Another poor performance in a big game. Arsene Wenger’s job under threat once again.
There has been plenty of chat about potential replacements. The list so far has included Joachim Low, Carlo Ancelotti, Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry, Brendan Rodgers, Leonardo Jardim and Paulo Fonseca.
Arsenal have already undergone changes to their backroom team this season, creating new specialist roles which would point to a change at the top. Sven Mislintat was brought in as head of recruitment from Borussia Dortmund and Raul Sanllehi came in from Barcelona as head of football relations. Is it a sign of things to come?
Even Wenger loyalists are beginning to question the Arsenal boss’ position:
“Whether he stays at the end of this season, I could not make a case. I am not sure anyone can. This development of mediocrity has to be arrested.”
- Ian Wright
“I’ve not really liked their defending for a long time, I’ve not really liked their leadership, the character, and the spirit on the pitch, but you’ve always liked the football – I don’t even like the football anymore. The last bastion has gone.”
- Gary Neville
“I love Arsene Wenger and I love what he’s done for that football club and I’d always support him as much as I can, but I think they’ve run out of time.”
- Tim Sherwood
There’s a sense of doubt in Wenger’s mannerisms and when asked if he’d be at the club next season, he simply replied, ‘Who Knows.’
So how has it come to this for Wenger at Arsenal? Where did it go wrong, and when did it start?
Never Ending Defensive Trouble
Wenger inherited one of the sturdiest back lines he could have wished for back in 1997. Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. It was those five, alongside David Seaman who conceded just 17 goals in 38 Premier League games back in 98/99.
Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell were as dominant as it got after the aforementioned five retired – they were invincible.
Senderous, Cygan, Djourou and Stepanovs to name but a few, but Wenger has simply failed to fill the gap left by the invincibles squad.
The likes of Mustafi, Bellerin, Mertesacker and even Koscielny have all received criticism this season (and previous) due to their lack of defensive capabilities and thus Arsenal’s general weakness at the back. Yet, this isn’t a problem unique to the current Arsenal squad, it’s something that’s been etch’d in the team for the last 5-7 seasons and so with that surely some of the blame must be placed on the manager.
“You saw it especially with the first goal – Shkodran Mustafi had no awareness about him.”
- Sol Campbell
It’s almost as though Arsenal’s defenders don’t practice defending in training.
In fact, the last astute defensive performance I can remember from Arsenal was when they beat City at the Etihad back in 2015. And what of those who have simply gone by the wayside; Thomas Vermaelen, Gabriel Paulista, and more recently Callum Chambers and Rob Holding; they’ve been victims of Wenger’s lack of ability to work on and improve defensive players.
‘The club that was arguably England’s most famous for rock-hard centre-halves has instead become infamous for their unreliability.’
- The Independent
However – it’s not just the back line you have to look at. In front of that, the hole left by Patrick Vieira was never filled. Abou Diaby was the answer, but we all know how that one ended – such a shame.
So who’s to blame about the lack of competent replacements?
Inconsistency & Away Form
Arsenal’s season could be summed up by looking at two results…a shock, and frankly embarrassing defeat at the hands of a struggling Swansea, was followed by a very convincing 5-1 win at home to Everton. How frustrating for the players, the staff and the manager that the team have got contrasting performances of this magnitude in their lockers.
“That’s a big frustration as a manager, you always want consistency. Players want to be consistent but as a manager you want the team and collective group to be consistent.”
- Paul Clement
It’s a well-known fact, and something we touched upon rather recently that Arsenal’s away form simply isn’t good enough. They’ve swatted teams aside at the Emirates regularly but on the road they simply seem to crumble.
“Twenty-six points from 26 away games is an embarrassment for a team that are supposedly one of the top teams in the country.”
- Jamie Carragher
Arsenal have won just six games away from home all season! Six!
Fingers must be pointed at Wenger – yes players aren’t performing, but whose fault is that? …It’s not just a freak occurrence, it happens regularly and Wenger’s inability to pick up on this has caused permanent damage to his reputation.
Oh – a quick list of poor results over the past 10 years. There are many more, of course
Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal
Man Utd 8-2 Arsenal
West Brom 3-2 Arsenal
Man City 3-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 4-1 Arsenal
Bayern 5-1 Arsenal
Bayern 5-1 Arsenal
Lack of Leadership
Arsenal have lacked a leader at the back since the departures of Campbell, Vieira and Gilberto Silva. The Arsenal of old had a number of players who possessed the required mettle to balance out their abundance of creative talent…Wenger has failed to replace these on-field leaders and it’s caused the team many a problem.
“When I look at Arsene Wenger’s team during the League Cup final, simple things let them down. Awareness, detail, fighting, running and earning the right to play.”
- Sol Campbell
- Jamie Carragher
There seems to be a distinct lack of solidarity and fight about the players and this was epitomised by the likes of Ramsey and Xhaka walking at Wembley whilst involved in a cup final!
“I’ve always questioned Arsenal’s mentality but you’ve always felt they were good enough. I still question their mentality but they aren’t good enough now. Arsenal are actually getting worse, they aren’t getting better.
Whether this is a reflection on the players own mentalities or Wenger’s lack of leadership, professional footballers behaving like this should not be condoned and the buck stops with the manager. I get the feeling as though no-one is playing for the manager anymore…
It’s been asked many-a-time: When will Arsene Wenger be leaving Arsenal?
As it stands, this summer seems an ever more likely time for him to step down, and due to the factors mentioned above, perhaps the club needs to be revitalised, with new philosophies so that it can once again grow like it did under the Frenchman.