OK, before I start I need to make a couple of things clear. I’m not a Manchester United fan, nor do I support Arsenal or Chelsea or Liverpool. The fact is that I still curse my mum and dad on a daily basis for living in Watford. Why couldn’t they have moved to Manchester or Liverpool or London?
Anyway, the point I’m making is that I have no axe to grind. I don’t have strong feelings either way about any of the top four clubs. I admire their football and hate their arrogance. In fact, I do everything that most football fans do.
It is on this basis that I want to find out from Arsenal fans why a small but significant and increasing number of you seem to be turning against Arsene Wenger.
As a neutral I have very mixed feelings about the man. I have been known to refer to him as Arsene Whinger and like everybody else, I’ve been dismayed at his selective vision in the past. To be fair to him, I can’t remember the last time he said those famous words, “I didn’t see it.” In fact, last week he agreed with Diaby’s red card.
I have been listening to radio phone-in shows and reading sites such as this, as well as fan forums and it is clear that a number of Gooners seem to be fed up with their boss.
Arsenal sit third in the Premier League just six points behind the leaders and are level at the halfway stage in the Champions League quarter final. As a Watford fan, or a fan of almost any team in the world, we can only dream of being in that sort of position. Surely it must be like Christmas everyday. Despite that, I get the feeling that should Arsenal fail to get maximum points from their Premier League game with Liverpool, and then fail to progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League, there will be plenty of Gooners calling for Wenger’s head.
Since arriving at Arsenal over ten years ago, he has achieved a remarkable win percentage of 58%. He has led the club to three Premier League titles and four FA Cup wins. On five occasions he has finished as runner-up in the Premier League and he has taken Arsenal to the final of both the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. In his time he has managed to completely evolve the team on at least two occasions and now has a young, talented side who play stunning football at times.
Against this record and background I can’t believe that any Gooners would even entertain the notion that Wenger should go. Sadly, it seems many of them do.
There is a little disquiet that Wenger has insisted on trying to achieve success with his assembled group of youngsters rather than buying big in the transfer market like the other three top clubs. There seems to be some concern that there is so much emphasis on the beautiful game and not enough about scoring the goals needed to win matches.
As an outsider, all of this confuses me. The development of a team of talented youngsters is what everyone dreams about. (OK, it would be nice if they were English). Sir Alex Ferguson produced a team of youngsters that achieved, and continue to achieve, great success. Why can’t the current Arsenal crop do the same?
The quality of the football they play is surely a joy to watch. When you spend your life watching a team hoof the ball forward hoping that someone might give away a free kick or a throw in so you can launch the ball into the box, you really do wonder what people who get to see the quality that Arsenal produce are moaning about.
I don’t know whether the band of Wenger dissenters is large or is just a very vocal minority, but they are certainly making themselves heard. It seems to me that should Arsenal end the season without a trophy, Wenger could well be on dangerous ground. That would be three trophy-less years, but they won the League and Cup double the year before that and have appeared in a League Cup final and a Champions League final since then.
If Arsenal were to let Wenger go it would obviously have to be a big name that replaced him. The whole ethos of the club would change and there would be no guarantee of any extra success. Wenger has achieved so much and is so close to success again that I find it astonishing that these type of discussions are taking place at all.
So come on Gooners, what is going on? Is Wenger a genius who should be supported and retained at all costs or is he a dud, past his best and no longer the right man for the club.
If he moves on, I would be prepared to take back some of the criticisms I have made of him over the years and allow him to take him over at Watford.