It seems to some Arsenal supporters that the club is stuck in some sort of time warp and the year is still 2005. Or perhaps it’s more similar to the Hollywood film “Groundhog Day” where the same thing keeps happening day after day. But with the Gunners it’s the same thing year after year. They fail to win any silverware, but consistently finish in the top four and make the Champions League, where they ultimately get knocked out at various stages of the tournament.
Of course, this is good enough for some fans while it’s unacceptable to others. This is what makes the 2012/13 season such a crucial one for Wenger. Like the previous seven years, the offseason has produced some good news as well as some bad. The Robin van Persie circus is obviously the bad news and it makes the club look like it’s in chaos as unfounded rumours swirl around each and every minute of the day. The good news is that Wenger has signed Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud for cover in case van Persie is sold.
Wenger, who’s been in charge since 1996, will go down in history as one of the club’s best managers no matter what happens this season. When he filled the shoes of former manager Bruce Rioch he was basically an unknown in the football world and has earned himself a name and reputation for being among the best. It didn’t really take too long either, by winning the league and FA Cup double in 1998.
Wenger was seen as a revolutionary and introduced some attractive and fluid football to the squad. In fact, Arsenal was a joy to watch in his early days and on many occasions still are now. Another double followed in 2002 and then of course the undefeated season in 2003/04 guaranteed that the French manager’s name will forever be etched into the Premier League history book. The FA Cup was then hoisted at the end of the 2004/05 season, but the calendar has been stuck there ever since.
It’s understandable why some fans are unhappy with the stagnation of the club. While it certainly hasn’t gone backwards it hasn’t gone forward either, unless you count the relatively new Emirates Stadium as being a sign of progress. However, the youngest generation of Gunners supporters are perfectly within their rights to question Wenger’s track record over the past seven years and wonder why he’s still regarded so highly.
The club has seen top players come and go, but none of them have been able to write a new chapter in the club’s history. Fifteen consecutive years of Champions League football is nothing to sneeze at, but an 0 for 14 record once they’re there can’t be called a success. Wenger’s been at the helm over the past seven years due to the incredible success he enjoyed in his first eight. Let’s face it, without the silverware of the first half of his reign, he wouldn’t have seen the second half of it.
Nobody can take away his achievements, but finishing 19 points behind Manchester City last season doesn’t sit well with many fans. Neither does the van Persie situation and the fact that Theo Walcott could possibly be the next out the revolving door. The squad also needs to be strengthened in other areas, such as goalkeeping, a take-charge defender and another solid two-way midfielder. There are some good youngsters in the squad, but Wenger doesn’t appear to be ready to give them prime playing minutes and their talents won’t be fully realized for another two or three years.
With a few weeks to go before the season starts there are still many scenarios that could take place. Van Persie could stay or go, and if he goes to one of the Manchester teams, that could see the gap between them and the Gunners widen even more. Wenger needs to settle on his squad as soon as possible and if he plans on adding to it he should be making those moves now instead of at the last minute like he did last year.
If his Dutch captain decides to stay, then he’ll seemingly have the ammunition to compete for first place with the addition of Podolski and Giroud. And if the gap between third and first isn’t narrowed or a domestic cup isn’t won he won’t be able to appease fans with any excuses. If teams such as Liverpool and Chelsea, who finished in eighth and sixth place last season can win cups, fans will want to know why Arsenal can’t.
This is a huge season for the 62-year-old Wenger and the players will have to help him out here. If they don’t play to their potential it could be eight long trophy-less years and counting. Injuries are a part of the game, but if the likes of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby can return and stay healthy it’ll be a huge boost. If the club doesn’t win anything this year though, it’s likely that Wenger will ride off into the sunset as somebody who took Highbury by storm but left the Emirates in a drizzle.