Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are a toxic brand, accepting plane truth to go is only credible option
Arsene Wenger risks dismantling his legacy at Arsenal by staying for another season with his squad in freefall. The 3-1 collapse at West Brom was another sign of obvious decay, writes Desmond Kane.
It was once thought pigs would fly before Arsene Wenger would leave Arsenal. Now it turns out to be planes.
Yet amid the latest chaotic happenings at West Brom on Saturday, and much sniggering about how gentrified the working man’s game has become in the Premier League when a group of fans can suddenly afford to charter rival planes to protest, there is also a serious point about the red arrows aimed towards Wenger.
This should really be the final twisting thorn in the Frenchman’s side at the Hawthorns, a message to the high fliers that all is far from well among the club’s ground troops.
Arsenal fans make their feelings known.Eurosport
Not only is the sky high protest among the fans justified as their side’s season stands on the brink of collapse, it has also been previously endorsed and ratified by the club’s board as the only way they can force a manager to depart what is rapidly becoming a scene of much rancour.
If Arsenal fans don’t make their voices heard by land, sea or sky, Wenger will be in his post longer than Guy Roux in Auxerre.
"Arsene is ultimately accountable to the fans, they are the ones who ultimately make the judgement," said the Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis back in 2011.
"They have the ability if they choose to do that to make it unsustainable for him to stay. I still believe most support Arsene and we are nowhere near an issue where has he has to consider his future. Very clearly what the board have to do is to make sure the fanbase remains engaged."
Well, the fanbase are clearly engaged these days. As the debate rages over whether the manager, players, board or American owner Stan Kroenke are performing their functions properly as representatives of the world’s seventh richest club, two groups of fans decided to take the issue to fresh heights.
And they should not be blamed for opting to focus on hostilities, shaping the debate to question the bloke picking and purchasing such underachieving millionaires. What comes next during the two-week pause for the international game should be the announcement that Wenger has opted to go rather than extending this farce, but do not hold your breath.
Big Robbie and the haggard crew at Arsenal Fan TV may soon all need to board a jumbo jet to effect change if Wenger opts to ride this out.
The 3-1 beating by West Brom was more than a black day in the Black Country, it should be the point of no return.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain actually appeared to look in a different direction ahead of a corner kick before Dawson headed the home side's third goal into the net. There are plenty of obvious candidates to bemoan.
Some of these players appear to be regressing under Wenger. They don’t appear to be coached properly, or know what to do in marking. Either that, or they simply do not care. Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Hector Bellerin all gave off the impression that they are lost souls.
For the sake of a legacy that risks turning toxic after 21 years, the best option would be Wenger to announce his exit strategy. Not only for the good of himself, but for the well-being of the supporters who respect the coach, but realise change is overdue.
Arsenal have lost four of their past five games in the Premier League, losing 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16. Two of their three wins in their past eight outings came in the FA Cup against non-league Sutton United and Lincoln City.
A 20th successive season of Champions League football in 2017-18 hangs in the balance. Manchester United's win at Middlesbrough on Sunday means Arsenal drop to sixth, two points behind Jose Mourinho's side, rising to fifth.
Planes are the weird and wonderful modern equivalent of a vote of confidence from the board. Before Blackburn's erstwhile manager Steve Kean and David Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Manchester United, departed their posts, it was emblazed across the sky what they should do.
Wenger is not a natural comparison to Fergie in terms of trophies because the Scotsman would never survived in Manchester if he had accepted Arsenal’s dwindling standards. Ferguson spent 27 years at Manchester United, but from 2002 until 2013, his final 11 years at Old Trafford, he won the second of his two Champions Leagues, the Club World Cup, eight of his 13 Premier Leagues, an FA Cup and three League Cups.
Wenger has reached the Champions League final in 2006 and won two FA Cup finals in 2014 and 2015 in the past 11 years, representing two out of nine trophies since 1997. There has not been a seriously sustained challenge for the Premier League after the club’s last success in 2004.
Much is made of Wenger overseeing the move from Highbury to the Emirates in 2006 in transforming Arsenal, but ambition is decaying under a board who do not care for trophies. A collapse as startling as the demise of New Labour.
West Bromwich Albion's Craig Dawson scores their third goal.Eurosport
Arsenal fans are routinely fed the tripe that they should be happy with second, third or fourth best as long as they finish inside the top four to qualify for the Champions League. It is an old trope that does not make any sense when football should be about challenging for true tangible riches. Especially when losing in the Champions League last 16 has become the accepted norm.
A boycott could be next, but it might not take off in London because fairweather football fans are around the next corner as frequently as big red buses. The Wenger bus has broken down to such a state of disrepair that it should be written off.
If Wenger does name a date for Wexit, Arsenal fans can be allowed to escape from their purgatory and channel their energies into attempting to finish the season inside the top four with an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City also looming large on the horizon on April 23.
If he hangs around, there is a problem his legacy might stink the place out. It would finish off the stockpile of goodwill he has built up.
The real trick in showbusiness is to leave them wanting more, but there is a growing body of Arsenal fans who have had enough with the great reveal an old trick without any magic.
If Wenger is hurting over Arsenal's descent, as blokes like Martin Keown, Lee Dixon and Henry like to point out, he should appreciate more the pain of those watching it.