Back when television shows actually appeared on television proper, there would occasionally be a series that unexpectedly scored high ratings from the start. The show was popular and its references leaked into popular culture. Often the intensity of the success was unexpected and the creative team behind the show had to scramble to come up with equally engaging plots and twists. As they did so, the show’s quality suffered and the plot became either repetitive or simply dull. We all have examples of favourite shows that start strong then get very mediocre towards the middle of a run (for me it was Lost). Finally, seeing middling ratings or lowered interest, the network or creative team announces that there will only be one or two more seasons. Suddenly, with an end goal and purpose to work towards, the show finds that spark that made it special in the first season.
It is through this lens that I’d argue Arsene Wenger deserves to manage Arsenal next season.
Wenger’s terms have been like a successful television series. His start was so marvellous you could be forgiven assuming it would last forever. However, recently the results have been unacceptably mediocre and, if his start would not have been so enjoyable, he would have been “cancelled” long ago. But an end date seems to give a series some structure. If the Arsenal Board were serious about managing this club correctly, they would call Arsene Wenger into the boardroom and inform him he will receive only one more one-year contract.
Why should Wenger receive one last chance?
Wenger deserves a final chance to win the Champions League or leave with a trophy: This is the most persuasive argument made by the coach’s defenders. Based on the honours he’s brought to the club, being let go after this disaster of a season is cruel. It is not as if Arsenal are Leicester and in danger of relegation. Rather, they are firmly in the hunt for a top 4 spot and essentially status quo for the club. While this should not be acceptable to the Board, it is not the worst position to be in. If you publicly proclaim that Wenger has one last year, you now can create a goal and plan on how to achieve it.
It forces increased spending from…whoever doesn’t want to spend the money: Arsenal now have one chance to win another trophy with Wenger. If the club is serious about sending the manager off with a parade and streamers, whoever has been closing the purse strings quickly would be forced to open them. Even if they think the squad is fine as constructed, adding a player or two (or three) simply to make a better push for a trophy must be assumed.
It also forces the club to think about what’s next: If Wenger gets one more year, then come June 2018 he will no longer be the manager. It moves from a theoretical “what if he retires” to “when he retires”. That easily clarifies the search for the next manager. Wenger and the club can create a search process that fits everyone’s needs. If the club wants to hire internally, they can begin to have that candidate take on more responsibility or hire that person now to ascend in a year. If they want to go after an outside candidate, they have more details as to the role when quietly negotiating. It makes the succession process immensely easier.
It begins to heal the fan divisions somewhat: At this point, the Arsenal civil war is so toxic that the fan divisions will continue no matter what. However, if you take #WengerOut off the table, some of the immediate vitriol begins to cool. The Board’s problem is making sure the process goes smoothly to ensure that vitriol isn’t directed back at them.
Wenger gets the send off he deserves: While he does not have the sheer number of trophies as other managers – including his contemporaries – Wenger has been a positive force for English football. A true and proper send-off so that newer soccer fans can witness the impact of Wenger on the game is important for players, management, and fans alike. Love him or hate him, he does deserve one last walk around each touchline.