Let’s face it, these days there is really no more debate to be had.
The AKB v WOB is so one-sided it makes Arsenal away against a top six side seem like a level contest.
Arsene Wenger should not be the manager of Arsenal football club any more. But he feels that he can still do a job at the club and, in a way, he’s right – he can. He just shouldn’t.
At the end of the 16/17 season, Arsene Wenger, at his absolute worst, was still better than 15 managers in the division we are frequently told is the most competitive in the world. That’s 15 other clubs who would see a season under Arsene Wenger at his worst as their best. If Wenger believes that he can still manage in the Premier League, then he is correct. He can.
But that doesn’t mean he should be doing it at Arsenal anymore unless the club are happy with a slow side backwards as other clubs improve at a quicker pace.
I live in Ireland. Since the last ice age abated, the island has been slowly rising. This should be the case for the next decade or so if I read correctly. This slow rise in land is enough to offset the slower rise in sea levels, but once the land stops rising? Not only will the sea catch up, it will rise faster as climate change does it’s thing.
It might seem rather ridiculous to compare a football club and the single greatest threat this planet is facing, but both have been on my mind recently and I can’t help but see the comparison.
Wenger’s land has stopped rising and as the league flooded with TV money, the levels of the clubs around us rose too. Arsenal banked on the move to the Emirates and the increased revenue that would bring as being the decisive factor in keeping them ahead of the pack, but they had barely signed for the mortgage when Roman Abramovich moved in and ripped up the rulebook.
While City and Chelsea were busy buying their way to the top, Arsenal couldn’t. They had to be prudent to pay of their stadium debt and by the time they were in a position to finally splurge like the big boys, FFP and soft salary caps in the Premier League meant that they couldn’t. Yes indeed, the rules that were brought in to stop clubs like Chelsea, City and PSG are only really hurting clubs that were well-run financially and that followed the rules in the first place.
Arsenal’s last decade is a tale of one poorly-timed decision after another, many of which were not their fault. They could not have forseen the arrival of Abramovich and his billions, nor the global financial meltdown that hamered the property side of Arsenal that was needed so badly to help pay back that debt.
When the shackles finally came off, a salary cap of sorts came in.
None of this is to excuse how Arsenal are being run. Smarter management would have seen us kick on from where we were when we moved from Highbury, even if keeping us in the top four was a remarkable achievement given the circumstances. There were years when we should have won the league and we didn’t down to terrible injury luck or Arsenal shitting themselves under the pressure.
There are problems at this club, that is undeniable.
Change for change’s sake is rarely the answer, but occasionally, it is. When things are stale and the failures repeated season after season, an injection of new blood where it matters can be the catalyst. We’ve tried injecting new blood into the team. It hasn’t worked. The transfusion is needed higher up.
When something isn’t working, you change what you are doing – nothing changes if nothing changes.
This isn’t about Wenger’s ability any longer, it’s about the staleness that has seeped into every level of the club. Stay in the same job long enough and it’s easy to coast. Move to a new job and see all your new colleagues taking it easy and not being pulled by management? Well you’re likely to end up doing the same.
Barring something unthinkable happening, Arsene Wenger will be at Arsenal for at least the next two years. He will not walk away from a contract and it’s highly unlikely the club will sack him.
That means Arsenal have two years to work out what they are – a business or a football club.
Only when we know the answer to that, as fans who give them the money, will we know what we can truly expect. Whatever that is, it seems a hell of a lot different to the picture we were sold when we said goodbye to Highbury…