Monday, 20 October 2014

Justice to Arsene Wenger is inevitable

Disclaimer: I know this is a free world and all, but I don't feel that Wenger's staunch supporters would quite understand this post, sincerely for their own good. To the 'Wenger Out' clan, I wish they feel a degree of empathy and hope upon reading this.


Frustration bodes into almost every Arsenal supporter's skin, and rightly so. The season looks all doom and gloom as early as October, and many have resigned themselves to demoting their expectations to the FA Cup or a Champions League spot. Results justify our despair - this is Wenger's worst start to a season as an Arsenal coach. Who could possibly imagine he'd top that 2011/12 record?

It's getting increasingly harder to detect any excuses in an attempt to shield Wenger from explanation. The fact that people try itself indicates they don't completely believe it to be true. Granted, Arsenal don't have a defensive midfielder nor two centre backs (a problem of Wenger's doing, mind you), but that shouldn't hide the fact that it is still a very good team. Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Joel Campbell don't even get a look in.

The Emirates Stadium bought Wenger plenty of time, but he still missed out on a lot of trophies for reasons quite irrelevant to money. We should have won the league in 2008 and 2011. We should have defeated Birmingham, Bradford and Blackburn. We should have averted the dastardly summer of 2011 and 2013. The reasons bonded to such failures were nowhere near connected to money or the board. It was all Wenger.

The biggest flaw in Arsenal as a whole is a lack of accountability. As Gazidis rightly said, Wenger is accountable to the fans. But what good is that if most of the fans are horribly fissured into groups of negative realism and positive delusion? How can the fans unite and drive away the manager if a huge majority of it are still jumping on the bandwagon and protecting their past hero, conveniently straining out the bad parts of it?

The manager is forgiven way too easily. All the criticism surrounding him (which, again, is overdue and well warranted) is forgotten once we scrape decent results in the next two games. That's the fickle minded business we're in. Since the 8-2 game against Manchester United a lot of fans are on the fence, jumping on the 'Wenger In' side if Arsenal win and hopping on the other side if Arsenal lose. My stance has been quite steady for over a year now, one which admittedly foolishly wavered this summer.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. I completely understand the sentiment behind insisting on supporting Wenger. They don't want their past glories tarnished. They don't want the same man who lead the team to 49 unbeaten matches be the core reason for Mesut Ozil's decline, or for draws against Leicester and Hull. They wouldn't believe that Wenger is pulling the club back, or that he's become reckless and clueless after David Dein happened. Because that would mean admitting to a huge error in judgement of his obvious change in character.

Gone are the days when Wenger resembled a well-versed learned footballing philosopher. His words and actions this season (and of the past) have been of a person anything but. He's chosen to employ 6 first team defenders rather than pursue Kostas Manolas. He opines that the 4-1-4-1 is more defensively solid than 4-2-3-1. He attributed injury reasons to hair dye. He tactically and mentally ruined Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski. In every match he's constantly on the lookout for the perfect goal through tippy-tappy play, even after the master himself - Guardiola - admitted possession football is over.

And yet, more out of fear of being proven wrong than anything else, most of the fans are sticking by his side. They'd scapegoat Gazidis or Kroenke rather than admit that Wenger was the one who dealt with on-the-pitch collapses. They'd blame the players when Arsenal lose and praise the manager when they win. They'd overrate every single mini-achievement (whether past or present) that Wenger makes to justify their flawed assumption that he is the right man for the job.

Months ago, Arsene Wenger insulted Paul Scholes and was hailed as classy. Tell me one thing that is classy about publicly dismissing an English veteran for raising a legitimate Jack Wilshere issue. The perception of this man has gone to such ridiculous wavelengths that I feel Wenger's legacy is come to be one of the greatest cover-ups in world football.

Except I don't think he'll pull it off.

Wenger has made a lot of blunders over the years, but none more so than choosing to stay on after the FA Cup win. He could have retired peacefully, bidden his time, written an autobiography praising everyone and inflated his personality. He could have been perceived as an Arsenal messiah and a revolutionary for the rest of his life, or a guy that nobly bore the pressure amongst ungrateful fans and stood out against financial doping. The Wenger Out clan wouldn't have been able to convince many about his true nature, and the truth would have drowned forever. He could have hidden under the guise of FFP, stadium debts, referees and injuries (which are down to him), and nicked a living.

But he didn't. He screwed it up. He falsely believes that he can get away with whatever swindle he's trying to pull off in the next three years. He thinks he can 'achieve' Champions League scraps and earn £8m per annum whilst complaining about lack of funds and still recover the same fondness. No, he won't.

All the excuses have vanished. Wenger's most popular complaint - lack of money to spend - has been rectified. Ivan Gazidis has brought in the money, yet has seen Wenger not spend it where it was most necessary. FFP is in motion and the stadium debt is well in control. There are no monetary reasons to worry of.

At long last, the focus has shifted to Wenger's incompetence on the pitch. The Frenchman's tactical approach and horrid man managing used to be clouded by money issues, but not anymore. We have great players in our team, yet we're tanking. The team employs an outdated style of play, are tactically and psychologically underprepared and players fall crocked after playing too many games. Ultimately, there's no one else who is more accountable for this than Arsene Wenger.

Belief and support are admirable traits, but year on year of failure will wear those thin. Bereft of excuses and hard-pressed to coax out more, there will doubtless come a time when Wenger is lost for justifications of predicted failures. I envisage that day to come around two years down the line.

The fanbase have finally begun to question the manager. There no longer are cries of "Go support another club" in response to valid doubts about the manager's capabilities. Slowly but surely, Gooners are rightfully doubting the fallen legend they once rooted for. Injury crises that arose for six years are being investigated. Wenger's tactical naivety are being analyzed five years too late. But hey, at least it's happening now.

I don't think the end is nigh. There's plenty of time for Wenger to be extricated from the club. But I strongly believe (and with good reason) that there will come a point a couple years down the line, where everyone will reach the general consensus that Wenger is not fit for Arsenal, and will force him out of the club.

Clearly the manager underestimates most of the fans, by thinking that he can spoon £24m out of the club and leave a hero in 2017. However, by then I feel his incompetence would be so apparent that he'd exit the club with the reputation he deserves - that of a fallen legend. Here's me, longing for that day.

You heard it here first.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]