Well, where to start? The bigger picture or the match detail? Arsenal FC under Arsene Wenger in 2017 or last night’s rudderless display under the good captain Theo Walcott?
Let’s briefly pick over the bones of what happened at Selhurst Park. Sam Allardyce did not need to do too much preparatory work to realize, as he stated after the game, that Wenger’s team leave their centre backs isolated and that the full backs play more like wingers. So when breaking, get the ball wide and create chances. Palace did that and won the game easily. Arsene Wenger talked afterwards about the opposition winning the direct duels and more of the second ball. In effect, Allardyce’s team wanted it more. Arsenal enjoyed the majority of the possession by some distance but could not do very much with it.
The travelling fans chanted against the manager and the players, both during the game and beside the team coach after the game. No hiding place at Selhurst Park, unlike the Emirates, where the manager has ensured the stadium design cossets his players from any interaction with the hoi polloi. If this were Italy, the windows would have been put in. What we have here is a group of highly paid millionaires not willing to put a shift in, with the odd arguable exception, but that doesn’t make a team, a unit. It’s a sinking ship, and there are further depths to plumb until finally, the desperately needed change in the dugout is made.
Realistically, this season’s gone. It does not really matter whether or not Wenger is sacked before it ends, although that is a very unlikely scenario, because it’s too late to get anyone else in and Steve Bould probably has little respect from the players after years of playing the manager’s lapdog. What we are looking at now is the rebuild. This can’t be delayed past the manager’s current contract and critically will be more easily achieved with him back in France or wherever someone foolish enough to want to employ a man so patently past his best will take him.
The club need to move on and work hard to update the footballing operation. So here’s the good news. Ivan Gazidis has access to a lot of people who can give him some very good advice and recommendations. And Arsenal have a lot of money. So it’s about recruitment and bedding in. On the playing front, things have sunk too low to even consider a credible title challenge for at least two seasons. The club need three good summer transfer windows in which they spend well, and a manager who can work with the team and rebuild it. The one thing that Arsene Wenger has achieved is to put the club in a position where rebuild is possible, although if he is allowed to stick around for another two years, it will probably be too late.
But the decision on the future needs to be made now – specifically the announcement (long overdue) that this is the final season of Wengerball – and the club need to be working very hard to line up the staff required to begin the process of transforming Arsenal from the current freedom of expression football fiasco to an organized team capable of getting results. I don’t think it’s going to be possible to drop to eighth place to avoid Europa League next season. However, given that the club will not be challenging for the title in 2017/18, they might as well use the experience of European football to re-learn the art of winning two-legged ties for the time when they are good enough to take part in the Champions League again.
Chris Sutton on Radio 5 Live described Arsenal as going from the Invincibles to the Invisibles. Each season these days follows the same pattern. Signs of hope with enough good results and performances to make people believe that this year, it will be different, before the inevitable springtime collapse. They don’t hurt anymore. 2008 hurt. 2009 hurt. Gradually, since then, many have become numb to the pain. They’ve been hit so many times they don’t really feel it anymore. Many do not even watch the games anymore, don’t care about the results.
Certainly the players need to take some of the blame, but they have reached this level of non-performance because the manager has allowed them to. He does not take anyone to task. You can see that from his demeanour on the bench. The only person he feels able to shout at is the fourth official, and once in a blue moon the opposition manager. So the guy can be confrontational, but not, it appears with his players. Not only that, but his failure to prepare them tactically for matches is now reaping its dividend more and more frequently. You want an example of a Wenger dressing room team talk?
How about telling his players to act like a pack of wolves back in 2013? On one level, as a motivational technique, I could buy it, but only if the foundation of the brass tacks of countering the opposition with some tactical instruction had been laid. But Arsene rarely changes anything to take account of the opposition. For the 2006 Champions League final, he sat down with some videos of Barcelona the day before the game.
The Gooner launched a poll on Twitter yesterday lunchtime asking fans, What is your feeling regarding Arsène Wenger remaining as Arsenal manager for the 2017/18 season?The number of characters allowed limits the amount of detail in the answer options, but the results as they stand are as follows after over 1500 votes so far:
Ok to continue as manager - 13%
Go but don't want protest - 43%
Go & protests necessary - 44%
So 7 out of 8 who voted wish for a new manager next season, but there is a 50/50 split over the idea of needing to hound Arsene Wenger out of the job. Those who respect the man too much to raise their voices against him need to realize he is an arrogant egotist who cares nothing for the views of supporters whether they are respectful or not, but anyway, for them, I have a proposal which I will detail tomorrow.
As for those who agree that protests are necessary, you will have the opportunity to join in between now and the end of the season, as the protest organisers responsible for the plane at West Brom, the mobile billboard at Man City and the training ground reception committee before the West Ham press conference have been in touch to inform me that their campaign will continue, but that more funds are required for them to maintain the pressure. They raised £4,000 from their original JustGiving page, but needed to close that to release the amount to pay for the stuff they have already done or need to pay for up front. So now, they have started a fresh JustGiving appeal. If you want to see a change of manager, then put your money where your mouth is, and when given the opportunity, join in with their activities, which they will publicise as and when necessary on their Twitter account @NoNewContract.
Unfortunately, the board needs to be forced into action, or failing their ability to do that, Arsene Wenger has to understand that the atmosphere at the club will become untenable if he does remain past the summer. Should he stay, whether or not he spends the annually publicized transfer warchest on top quality established players or tries to be clever in the market as if he were shopping online at Dealslands or saving money in the fashion of a Argos Sports Offers buyer, recent times have shown he falls short when it comes to the fundamental business of building a winning team. If 7 out of 8 supporters want him to go, then things are unlikely to improve, given he has had the use of two world class players in his team for the last three seasons and failed to deliver a title challenge. Assuming both are sold this summer, can you really see things improving next season? Protests are the best way to ramp up pressure for change.
It would help if all high profile bloggers also publicized the protest group’s fundraising and activities. Nobody wants to need to do this, nobody wants to have to chant against the manager and player to force change, but it has reached this stage because the board have not had the gumption to take the required action. So people have to stick their necks out and do something they would prefer not to have to. Or you can just sit on your arses meekly accepting this evident decline.
If it had been announced after the away defeat v Bayern that the manager was stepping down at the end of the season, unity would have been forged and everyone would have pulled together to get something from the season, manager, players and fans. Instead things have been allowed to drift with the increasing number of sh*tshows we are witnessing on a habitual basis. Supporters need to realize that they must act in unison to force the required changes. A few brainwashed Wenger cultists remain, but the vast majority now want change at the club. That has to start with the manager as he is obviously a busted flush. Once we get a new individual in who operates under the criteria of a normal first team coach, we can then focus on whether or not the owner and the board really want success and take the appropriate action to force any necessary changes there.
“Arsene is ultimately accountable to the fans - they ultimately make judgment. If you are seeing the relationship between the fans and the manager break down over time that is unsustainable” - Ivan Gazidis, June 2011.
How bad does it need to get, people? How much more of this kind of p***taking do you wish to see? Does anyone want to sustain this for a further two seasons? Really?
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