Arsenal Must Face Up To Arsene Wenger’s Failings And Decide If It’s Time To Move On Without Him
beIN SPORTS By Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) There’s a banner often aired at the Emirates Stadium. “In Arsene We Trust,” it proclaims, underlining Arsenal’s continued faith in their frequently under fire manager. It hasn’t been seen in quite some time, though. In Arsene not so must trust any longer. Arsenal is a club wound tight at the moment. This should have been their season; their season to dispel all that has been angled at them over the past decade. By now they should be on course for their first Premier League title triumph since 2004. Instead, they remain just as tediously tragic as ever. The Gunners are treading water. Chelsea and Manchester City have fallen below the waterline, but Wenger’s side have been unable to take advantage, with Leicester City and their North London rivals Tottenham clambering over them instead. The circumstance has changed, but the outcome for Arsenal has not. Of course, the Gunners are still technically a part of this season’s title race, with 11 points separating them from the top of the table. They have a game in-hand over Leicester and Spurs too, but recent evidence hints at a mental weakness permeated throughout the club. Arsenal just don’t have the bottle when the pressure weighs heavy, and have shown so time and time again. Wenger has taken the brunt of the criticism. The Frenchman is the embodiment of Arsenal as a club and thus any flaws in character come down to him, at least in the view of the public. So if the Gunners aren’t strong enough for the title race, Wenger is deemed weak too. It has made for something of a toxic situation. They might have claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday, but Arsenal’s travelling support at Goodison Park made clear their views. The club’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke was a target, with the supporters imploring the American businessman to “get out of our club.” Wenger too was the subject of much criticism, with one banner demanding his firing. #WengerOut has become a common trend in recent weeks. “What hurts me is that at the important moment of the season we played in a sceptical environment,” Wenger said after the win at Everton. “I think after the Tottenham game where we played a very good game with 10 men against 11 and came back to 2-2, I couldn’t understand why – at the moment when you need everyone behind the team – we had to hit that storm. From the media, OK. From our fans? It is a bit more difficult to take.” For years criticism of Wenger has been treated as something of a taboo at the Emirates. Given all that he has done for the North London club over the past two decades that is understandable. But Arsenal must now consider a future without their leader of 20 years. He might be their spiritual figurehead, but if that spirit is broken what point is there in keeping him around? Arsenal as a club are in desperate need of recalibration. The standards that were held against them over 10 years ago are no longer applicable, and it might not be until Wenger leaves that this happens. The Frenchman still has a year left on his contract, but for the good of everyone concerned it might be better if he left this summer. The Gunners can’t do without another season of stagnation. As it is though, Arsenal are in the midst of a civil war. Supporters are disenchanted by what’s happening at the club on and off the field, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Wenger will win the battle. “The club has moved forward a lot,” he insists. “I just want to continue that.” He might not be given the chance to do so.