There are no excuses, yesterday we were outplayed and outfought by a newly promoted side, as Swansea beat us 3-2 to seriously dent our hopes of making the top four.
The penalty decision was questionable, yes, but as has been the problem recently, we were not up for this game at all. We scored early and then stopped, just like we did against Wolves and Fulham.
These are not isolated incidents. If you look at the amazing post Carling Cup final collapse of last season, and similar implosions in 07/08 and even 02/03, this is a hallmark of even Wenger’s best teams. Yes, he is our most successful manager, but in setting such high standards here in his early years he has been unable to truly make us into a big club. It’s all very well being unfancied and defying the odds for a while, but once we have been EXPECTED to win things, we have really struggled.
Last season’s self-destruction was enough to earn him the sack, in my opinion. After six years without silverware, we had our two best shots at finally winning something, and messed up both in comical style. His response was to sell the club captain and best player. We are now in the situation where he can’t even hide behind the achievement of Champions League football, because let’s face it, there’s no way we’re going to make the top four this year.
And unless the manager drastically changes his ways by drilling our defence and signing some proven, experienced quality players, we won’t make the top four again next season either. Despite Arsenal Football Club being a big name, it is going to be a lot harder to persuade the likes of Robin van Persie to stay here, or for others to choose us over Spurs and Chelsea if we can’t offer them Champions League football, our only redeeming feature left.
I praised Wenger for the work he has done this season, with arguably his weakest ever squad. After a terrible start he did very well in getting us even thinking about the top four, and perhaps he is better than a lot of managers at getting the best out of young players and weak squads, but we have to aim higher than that. I believe he is probably the best man for the job this season, but even if we do make 4th place, he should step aside for someone with a different approach for the next campaign.
Signings can help a lot, as was shown in our strong period this season, but under Wenger there will always be the problem that seasoned internationals like Per Mertesacker can come here with a good reputation and suddenly look a little lost in this defensive set-up. As I said earlier in the article, his motivational skills are questionable. To see Spurs hand us a real lifeline with their slip up against Wolves and go to Swansea and play the way we did is incredible. No desire, no belief. This is the sign of players who have not been properly motivated, or who have perhaps lost the enjoyment of playing under this manager.
The winning culture of the club has been lost. The key members of the Invincibles were shipped out far too quickly and Arsenal has lost its identity. The likes of Keown have come in briefly and worked wonders in coaching roles, and that trend should continue. Having legends around who have won things for the club makes all the difference. It helped make the likes of Henry, Vieira and Pires into the players they were. There was a solid foundation there when they arrived, whereas these players are all either young, or quite new, and have no experience of success at this club.
Change is needed, there is no doubt about that. I would love Wenger to accept that and make the necessary changes himself, but I don’t believe that he will. I believe he should have the rest of the season to fix this mess, and then he should gracefully resign.