go-round is reaching peak velocity.
However, 2015’s version has a rather peculiar kink in it: Leicester City.
This year, Leicester are the equivalent of that one relation everyone has in their family who buys gifts that only they can afford, and end up making everyone else look bad because of it. You know how it goes; you spend all the month of December trying to save every penny so that you can afford to buy your son or daughter the new Arsenal kit that they wanted, only for your brother/sister to turn up on Christmas Day and give them a PS4. All you can do is look at them in disdain for being made look like a cheapskate in front of your kids, even though they meant no harm by doing it.
So it can be no wonder that the boards of most of the bigger clubs in England are looking at their managers in the same way as your kid would look at you and think ‘Wow, if they can do it, why can’t you?’. Usually, being nine points behind the league leaders at Christmas is nothing more than a minor concern, yet Louis van Gaal may be about to be sacked because of it. Being six points behind the leaders after eight games isn’t great, yet Brendan Rodgers was sacked because of it. Jose Mourinho had spent the first five months of 2015 basking in his own magnificence as Chelsea strolled to the title, now he’s sitting at home whilst out of work. Leicester have shown up a lot of managers and their body of work this year, but are Arsenal one of them?
I ask this, because of the slew of reports linking Pep Guardiola and Arsenal over the last couple of days. Guardiola, who has confirmed that he will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season, will not be short of offers to choose from, and it has been suggested that it would be prudent for Arsenal to ask Arsene Wenger to move aside so that the club doesn’t miss out on Guardiola’s services.
This, quite frankly, is nonsense. It’s nonsense, not because Wenger is irreplaceable, but because he isn’t.
If Arsenal were underperforming at the minute, then the clamour to bring in someone to replace Wenger would be understandable, but it’s rather difficult to say that Arsenal are underperforming when they’re second in the league, four points ahead of Manchester City, nine ahead of Manchester United, twelve ahead of Liverpool and NINETEEN ahead of Chelsea. Has it been a perfect season? Of course not, but in comparison to our rivals, we’re comfortably out-performing them.
So why is there a rush to replace Wenger? Are we so scared of Arsenal throwing away a chance to win the league for the first time in 11 years that we’re willing to agree to part company with the manager at the end of the season, even if he doesn’t screw it up and actually wins it? Surely not, but even if were are, that would say a lot more about us than it would the current state of affairs at Arsenal.
It’s one thing to want a manager to leave the club when he’s under-achieving, but asking a manager to leave in the immediate aftermath of winning a trophy is a curious line of logic to use. It’s one thing to want to see Wenger leave the club in a blaze of glory, but that glory has to suitably fulfil only one person’s desire in order for Wenger to leave, and that person is Wenger himself. Do you think a Premier League title would be enough for Wenger to think “That’ll do.”, and retire?
Of course, if Arsenal were to win the Champions League, then it would be far easier for Wenger to say, “My work here is done. I’ve won everything I wanted to win here, I’ve put the club in an ideal position to succeed for the next decade. I’m off for a pint.” But until then, what could possibly give you the impression that anything else other absolute success will suffice? If he didn’t quit when he was barely finishing fourth in the league with Denilson and Bendtner, what in the world would make him quit if he was finishing first with Ozil and Alexis???
The premise of a manager quitting whilst on top is usually misconstrued, as it implies an act of unselfishness upon the person leaving the job. Yet this almost never happens. Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, didn’t leave Manchester United because he thought there was someone else better for the job, he left because his wife’s twin sister died and he couldn’t bear the thought of her being alone at home. Sir Clive Woodward resigned from the England rugby union head coaching position after it became clear that the best players on the team he had just won the World Cup with were also quitting. It always takes something seismic to make someone as successful as Wenger has been at Arsenal, walk away from their job whilst in the middle of being successful.
Is Pep Guardiola’s availability such an event? It would be an extraordinary, and highly unlikely, admission of one’s own standing if Wenger, in the aftermath of winning a league title, said that he’s quitting solely because he believes someone else whom is better is available to be hired.
The mere fact that such a scenario is even suggested, is a testament to just how much loyalty we demand from people involved in the football clubs we support. If we believe that you’re important to our chances of success, then we expect nothing but total commitment to the cause. If we believe the opposite, then we expect you to sacrifice your personal goals for the sake of the ‘club’, and by ‘club’, I mean our own personal hopes for success. Any behaviour other than this is labelled as selfish, as the booing of Bacary Sagna during the Manchester City game showed.
Sagna, of course, committed the cardinal sin of accepting a contract offer from a rival that was far in excess of what Arsenal offered him, when it was his last probable chance of securing such a contract and ensuring financial security for him and his family for the rest of his family. Expecting him to give up such an opportunity, when we would never do so if in the same situation ourselves, and just so our own chances of success are enhanced, is absurd.
The same applies here with Wenger. If you don’t think he’s up to the job of managing Arsenal, then fair enough. But if results say otherwise, then wanting him to leave even if he’s successful is just asking for too much. If Arsene Wenger is good enough to win trophies in 2016, then the very least he deserves is a chance to win trophies in 2017, no matter who may be available to replace him.