Monday, 7 April 2014

The end is coming for Wenger's time at Arsenal

  · Match report     · Arsene Wenger's reaction

Morning Gooners.

The morning after the afternoon before. It doesn't feel any better. A 3-0 defeat cannot make any Gooner happy. But it was only what our team deserved. A gutless, pathetic performance from a team we'd hope would have learnt its lessons from previous games against those around us. All that early season hope has faded. I don't think we could ever really believe we were in the title race but it has been the hope which has killed our spirits.

I'm left with a lot of questions I cannot answer myself. A lot of them start with why?
  • Why did we enter the season with only one recognised centre forward?
  • Why when we knew that position was an issue again in January, did we not go out and buy someone who was as good as, if not better than, Olivier Giroud?
  • Why wasn't a replacement for Theo Walcott considered after he was injured on January 4? 
  • Why do we appear to suffer more injuries than any other club?
  • Why don't we set up more defensively away from home when a point would be good enough? 
A lot of those questions can only be answered by Arsene Wenger, but isn't the only one accountable. Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke must share some of the blame as well as chief executive Ivan Gazidis.

We knew going to Everton wasn't going to be easy. They've only lost twice on their own turf since we beat them there in 2010. They were the form team going into this game, yet we weren't set up to take a point home with us, which would have put us in a very good position for the final five league games of the season.

Wenger yet again thought his players could win the match. That is my only rationalising of the situation from outside. He yet again put too much faith in his players. With a stagnant forward four of Giroud, Rosicky, Cazorla and Podolski in front of a ponderous pairing of Arteta and Flamini, we just didn't have it in the tank to win the game.

I don't buy into the notion that it is purely Wenger's fault. That he was tactically out thought by Martinez. Wenger has already beaten Everton at home this season once in the FA Cup and without a brilliant Gerard Deulofeu's late equaliser we would have beaten them in the league. So is there an issue with the players and playing away from home?

We've only won one of our last six games away from the Emirates, drawing one other but losing four. We seem to be fragile on the road, especially since losing at Anfield.

It's bad luck we're without five players who should be in our starting 11. I'm not sure many Premier League teams could cope with being in that situation. But as I've stated above, what has caused them to be in this situation?

Some would say the size of our squad. Below is a table of the top eight teams in the league and how many players have started a league game for them:

Arsenal - 21
Chelsea - 23
Everton - 21
Liverpool - 20
Manchester City - 23
Manchester United - 27
Southampton - 22
Tottenham - 25

We're slightly below average with our rivals. But if you take out Nicklas Bendtner's one start for us, we're joint bottom of this league with Liverpool, who have had no European football to worry about. Our squad has not been built to compete and there is only one person responsible for that: the manager.

Clearly there are big question marks over his future. A two year deal is unsigned on the table and he's never left it this late to agree to a contract extension. There must be serious consideration being given that this will be his final season as Arsenal manager.

But what next? If change is to come, how will it happen? I have absolutely no faith in the board or the majority shareholder to pick Wenger's successor. We can all trot out the names of the usual suspects: Klopp, de Boer, Martinez, Low or Stojković. But how many of them are get-able and how many of them are up to the task of rebuilding the squad in a World Cup summer?

There is going to need to be some rebuilding done. Lukasz Fabianski and Bacary Sagna are out of contract, Thomas Vermaelen and Lucas Podolski could want to leave for more playing time and that is four players, two of whom are certain to leave.  

We know of our centre forward issue and we need a player who can take over from Arteta and Flamini, that's another two and then that is six players you need to replace before you build on what you've got. And we already know our squad is light.

Even if Wenger stays I can already predict we're in for a tough summer. It's going to be painful before it gets better.

I still feel we're end up in fourth. Champions League football is what we want for next season. If we end up in fifth, we'll still end up paying the same prices to go and watch football on Thursday nights and that's not something I want to even thing about.

What the club can do now to buy a little good will from supporters is to scrap the impending three per cent price rise for next season. It would be something, albeit something small, which they could easily afford to do. 

I don't think of life at Arsenal without Arsene Wenger as scarily as I once did. Change has to happen at some time. If he did sign an extension, he'd still have my support. But I can see there is a future without him and it may happen much sooner than we would have thought it would be at the start of the season.

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