There has been plenty written about Arsenal – and their failings – recently but, with only around a third of the season gone, now is not the time to suggest long-serving manager Arsene Wenger should be quietly ushered out of a job he has served with such distinction for 18 years.
Now, before the short-term critics start foaming at the mouth, this is not a one-sided rose-tinted glasses defence of the boss, it’s more of a considered call to suggest to fans that now, maybe more than ever, a bit of perspective about all things Arsenal is needed.
First of all – the positives. The 2-0 win over Dortmund this week has again secured qualification into the knock-out stage of the Champions League for the 15th consecutive year, a remarkable achievement whichever way you look at it. European progress this term has not always been smooth and the throwing away of a 3-0 lead at home to Anderlecht in the last half hour was borderline farcical but, generally, things have ticked over quite nicely in Group D.
So far, so good. There have been other reasons to be optimistic this season as well – if you look hard enough. Alexis Sanchez may have been very expensive, yes, but the tricky and classy forward has delivered brilliantly so far as his record of 13 goals in all competitions testifies. The moaners and complainers must realise that Sanchez IS the world-class frontman lacking since Thierry Henry’s departure and, at 25, he’s only going to get better.
Elsewhere, Calum Chambers has settled into life at the Emirates quicker than most would have expected and he looks to have all the attributes to be a first-team regular at Arsenal – and potential future leader – for years to come. Olivier Giroud is also fit again and his contribution must not be under-appreciated. The Frenchman could, and should, be the perfect foil for Sanchez and keeping him fit will now be a priority.
But, of course, it has not all been good news. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey could be the perfect modern-day midfield partnership but, sadly, they both appear to be far too injury prone to be relied on throughout a long season, while several first-team players – stand up Yaya Sanogo and Nacho Monreal – do not ever look like being remotely good enough.
The league form has been hit and miss, to put it nicely. A solid enough start, with admittedly too many draws, has given way to some frustrating performances and defeats, and the throwing away of a lead at Swansea and the failure to take a bucket-load of chances before succumbing to Manchester United in recent games have been particularly galling.
So, predictably, fans have again been quick to suggest Wenger needs to finally move aside. ‘Move him upstairs’,’replace him with Jurgen Klopp’ or ‘time to step down’ have been regular complaints and words of advice offered in the club’s direction from disgruntled supporters during radio phone-ins.
But changing things now will not benefit anyone. Unless an unlikely title challenge develops in the second half of the season – and the latest Premier League betting odds suggest that is out of the question – or another trophy or two is added to the cabinet in May, it is widely thought Wenger will decide the time is right to call it quits in the summer anyway, and many believe that would be the right time for him to step down.
Some wise fans have admitted that the Gunners will only realise the job Wenger has done at the club – across all levels – when he’s gone. He will rightly be remembered as the man who laid the foundations for the modern success so he does not deserve the ignominy of being guided out of the door like an ageing Grandad after drinking too much at a family party. Not when there’s still some work to be done.
The time is coming – soon – for Wenger to relinquish control of a club he has improved so dramatically from top to bottom during his considerable time at the helm. It’s just not quite yet.
2015 is our year #gunnerforever