The debate around Arsene Wenger and his permanence in the Arsenal hot seat raged yesterday. Ian Wright, a man who is far smarter than his cheeky chappy persona gives him credit for laid things bare on Radio 5 Live yesterday. He cut the manager to pieces. This bit about player attitude was stinging.
“Even you are hearing, even young players coming into the squad, turning up late for training.”
“People having to go their houses to get them to come to training.”
“People not turning up to training, calling in sick.”
We’ve long been critiquing the club and their interpretation of what exactly being sick entailed. It’s very rare for young men, who are fed, watered and exercised with scientific precision to ever pick up illness. Mesut Ozil is out with the flu every other week. Interesting that Wrighty would raise that specific point, because he’s clearly been fed high-level information from someone inside the club.
Crazy thing though, is this sort of carry-on isn’t new. If you cast your mind back to this time last year, we were going through a similar miserable run of games. We were bitching that the squad had stopped playing for the manager. So what’s different?
Well, I was told that last summer Ivan Gazidis had suggested deeper changes than the ones we were served up. Wenger hiring Jens and a fitness coach we didn’t need was a compromise. The club wanted to go harder at the #CatalystForChange, but Wenger vetoed.
We know what happened next. We fucked up the deals with half the squad, we sold late, replaced badly and had another shocking start. Piecing it together, there must have been some sort of tipping point, because Ivan landed the big gun names he wanted shortly after. There must have been something that switched with Stan that allowed that to happen.
Was it the results? Was it the cost of selling great players at low prices? Was it the lack of a plan to replace? Was it the realisation that actually, the Wenger of old wasn’t coming back? Whatever it was, the drastic and aggressive moves to bring in a DOF and new Chief Scout were a sign all was not well with Stan and Wenger.
But we’ve been here before. Wenger weathers more storms than the NRA. What else indicates change is brewing?
Well, there was the story about Josh Kroenke conducting a thorough review of football matters last week. A very odd story considering how much data Ivan G and co have collected over the years after their own countless reviews. Then there are the facts.
The fans were leaving a Cup Final early in their droves. That was quite the sight. Expect fans to boycott games, and expect there to be another toxic response in the ground. Stories like this are rarely written down, but we could see the empty seats. Fans are over the way the club treats them, and they’re totally apathetic to what they see.
Our latest sponsorship deal was not blockbuster. We’re getting further away from United and closer to clubs who we were trouncing years ago. Sponsors don’t want to align themselves with a shitty sporting proposition.
It doesn’t matter who we sign, the output is the same. Players come to Arsenal to die. They leave to flourish. This has been happening for years, but it’s really starting to sting now. Even Chamberlain is looking a player at Liverpool now he’s clearly being coached properly. Aaron Ramsey, a man of such talents, looks lost at Arsenal. You simply know he’d be hitting world-class levels if he were managed by Simeone. Jack Wilshere never fulfilled his promise, and even he looks beaten.
Stan is all about money. Arsenal is now spending a lot of cash on players, he’s wasting a lot on a very dysfunctional wage bill, and he’s about to take us into a second season without Champions League football. Not just that, he himself earns roughly £10m a year. He’s one of the most expensive managers in football and he hasn’t delivered major silverware in over 14 years. To be honest, he hasn’t even come close.
The club has also had the harsh experience of a Wenger in the final year of his deal. Admittedly, not quite as bad as a Wenger fresh off the back of signing a new deal, but still pretty rancid. They either move him on this summer to avoid a calamitious farewell tour, or they give him a new deal.
But based on what? Cup final humiliation? 6th place? A revolting fanbase? A squad who call in sick like naughty school kids?
There is no case for Wenger. He is finished. His credit line has to have run out.
So where do we move next?
Don’t worry about Brendan Rodgers or Joachim Low. I am pretty sure, based on what I hear, and what is public, that we won’t be making a pony signing to replace Wenger.
I mean, a lot of hope in that sentence. It’s clear that despite Ivan pulling off a coup with Sven and Raul, he’s taken some shite advice with hires like Dave Priestly, who appears to have collapsed the mental spirit of the first team to such an extent, they players don’t even run in Cup Finals. He’s also hired disaster masters like Andries Joncker, and put Per Mertesacker in charge of a failing academy despite having no experience (I love Per, but wouldn’t you let him assist the lead of Southampton’s academy?)
However, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He has spoken to Hassenhutl of RB Leipzig. A manager who develops players, is tactically astute, and has an exciting brand of pressing football we’d kill for at Arsenal. Not quite as exciting, but a name we were set on last year is Roger Schmidt. Again, his side beat Spurs twice last season in the CL, he has a high-intensity game, and his background is in engineering, which would make a nice change from an economist.
Not that I’m saying those two are who I’d like, I’m merely pointing out that we’re not going to do something obvious. I told you when Arteta left the club two years ago that they specifically kept the door open for a return. The Spaniard refused Spurs for that exact reason. Not just that, it makes sense. When Wenger leaves, you either opt for a mega shakeup with someone totally new and risk a bloodbath that kills the spirit at the club even more so than now. Or you opt for someone who knows the culture, the traditions and the staff with a low-risk hire.
Remember, the biggest mistake of David Moyes wasn’t being David Moyes. It was ripping out a well-oiled machine that could teach him the ropes and look after him. I’m not saying Arsenal are well oiled, but there are a lot of good people who should be kept around. There are also a lot of low hanging fruit offerings that a man of Arteta’s character and smarts could pick and serve up with ease.
Again, I’m not saying he’s my ideal, but I totally understand the thinking. You hire a hot assistant coach, see what he can do, and worse case scenario, he makes it easier for the next more experienced manager to come in, best case, he takes us to glory. And just to reiterate, the man’s reputation in the game is exceptional. He is very well thought of. Could be our Zidane or Pep… could also be our Stewart Houston. You just don’t know.
But, needless to say, I don’t think we’ll be signing a Ronald Koeman type. There will be no safe hands approach, and we know Stan was very proud if his ambitious hire at the Rams. Don’t rule out a repeat, combined with a modern rebuild behind scenes in conjunction with Raul and Sven.
Arsene’s career is coming to a close, and I am convinced we’ll win the Champions League within 5 years of him going. We have it all. We’re a London club, we’re rich, we have a massive stadium, a rich history, and we are a sleeping giant ready to be wakened.
Bring it on, and give the fans the buzz of hope again.