JB’s Weekly Snapshot: Time’s up for Arsene

By Jonathan Blaustein

When I was a freshman in college, I took a year of Russian. It was 1992, and the Soviet Union had crashed a few years prior. Learning Russian seemed like a good idea, as I figured there’d be big need of Russian speakers in a more globalized future.

Though I have a facility with languages, I must admit, Russian kicked my ass. Even though I tried, (for a while at least,) all I remember from those two semesters is one phrase that I like to break out at parties: Я говорю на русском плохо. (I speak Russian badly.)

The real problem, if I’m being honest, is that I drank heavily that year, which affected my studies. As a freshman at Duke, I got black-out drunk 6 or 7 nights a week.

Every week.

Sounds like I was an alcoholic, I know, but back then, everyone I knew did the same thing. We were all double-fisting party cups of Schaefer and Natural Light, every night, until the year was over.

It was awful.

The worst part, though, was the drunk-dialing. We could order pizzas, 24 hours a day, without having to pay in cash. The Duke meal plan covered outside vendors, so there were too many 3am breakfast pizza pig-outs, and too little studying.

Even worse than calling the pizza place, in the lexicon of drunk dialing, is calling an ex-girlfriend. Or someone you had a crush on in High School. The slimy feeling of shame the next day was palpable, like spewing exhaust from an old factory.

We all learned that lesson at some point, right?

When you’re wasted, step away from the telephone. Back up.

Nothing good will come.

That lesson is right up there with: don’t write about Arsenal the day after a crushing defeat.

Don’t do it.

Don’t do it.

And… here we go.

Since my last article, we’ve seen the shocking comeback against Burnley, (again,) the futuristic, hope-inducing smashing of Southampton, the awful capitulation against Watford, and then yesterday’s all-too-predictable no-show at Chelsea.

Such a strange sample from a long season, but one that feels perfectly authentic to the 2017 AFC that Arsene Wenger has given us.

The Burnley game was about as perfect an encapsulation of latter-day Arsenal as one could conjure. After the Mustafi goal, all that was necessary was a slow cruise towards 1–0, with a chance for an easy 2–0 win once Burnley started pressing for an equalizer.

But since when has Arsenal ever made anything easy? Xhaka’s red card was so typical of this team. Self-inflicted damage. Just writing it, I know you must be thinking, “Tell me something I don’t know,” but I’m not one of the expert Tims. (I’m just some dude who probably knows less about football than you do.)

The horror of the high-drama finish, with two penalties, and Arsene chucked to the stadium tunnel, was obscured by the miraculous end.

Panenka penalties have a way of erasing preceding miseries from our memory banks. We all focused on the win, rather than the troubling signs of Wenger, and his chosen DM, both losing their cool at extremely inopportune moments.

The victory, combined with the Southampton smashing, lulled me into a false sense of security. I know there were think-pieces about Xhaka, and Wenger, but still, because we beat Burnley, most fans started to believe it would be OK.

The Southampton game affected me as much as any this season. Winning is fun, but it was clear the team that ran out that Saturday would not be re-constituted again soon, mostly because it had a whiff of 2020 about it.

Watching a team filled with speedy, quick, physical, athletic players buzzing about, while still maintaining a high level of technique, was intoxicating. It was almost Klopp-level stuff, fielding a squad of sprinters.

When it was done, I had the pangs of optimism return, seeing a vision that Arsene was hoping to reveal in the near future, even though he couldn’t trust it quite yet. It was a future, alas, that is unlikely to come again.

Because then came Watford.

Nobody likes reading dismal blogging, or desperate wishing, but I did say in my last column that only a clean sweep of games, through Chelsea, would re-ignite a title challenge in earnest.

No such luck.

After Saturday’s embarrassment, it feels fruitless to critique the Watford game, but that’s kind of what I do here. After Tuesday, everyone’s hating on Aaron Ramsey again, and I’m no exception, but my reasons are a little different. Watford proved beyond doubt that Ramsey refuses to play proper defense.

We know this.

But the part that really made me crazy was the few minutes in-between the first and second goals. Any sane person knows what to do then: Take a breath. Knock some safe passes around. Hold possession until the endorphins wear off those Watford assholes.

Whatever you do, keep a hold of the ball.

But not Aaron Ramsey.

Instead, he decided to start pinging extremely low-percentage long balls, all of which missed their target. It was five minutes of pinball before they scored again.

That lack of judgment and intelligence is enough to make me give up on a player. (I know, me and everyone else in the world.) But I think, right then, I might given up on more than the former-Welsh-Jesus.

As for the Chelsea loss, I don’t think anyone can say anything more honest or damning than the performance. Sadly, it was enough to push me into the Wenger Out camp. I’ve gone from optimist to realist in the span of a few Arsenal-y months.

I get it now, that feeling that so many bloggers have tried to quantify the last few years. It’s like “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,” only times 10.

This is only my 6th season of obsessive Arsenal watching, but I’ve been fooled enough times.

I’m done.

Arsene Wenger doesn’t believe in properly preparing a tight, well-organized defense, and in 2017, it’s impossible to win major trophies without one. Everyone knows he doesn’t care about defense, but that philosophy is no-longer relevant.

He’s also incapable of the kind of obsessive, detail-oriented perfection that real winning requires. I think it’s impossible, at this point, that he’ll suddenly acquire those personality traits. He’s fatally flawed, and not that it matters, but I’m finally ready for someone new.



  1. Let me just get these cliches out of the way:

    1) You don’t know anything about football, why do you get to say that Wenger, the most respected man in Arsenal history has to go?
    2) Name the manager who will replace him! (This is Sealioning, they are just baiting you so that they can shit on your choices and pretend that Wenger is better than every other choice in the world)
    3) If we lose Wenger, we lose Özil (good riddance) and anyone who says Özil should go doesn’t know anything about football (see point #1).
    4) Be careful what you wish for! Look at Man U/Liverpool/Chelsea/Man City/etc.

    Anyway, I agree with Jonathan and have now for over two years. Wenger is not organizing his team and keeping them motivated. This squad is talented enough to win the Premier League. I kept looking at Chelsea and thinking Arsenal are better than them. I also thought the same last year when Wenger lost the title to Leicester, who are now in a relegation battle. Whether that’s the players not giving their all for the team or Wenger not motivating them is irrelevant. If they players aren’t giving their all the fault is ultimately the manager’s and he has to pay the price.

    Chelsea and Leicester are instructive here, they offer us a foil of what’s happening at Arsenal at the moment. Chelsea two years ago stabbed Mourinho in the back and now they are winning the League. Leicester this year stabbed Ranieri in the back and now they are, like Chelsea last year, scrounging around in mid-table mediocrity. Wenger’s Arsenal are on the verge of the same. I am now guaranteeing that Arsenal finish below Spurs and that we will even finish below Man U, possibly in 6th. Actually, I hope we finish 6th. Because 5th would suck ass and I’m tired of Arsenal in the Champions League with literally no chance of winning the competition.

    This club needs a top to bottom change. Sorry if that bothers you but that’s where I’m at.

    1. It doesn’t bother me but it does sadden me. There are ups and downs in every season and while I understand your disappointment, I think you’re being harsh.

      1. I’ve been through the ups and downs with Wenger now for almost 20 years. Which part is the harsh part?

        1. We’ve all be through the ups and downs. Pretty much your whole post is harsh, beginning with the “cliche” prophylaxis (which are actually reasonable counterpoints, especially 2 and 4), and through comparisons to Leicester’s midtable mediocrity, to finishing with hoping that we finish 6th and calling for “top to bottom change.”

          It’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it but yeah, that all sounds pretty drastic to me.

          1. Tim,
            For what it’s worth, this is your site so you can write what you want, but I also thought much of your comment was a bit over the top and harsh (actually, the words I was thinking of were ‘snide’ and ‘mean spirited’).

            I actually agree with Jonathan’s post. I sympathize with the frustration and the sense that it’s time for a change. But I agree with Doc that I don’t see any reason to sneer at the counterpoints about the dangers of what comes after Wenger, I don’t know how you can possibly “guarantee” that we will finish below Man U and Spurs (it could well happen, but as predictable as our mid-season collapse over the last few years is our finishing above Spurs and in the top 4 (which is unlikely if we finish below both of them), so I personally wouldn’t bet against those two Wenger-era records being extended this season), and I don’t understand your incredibly dismissive “good riddance” reference to Ozil leaving.

            On the last point, I’m sure I have a reputation around here for being an Ozil apologist (I freely admit I happen to love the way he plays), but here’s my brief take on his Arsenal career, and I’d be curious how many people here would actually disagree with the following:

            1. He had a pretty slow start at the club, but since coming back from longterm injury in the second half of 2014-15 (almost exactly two years ago) he’s consistently (albeit with natural ups and downs in form) been one of our best players.
            2. Last season, in addition to all the assists, he was our best offensive player over the course of the whole season (admittedly not an amazing accolade), and while his form tailed off after the New Year, that coincided with the whole team struggling mightily, in particular the central midfield that feeds him the ball. And on the few occasions in the spring that we did play really well (e.g. off the top of my head: Bournemouth away, Everton away, West Ham away in the first half) Ozil was heavily involved.
            3. This season, from the beginning until the Stoke game in December, when he scored that gorgeous looping header goal, Ozil was one of our 2 or 3 best players. He hasn’t been great since, but with a few exceptions (e.g. Man City) I don’t think he’s been nearly as bad as advertised. He missed several games in Dec-Jan, and I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks our recent problems–defensive errors, weirdly complacent starts, inability to deal with the high press, general disjointedness, lack of clear style brought about in part by falling back on relying on Giroud, etc–hardly begin or end with Ozil.

            If you don’t appreciate his reluctance to sign a new contract, or don’t think he’s worth the megabucks, fair enough. But “good riddance” implies that you actually actively don’t want him at our club, and it suggests disdain for a player who–if the above is even close to accurate–has overall been very good for us over the last two years, and made a lot of positive contributions–surely more than negative ones. He’s been disappointing at times, but then the same could be said of every current Arsenal player, including Alexis (who was atrocious against Chelsea btw–Adrian Clarke on the Breakdown doesn’t come right out and say he was one of our worst players, but makes a pretty good case for it).

            Heck, even players that frustrate the heck out of me at times, e.g. Ramsey, Walcott, Giroud, and whose sale wouldn’t especially bother me, I don’t think I would dismiss with “good riddance,” unless I thought their attitude was seriously rotten. Even though I think all three of those players are stupid and selfish at times on the pitch, I also think they genuinely try their best for the club, and I genuinely want them to succeed (though Giroud’s ridiculous scorpion celebration at 3-3 against Bournemouth almost pushed me over the edge).

            Anyway, I could go on (e.g. why Ozil’s perceived “softness” or “laziness” is, at worst, not obviously a worse vice than Alexis’s penchant for over-dribbling and bad passes…), but I won’t. Passionate defense over.

        2. I’ve been an Arsenal supporter for 50 years.Wenger will never win the leaque again have a look at the invincibles all wanted to win all tried every game for 90 minutes.Now have a look at Ozil Ramsay Walcott just to name a few pathetic and Wenger keeps playing them along with the other donkey’s

        3. I’ve been an Arsenal supporter for 50 years.Wenger will never win the leaque again have a look at the invincibles all wanted to win all tried every game for 90 minutes.Now have a look at Ozil Ramsay Walcott just to name a few pathetic and Wenger keeps playing them along with the other donkey’s.So Wenger can leave ASAP

    2. Obviously, you came to this conclusion a couple of years before I did. Watching the Patriots last night only further convinced me. Arsene Wenger doesn’t have the cutting edge any longer, not to win the EPL or Champions League. There was a time, about three seasons ago, when the club went on a defense first run at the end of the year that helped them squeak into 4th, again. I thought maybe it was the dawn of something new.

      But in retrospect, it was just a little phase, like Aaron Ramsey’s purple patch. The real problem, I think, which you’ve also written about before, is that Stan Kroenke doesn’t foster a culture of “win at all costs” in any of his other sports enterprises. Why should Arsenal be different?

      1. The last time this team had the mentality to win something big was 2006. We got to the champions league final with Flamini and Senderos, ffs.

    3. I would take 6th, even though finishing behind Utd again would hurt, a lot. But with Spurs now a team good enough to win it, and the best of Guardiola probably coming next year (as well as Mou doing his 2nd year thing), it would certainly help to have a new manager, hungry players, and no CL to distract us.

      Just not Eddie fucking Howe.

      (I would love to see Simeone, and I think, with a midfield addition or two, he could turn this team into a lean, mean, defensive machine. And I’d welcome it.)

      1. This. What JB hits right on the head, and what the last two matches impressed upon me the most is how much AFC could use some defensive organization. I would love Simeone.
        Howe would be terrible. It would be like Wenger with less experience.
        “But what about AFC’s beautiful attacking football?”
        As Tim pointed out, we’re not doing that particularly well.
        Also, I may be in the minority here, but I love to watch Simeone’s teams play. Everyone committed to the cause. Fast transitions.
        Could he recreate success at a PL team?
        I hope he gets a chance.

    4. “I kept looking at Chelsea and thinking Arsenal are better than them.” Disagree on this. Don’t forget it’s the bulk of the Chelsea team that won the Premier League 2 years ago, fair and square. Conte added to that winning team players like Kante, Alonso, Luiz, and Batshuayi. Arsenal may have more depth for some positions, but for the starting XI, the Blues are better. CF: Costa is just as good as Sanchez and better than Giroud or Welbeck. AM/LW: Same thing with Hazard and Ozil. RW: I’d take Pedro or even Willian over Walcott. CM: I’d take Kante and Matic over any combination of Coquelin, Cazorla and Xhaka. RB: I’d take Bellerin over Moses or Ivanovic. LB: I’d take Alonso or Azpilicueta over Monreal. CB: Koscielny is better than Luiz or Cahill, but Mustafi is not necessarily better than Luiz or Cahill. With Conte’s back-three system, it’s a tie. GK: I’d take Courtois over Cech. By my count, it’s 4-1 for Chelsea.

  2. Like I’ve said many times before, sacking your manager and getting a new one in is well and good as long as you’re reasonably sure you’re going to be better off than with the previous manager. It doesn’t matter when any of us reach our respective tipping points with Wenger; he will leave the club at some point (it could be in a few months) and we have to think about how to replace him. The opportunity to do that has little to do with his body of work this season; he’s hardly an unknown quantity. It has to do with who can step into his formidable footsteps and be successful. Whoever it is, and I don’t envy the man, he will have Wenger’s ghost dogging him at every step of the way while he tries to navigate an ever more competitive PL landscape dotted with the most decorated managers in modern football history. That doesn’t sound like a job we can hand off to just the flavor of the month up and coming manager from the Bundesliga or wherever else; it has to be part of a carefully prepared succession plan, which will probably involve Wenger still directing some traffic behind the scenes.

    1. Nope. You don’t need to get a better manager. You just need to move on. This is now a dysfunctional relationship at Arsenal and things just need to change. We will always be one of the richest clubs in the world and will always be able to afford to rebuild. It’s time to rebuild. This is fundamentally broken.

        1. I wouldn’t say this is a sudden brokenness. This weakness in the team has been there for years. We see it every year: one or two injuries and Wenger needs to do some crazy shuffle, the shuffle causes a glaring weakness in the team, which is exploited by the opponents. There are also other fundamental faws such as with the defensive organization. Wenger’s weakness is defensive organization, relying on center backs who are good at putting out fires rather than a whole team structure that protects the goal.

          Lately as well, Arsenal aren’t even good at ball control. In other words, we are susceptible to any pressure. This has been a problem even when we have Cazorla and Özil in the team at the same time.

          And what’s strange about that is that we are also not a physically imposing side.

          So, we aren’t going to win in a physical contest, we don’t play possession-based football very well, we don’t play defense-first football, we don’t play a pressing game, Wenger has players on the pitch who his has to shoehorn into weird positions, we constantly have an injury crisis, players take forever to develop, and Wenger struggles to get the best out of a lot of players.

          We also have a propensity to just collapse in title challenges.

          So, if that’s not fundamentally broken, what is?

          1. Wow. What a succinct synopsis. Exactly what I’ve only just figured out lately. There is no system here. He’s not doing what Pochettino is doing. Nor what Conte nor Klopp are doing. There’s no philosophy except “expressive offensive-minded football” and I’d maintain that’s just not enough to win. You might not need 3 CB’s defensively, but you can’t have players who shirk, and you have to have a team that moves together in an organized fashion w/o the ball.

          2. Sounds to me like you’re wilfully ignoring the good to focus on the bad. Easy to do that after we drop two straight and out of a title challenge for another year. But it also seems impulsive and over the top in that context. You didn’t seem to think anything was fundamentally broken last week, at least not by your writing, yet the issues you describe are, as you say, not new.

          3. What happens with Arsenal, Doc, is that I write something like the piece about Walcott where I praise his new-found defensive focus and THE NEXT DAY he reminds me that he is still the same old Walcott by allowing his marker to run right past him and elbow a teammate in the head. Statistically, he is tackling more but he’s still Walcott: the guy who switches all the way off every two or three games and Arsenal get burned for it.

            The same with Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey isn’t always the kind of guy who just lets a player take the ball away from him, he’s got some good moments, but just every once in a while he gives up on possession and the opponent steals the ball away. This is what I keep getting reminded of: the broken part is that we have players like Ramsey and Walcott who may show sparks of improvement but when we get into an important game which will likely decide the fate of the season, they switch off.

            Also, it’s been a run of bad games from Arsenal stretching back to Bournemouth. All of which reminded me of why I shouldn’t have faith in this team or this manager.

            So, yeah, there is some good in this team but I am now a faithless elector when it comes to them winning anything.

      1. Change for the sake of change sounds like a dangerous concept, don’t you think? Putting anger with the establishment aside, let’s not pretend like this club is headed up by some fourteen year old boy trapped inside the body of a golden hued septageneraian. The board may be headed by crusty old British bankers and and an inscrutable foreign investor with a penchant for subtlety, but I far prefer that to being sponsored by shady Russian billions, the nation of Abu Dhabi or the insecurities of Daniel Levy.

        Whatever you may think of Arsene’s leadership right now (and I’ve critiqued him plenty of late as well), he’s invested his adult life into this club and he deserves more than to be cast aside like last week’s rubbish with no clear preference or plan for who’s going to take his place.

        1. No one knows if there is a clear plan. I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be one. This is effectively a multimillion pound company and people actually assume that no thought goes into planning for the future. Sorry- you can have on Kroenke all you want but the man is where he is because he is a smart businessman.

        2. “he’s invested his adult life into this club”
          Don’t want to sound HARSH but he has made more in a week than 90% of paying Arsenal make in a year.. what about their adult life? Wenger gets to do what he loves and luckily gets paid handsomely for it, it’s not like he’s forced in to labour and being made to pay for fans mistakes. He’s not account for anything.
          Before you point out that he could’ve gone to Real or Bayern etc, let me say this: their was AFC before Wenger and their will be AFC after him. Just like there are no guarantees of success after him, no one can guarantee well be worse off either. Wenger needs to hang his gloves like a gentleman before destroying his legacy that he worked so hard to build.

          1. In THEIR adult life THEY get to decide what they want to do for diversion. If they’re too freaking spoiled to enjoy attacking football consistently at the top echelons of football then I’m very very sorry for them. I’m not sorry that Arsenal fans have had to endure Arsene Wenger, their greatest all time manager, perhaps a little longer before he should have moved on to a different job. Not at all.

          2. Oh and you want accountability? How about the mainstream media? Social media? Arsenal’s supporters trust? Interviews twice a week? Sign toting fans at the stadium? People accosting him from the stands and his own fans even at train stations? Oh he’s not slipping under the radar, not one bit. I’m amazed he hasn’t walked away yet.

            I don’t really know what to say to you if you think his salary is the reason he still puts up with all that to do his job. The man is 67, he’s made plenty to be able to retire comfortably, plus he could have, many times, gone to manage other clubs for bigger salaries. He’s never ditched the sinking ship like some of you want to ditch him.

        3. Ah, yes! The moral high ground. When defending the indefensible, there is always the moral high ground.

          1. What moral high ground? It’s fact. He does not deserve to be cast aside simply for the sake of change.

  3. I have heard it often that Wenger’s ASN is a broken team; but somehow, when Wenger is supposed to hit bottom, the team rises up again. When the team is supposed to rise to the top, it hits bottom again.
    That is what happens within these 12 years and in the past.
    I am not sure if Spurs will finish above ASN, because they also show signs of implosion. They can only draw 0-0 with Sunderland, beat Boro with a penalty. Can they beat the wounded animal of Liverpool in the next Premier League game? Chelsea and Leicester offer a template of winning the league in the few years ahead. Good defence, starting in midfield, with a Matic and Kante type of duo and efficient counter attacking football. Wenger and Pep will not flourish, only Conte and Mourinho can; neither can Pochettino and Klopp.

  4. Arsene was a great manager, but at this point he just is not at all. I don’t want to get into an “is it the players or manager” game, but so many issues *appear* to come from the bench. The team all too often looks disorganized and unprepared from the start… and they seem unable to cope tactically with changing dynamics in the game. In-game adjustments to issues seem slow or never come–adjustments are not always going to work, of course, but we regularly seem to do nothing obvious.

  5. Great piece from Jonathan. Really enjoyed it.

    Dr Gooner – wanting Wenger may be harsh. I so admire and respect him but as Tim says, the time is long past that we move on come what may.

    I have said the same here on multi ple posts.

    Do you really have an appetite for another 3rd/4th place scramble in April?

    Yes, at face value we have been better than at least 75% of our peers for 20 years. Why?

    Because in most of those years we have had enough collection of talent to beat any team in the world on our day.

    But a collection of talent is not a team. An organized, disciplined collective of young men who are driven, motivated and United to use their talent to get to that next level.

    1. I don’t disagree. I’ve been harsh on his preparations and team selections lately as well and I think with just cause. I do think he’s fallen behind the times and there is an element of riding luck/talent which is undeniable. I just think we need to have a clear plan in place to succeed him, not cast him aside simply for the sake of change.

    2. Also, let’s not undermine his accomplishments in the first 10 years of his career because he had a lot of talent. So did a lot of other clubs. I don’t buy the “he was never great” narrative at all. He won championships in 3 different leagues including in one where there was rampant corruption going on all the time. He was great. He isn’t great anymore, not compared to his younger (now) contemporaries, and it probably is about time to move on to someone else. But who? and how? Those are the relevant questions that nobody is answering.

      1. Yes, yes, yes. It’s really important that we don’t rewrite history to say Wenger wasn’t a great manager. This is so short sighted and disrespectful it beggars belief, and I can only assume that those who make such claims weren’t mature, avid fans of English football at the time. If you were watching football in England closely in the nineties and early 2000’s, you know his teams revolutionized the game (true confession: as an American who discovered European soccer as a kid in the early nineties, I wasn’t even a committed fan of the Arsenal at the time, so I like to think I can give a pretty unbiased version of events).
        Yes, Arsenal were a big club, but they had definitely stagnated under late-Graham and Rioch, their much-vaunted defense was aging, Bergkamp had come from Inter as a bit of a flop (he never would have signed for Arsenal at that time if he hadn’t been) and had yet to hit the heights his incredible talents made possible in North London, and Arsenal’s midfield was definitely a huge step down from Man United’s, whose closest challengers looked likely to be Newcastle and Liverpool for the foreseeable future. In less than two years, Arsene made Arsenal champions, playing some of the best football the country had ever seen, with a host of new signings that no one in England had ever heard of. He came within a whisker of repeating the next season, then firmly established Arsenal as the second best team in the country while rebuilding the team, which went on to great success in 2002 and 2004, as everyone knows.
        Yes, yes, coming to England from Europe at that time had its advantages, but it also brought its challenges. And his teams didn’t just win, they absolutely smashed other teams. People will always remember his 2004 team, but they really shouldn’t forget that the team was consistently brilliant from 1997 to 2005.
        No, they weren’t organized at the level of today’s best teams; yes, they did rely on their superior talent. But who brought that talent together, and gave them the structure and freedom to express themselves? And that was a different time. No manager in England, and few if any in the world, were anywhere close to as sophisticated in their coaching as the current breed is. By the standards set down at that time, the levels required to succeed, Wenger was an unqualified, brilliant, glorious success. He scared/angered the h*ll out of Fergie, bringing the petty, childish worst out of the great Scot. That says it all, really.

      2. Wenger is the greatest manager that Arsenal have had.

        How do we move on? He retires.
        Who do we hire? It doesn’t matter. We are going to struggle. The modern game is so different to the way I knew football 20 years ago and there is so much more money in the League that it truly doesn’t matter: Chelsea, United, City, those teams are going to keep winning titles because they buy up the best players and best managers. I don’t see Arsenal ever doing that.

        So, what then? Well, we have to hope that the club can catch lightning in a bottle. Basically we need a Suarez or an Henry. Once we have that guy we need a structure around them that lets them excel.

        We aren’t going to be as consistent as Arsene. I think we will be worse off. I also think that’s inevitable. But one day, hopefully, we will find the right combination to win the League.

        The only other option is to get rid of Kroenke and get an owner in who is willing to help bankroll a title. I don’t ever see that happening.

          1. No. You’re moving on from Wenger because it is pretty clear that he has taken the club as far as he can. The transition from Wenger has to happen, should have happened. In any event, one or two backward steps are inevitable given the massive shadow Wenger casts at the club.

          2. Sheila, why should it be necessary to go backward? We don’t need a bloody coup but a peaceful transition of power and Wenger can and should be a part of that. I think it’s the only way it can work.

        1. “We aren’t going to be as consistent as Arsene. I think we will be worse off. I also think that’s inevitable. But one day, hopefully, we will find the right combination to win the League.”

          This. I am an Arsenal and Arsene die-hard fan. A romantic that would rather consistently finish fourth with Arsene behind the wheel than win with a soulless manager, if you see what I mean.

          But I have been torn lately. Frustrated – perhaps more with the owners – that the comfort of consistent top four finishes did not translate into risking additional resources to get one or two Henry/Suarez for a genuine challenge.

          I can see how winning the premier league every so often at the cost of more variance over time is tempting, but I am fearful of the potential “bad years” – consistency can be underrated and taken for granted, and we have been privileged in that respect for the last 20 years; but I have to agree that if our reliability is not used as a platform to invest in a genuine title challenge, then Arsene’s philosophy cannot resolve – there is not much art in reproducing the same piece over and over.

          Yet I see the progress made in the last few years – we didn’t lose key players, got Mesut, Alexis, Mustafi and Xhaka… we “just” need to step it up? I feel we’re so close, yet maybe as close as Zeno’s Achilles to the tortoise.

          Tim, thanks for the outstanding blog.

        2. I can absolutely understand and accept that as a position, because you’re being realistic about the likely outcomes. In the age of the super-club/ oligarch-trophy-club where do we really fit? Somewhere just off the top with liverpool and sp*rs, hoping to get lucky. Which is where we’ve been for years now, hence the urge for change.

          Honestly, I can’t really argue against it – the end of this contract would mark a sensible break point. It would placate a restive fanbase. The squad that is fairly deep (albeit lacking top end talent in key positions) but its future shape will depend heavily on who stays and goes this summer, so it makes sense to give the new man his say on it now.

          And yet.

          I’m a stupid romantic. I want to believe that football can be more than an ego trip for the rich and socially destructive. I want to believe that the beautiful game and it’s rich history retain some value beyond captive key marketing demographics.

          Gambling websites. Junkfood. Fifa’s figleaf for hire dangled over slave-states and homophobes. Rupert Fucking Murdoch. Why am I still watching this sport?? But I don’t want to give up on it. I think I’d rather be wrong with Wenger than right with Jorge Mendes. But, like I say, I’m a stupid romantic.

  6. Who to replace Wenger? How about the control freak Benitez, who is always available? At least he may win us the Champions League! He is good at organizing defence and winning mean and ugly. Players like Ramsay, Walcott, Ozil, the Ox …even Iwobi who don’t like to and cannot do defence can go. Now, players like Perez who can defend are left on the bench …

    1. Please no. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

      As much as winning is fun, so too is watching good, free-flowing football. As much as losing is painful, so too is watching eye-bleedingly boring, over-coached football. Benitez is good at CL runs, I’ll give you that, but his “style” of football doesn’t even guarantee success (like Mourinho’s does, or did), and it’s often very drab.

      I’m not saying Wenger in, I’m just saying we can do a hell of a lot better. Someone young, with fresh enthusiasm and ideas, who can organize us defensively but doesn’t give up on our passing/attacking ethos, which Wenger has done so much to build.

    2. For me it’s gotta be Simeone. Even though they’re struggling a little this year, their defensive record is still top notch. I for one would welcome a change. A team that is ruthless and as tight at the back as an alligator’s ass would be very welcome.

      1. Not for me. I just like being entertained too much. Tuchel or another one of the Germans, maybe. I haven’t watched much of Allegri’s Juve but I didn’t enjoy his Milan. But I kinda like the cheeky idea of stealing Pochettino. Maybe he wouldn’t come for fear of looking bad, but I think the way he left Southampton shows he’s happy to put ambition ahead of loyalty, and we have far better resources (better squad, more money, bigger global fan base, more success and Champions League pedigree, and we don’t need to build a new stadium). His teams are dirty foulers, mind.

      2. Count me in as a Simeone hopeful. I would argue his teams are entertaining. They play so compact, and when they break it can be beautiful. Tuchel’s BvB is loose defensively. Pochettino is tempting, but that late-season collapse whiffs of a breakdown in discipline. If we have to trade sterile possession for fast-flowing counter attacks then I’m ok with that. I don’t think you need possession to showcase incisive passing.

        1. I don’t disagree that Athletico CAN be entertaining. They can also be boring as boring can be (and more than a little cynical in terms of time-wasting, etc, all the things about football I hate the most because it’s a) fundamentally trying to gain an unfair advantage and b) hurting the entertainment value of the match, which, after all, is the whole point football exists).
          I like Simeone as a coach and I admire his teams. But it’s certainly a trade-off: what percentage of overall play devoted to killing-the-game boredom and defense-first conservatism before one begins to think wistfully back to the Wenger era? This is a genuine, rather than rhetorical, question.
          Also, rather than get the best out of a number of very talented, exciting, still-youthful players that we have, I fear he’d sell most of them and fill his midfield with blood-and-thunder workhorses like Gabi, with only one or at most two mercurial talents tolerated up top. I’m sure that sounds like music to the ears of some fans, and, again, I see the attraction, given how mentally weak and defensively suspect we have been (at least in patches) for what seems like eternity. But it’s still not my ideal: I think some other young, dynamic coaches could take pretty much our exact current squad and make us defensively sound and mentally tough, while keeping us relentlessly, thrillingly offensive. I don’t like everything about him either, but Pochettino stands out as one who could do this.

          1. As a strategy, frustrating opponents and seizing on their mistakes is something I fully support, as long as the goal is to win. To take all 3 points and not go for the draw. We’ve seen Simeone’s teams try this, and still lose. It’s no guarantee. To your point about youth players, I tend to agree that he gives chances to only a few, and usually they are attacking talents. That is somewhat worrisome.
            I’m not an Atleti supporter, so it’s hard to say how much I could take before tiring of defense-first, but given that I support Arsenal, I found the cohesion and team-first mentality of AM thrilling when applied to favored opponents like Barca and Madrid. This is probably more a reflection on Arsenal’s weaknesses than a preference for Simeone’s style. Likewise, my desire to see Wenger replaced by a coach like Simeone is more informed by my emotions over our recent capitulations than anything else. It’s tiring, however to support a team that seems, no matter the quality in the side, to repeat the same defensive sins year after year. The worst is knowing the team is defensively weak, and waiting for the inevitable. It’s hard to respect Arsenal when it’s public knowledge that we can be sliced to pieces in the first 5 minutes of a match following a 5-0 victory.
            Pochettino does seem to be able to get his sides to defend.
            A more defensive-minded coach is needed, perhaps Simeone is too far to that end of the spectrum, but I wouldn’t trust Tuchel, Howe, or even Allegri to correct this. What about Sampaoli?

  7. Wonderfully written piece, Jonathan.

    My “done with Wenger” happened last season. He needs to go, but I don’t think our board will see it that way. The only way he leaves is if he chooses to do so, and…I think he may indeed choose to do so at the end of this season.

    I studied Russian history for a year, and this was back in 1996. The only reason for doing so was because I had started to really like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and, to a lesser extent, Gogol. I ended up making friends with these two other guys in the course and we would go out after every class and get drunk at the pub. The evening always ended the same way, with us arguing really, really loudly about whether religion or atheism has killed more people. What a waste of time, but it sure felt like we were discussing super important stuff and resolving not-at-all inane questions about the world.

    Speaking of college, can I just ask y’all: When did “everything is a construct” start being a pervasive ‘given’ in the academy and now even in certain sections of the popular media? I rarely heard things like “gender is a construct,” etc., when I was in college in the 1990’s. I think the only place those phrases were de rigueur were in Women’s Studies programs, etc. But now you hear it everywhere. Just wondered where you first heard this, or came to encounter the idea? Or maybe you haven’t?

    1. Ah, you liberal arts majors. In life sciences our whole life was consumed with memorization of fact. Happily I can avoid conversations about social constructs just by going to work. Having said that, I’ve never considered that atheism has killed nearly as many people as religion.

      1. It’s a weird kind of orthodoxy now. People don’t even think to consider whether it’s true. It’s just a blanket phrase that seems to be given (the irony being that it’s a product of thinking which sought to disrupt any notion of givens). There are interesting philosophers within the humanities who argue really convincingly against social constructivism (e.g., Martha Nussbaum, Paul Boghossian), but I don’t see them getting much attention.

        You can murder in the name of anything, and I’m not sure doing a body count really gets to the heart of the matter. For example, I’m not sure I know what it means to say that ‘religion’ or ‘atheism’ has killed people. It depends on what versions of those beliefs you hold to be representative.

        1. FWIW, in mainstream Anglo-American (i.e. “analytic”) philosophy, the idea that “everything is a construct” is still very much a minority view. That kind of facile thinking is more common in other humanities disciplines, I think, but unfortunately 18 year olds drink it in like gospel.

    2. Bunburyist, do you mean CONstruct as in social construct as in what society and culture dictate or conSTRUCT as in what Trump is dictating? Because I have my trowel and mortar mix ready to help build that wall. Not that he’d let a Canadian work south of the border without an H1B:)

      1. Or even that he would acknowledge an H1B! Certainly, I foresee a grim demise for the NAFTA TN visa.

    3. Thanks for the props, B. Not sure if everything is a construct, but it is trendy these days to say that all of reality is a simulation.

  8. Arsenal needs to recognize that the league rewards organized defense and having a few mercurial talants to score in tough games. I cant expect Wenger to suddenly organize this team into a capable unit.

    I promise I am not trying to spit hot taeks here, but what keeps a post-Wenger Arsenal from becoming Newcastle? From what Phillipe Auclair was saying on the last Arsecast, there is not a whole lot of planning on how to move forward. That being the unknown, the known is the we have a crap owner that would probably move the team to the Moon if he could leverage naming rights and get a free stadium. Perhaps i am suffering the effects of fake news-inspired winning fatigue, but the choice between predictable disappointment and giving more authority bunch of rich guys with no football experience or interest in results makes me put a little bit handbrake on my expectations for the next few seasons.

    That said, i will still show and and root for an impossibly stupid champions league run.

  9. It’s sadly fascinating to see how a venerable philosopher like Wenger, a figure whose breadth of wisdom and depth of intellect surely transcends the mundaneness of sport itself, has fallen victim to the age-old Achilles heel of the visionary leader, namely the invisible and vitiating cloak of self-believed invincibility. Once a revolutionary and aristocratic iconoclast (pardon the oxymoron!), Wenger is now perceived to be the epitome of the fossilized Arsenal boardroom establishment and an obdurate monolith barricading new and exciting frontiers. When the dust settles on his chapter in Arsenal history, as it soon mercifully should, I will deeply regret that this proud and wonderful Arsenal servant’s best years were spent performing the veritable miracle of compulsorily turning the hard water of the likes of Denilson, Song, Djourou, Senderos and Almunia, into the frothy bubbly of champions league qualification, season after harrowing season. Those years undoubtedly forced on him greater patience with imperfection, a patience akin to paternal indulgence, and blunted the ruthless competitive edge so vital to staying ahead of the field. It lowered Wenger’s expectations and standard and has led to the persisting dilution of ambition at the club. Now sapped of vim and necessary ‘viciousness’, the Wenger we currently see is but a shell of the great pioneer that marched confidently into Highbury’s hallowed chambers. It deeply grieves my heart because I absolutely love the man. But his time has come…

  10. I moved into the Wenger out camp about a yr ago, respectfully I have to add as I love Arsene and don’t think he’s doing a terrible nob, but he’s not doing a brilliant job and giving us our best chance to win the league. He’s built a good squad now, we could be stronger but on paper it’s very strong vs other teams. Even with better players we still see the same problems. The usual rebuttals to anyone questioning Arsene usually are

    1. He didn’t tell the players to be rubbish or play badly in big games – well he should be stopping it happen consistently and if no sudden change bye bye, transfer list

    2. Who could replace him? Lots of Manager’s – we could get Poch from Spurs in a heartbeat if we we were serious about it, that’s an example of one you wouldn’t necessarily say but it’s so doable. There are also some excellent young managers in Germany who look very smart and astute – Arsene could even go upstairs and mentor them on some aspects of management

    3. What would another manager do differently and no guarantee of it working – well what he’s doing now and has been doing isn’t working, we’re treading water in terms of improving, with more drilling and vision we could be a monster team. We now currently flit in between games, not even parts of a season from pressing in the first 10 minutes to shitting our pants and dropping deep, players haven’t a clue what to do!

    Fear of change is not a reason to give Arsene another contract, success and winning the league or giving it a good shot possibly would be. Let’s still like him but say goodbye!

    1. Good points, all.

      Getting Pochettino isn’t a given, but it might just be possible, and it would be kinda brilliant: making us stronger (I don’t love everything about his style, but I think we would improve) while simultaneously destroying the chances of our most hated rival (Spurs would slip back to Redknapp-era levels without him).

      Of course, we would never try.

  11. I am still ambivalent. I am not altogether convinced it is time for Wenger to go. For some reason, which I can’t explain, we seem to play important games without the full compliment of our team. I believe nay know that the games against Watford and Chelsea would have been different if we had our regular midfield. I blame Xhaka for his stupidity but what happened against Watford would never had happened if he was playing. We played Chelsea with the Ox as our b2b. While he played well and may very well end up in that position, on the day, he was new to that position.
    Chelsea is a runaway leader. Nobody could have foreseen this not even Chelsea. Pep and Jose spent all the money in the world and are still not better than Arsenal. Even Spurs that everybody seems to be praising are only 3 points in front of us and also 9 behind Chelsea. Are they -9 points bad when compared to Chelsea? They beat Chelsea convincely some weeks ago just like we did earlier in the season. In fact, one can argue that we demolished Chelsea more convincely when everybody on both teams were available.
    The more I write, the more convinced I am that Wenger should stay. Some of the comments above also seem to suggest that we have a better team than Chelsea. However’ clearly Chelsea’s team as we all know is much more expensive. My take is that our team is better because of Arsene and nobody else. He makes players a lot better. You can look at almost all the players that leave Arsenal in their prime, they don’t get better rather they start to deteriorate.
    Yes we lost on Saturday to the runaway league leader on their home field in a match WE needed to win so had to attack against a team that beat Man City at the Etihad and that plays primarily on the counter with our starting midfield depleted( I personally don’t think Coq belongs to this Arsenal team as he is a liability once we get the ball back and our defense is really based on us having the ball)
    Since we had to attack, unless we scored first the game was always going to be very difficult to win. We didn’t score first they did and yes it was a foul. Even accidents are fouls. We had chances to score that on another day we could have been a goal up going into the second half. Sanchez had an off day not because he wasn’t trying or because Wenger is a bad coach, he just had a bad day.
    The only argument I will make against Wenger which was clear in this game is lack of defensive help. The first and second goal resulted or could have been made harder if the boys were more inclined like Chelsea players to ALWAYS defensively help. Walcott should have run with Alonzo and Ozil should have ran towards Hazard and Coq and forced him to give up the ball.
    I know it is the easy way to say Wenger out because we haven’t won the league in a very long time. But we will be losing a truly remarkable coach not just for what he won and how he grew the club but perhaps more importantly how he develops players and builds teams and playing style. The team he is building since he has a new financial lease is almost complete give him a chance to enjoy it.

  12. It’s long past time for Wenger to go probably about 5 year past. Yes, the FA Cups were excellent, but we have only challenged for the league once since the Invincibles. That for me is poor. I also think that he spent his money during the ‘lean’ years very unwisely by trying to establish some sort of socialist wage structure. Despite this, how he kept us in CL qualification with the likes of Eboue, Bendtner, and Sylvestre is remarkable. He is still a good manager, but he just hasn’t evolved his philosophy to include what his team does without the ball. Some may argue that it is also a problem with the ball too nowadays.

    Personally, I think that he is off at the end of the year and all of the people who say that they hate the man, will probably give the man the respect that he deserves.

  13. I dread the day that Arsene leaves, not because I’ll miss him particularly, but because we have nobody at the club capable of recognising managerial talent in the way that David Dein could.
    Gazidis has no clue about most things football related and Kronke & son are more likely to install some US acolyte come coach.
    Oh yes! Ramsey has returned to being “Ramsey”

  14. Ugh. I agree with this. It’s just time to move on and I’m sad for Arsene that it is ending this way. Our defending is pathetic, and Ozil and Alexis played and looked like players who have just recently made up thir minds that their futures lie elsewhere. And who would blame them?!

  15. My personal wish: Arsenal finish out of European competitions, and The Prof stays one more year. Then, we’ll know how good (or bad) he is before he retires. The two must happen together for my wish to come true. No slicing and dicing.

  16. I have recently moved to the Wenger out camp. I believe he earned his shot to move the club forward, and all the fans saying he should of left 5 years ago have not been proved correct. The two FA cups attest to that.

    The problem is at Arsenal the issues are structural, cultural, and philosophical.
    – We have an owner asleep at the wheel, happy with the state quo. This does not foster a winning culture.

    – Arsene is wedded to his philosophy – admirable. Unfortunately the current fashion of the modern game doesn’t lead itself to ‘jazz’ football.

    This leads into the third point – we seem to go into games unprepared, either mentally not at the races or tactically lost. Sometimes both. Is it too easy to be an Arsenal player?

    Two of those three problems are up to Wenger to solve, and he hasn’t. There has to be accountability somewhere.

    I think we really screwed up in the so called ‘banter’ era by not showing more ambition in the market. Would things have been different if we had Alonso bossing midfield instead of Denilson? If we’d ponied up the cash to sign Cech 10 years ago? Mata? Hazard? It was that period which sowed the seeds of discontent, and was a huge opportunity. Arsenal – always one or two signings from greatness.

    To paraphrase Heraclitus ‘change is the only constant in life’. Not even Arsene can escape that.

    1. The other huge lost opportunity (as has been said many times) was last season. With one or two additions, in the areas we strengthened this season but a year earlier, and a bit more mental toughness, we could have caught Leicester down the stretch with relative ease, and, whatever happened this season, we’d currently be champions of England.

      How crazy does it still look that Cech was our only signing last summer??? I love Arsene, but patience with him has to run out at some point.

  17. Yup, I think Wenger has been given his fair chance and he has blown it. The club needs to change, for better or worse, in order to move on.

    But let’s not turn this uglier than it should be.

    Wenger is not a world beater, but he is certainly one of the best of the rest. As attested by all the consecutive top 4 positions.

    I think it will be really be turning up our noses if we try to explain our situation and angst to other fans.

    Like the kid who got 4th in class trying to explain his rage and disappointment to the ones that flunk.

  18. My head is spinning going through all the comments. I will come simple, I hope.

    If all the managers were equal, Arsenal would always be 4th in the race behind Man U, Man C and Chelsea. Liverpool should be 5th, Tot 6th. So says their financial muscles.

    In the last 6yrs (ie from 2010/11) below the average positions of the teams.

    1st- Man C with average position of 2.17
    2nd- Man U and Arse with average position of 3.33
    4th- Chelsea with average position of 4.17
    5th- Tot with average position of 4.67
    6th- Liv with average position of 6.17

    Result wise, Arsenal is punching harder than its muscles. These are the hard facts. However football is all about indulging in our visions and fantasies but if we are to be fair we must have to say well done to Arsene Wenger. This is not saying that he is perfect but he should leave when he wants to.

    1. I really admire your comment. Money talks,and as much as people hate it, fourth is about where we should be finishing based on resources.

      I don’t deny that ‘just’ constant champions league qualification can get a bit ‘samey’, but I can’t agree with people that think we’re a joke or a shambles.

      We punch above our weight on a fairly consistent basis and never finish lower than our resources dictate we should.

      1. And I just want to add that while I think Arsene’s earned the right to call time on his own Arsenal career, even if that’s predominantly a ‘heart’ decision, I’m also fine with a new manager coming in.

      2. It’s a good point, but doesn’t tell the whole story.

        For instance, just take last season: sure, Man United, Man City, and Chelsea all *should* have finished above us, based on money alone. But they all were varying degrees of disappointing, and I don’t think you could just chalk it up to “see, the league is really hard”–most everyone agreed that those three teams were pretty mediocre last year, and it wouldn’t have been too hard for a top team with some consistency to finish ahead of them. And the relative turmoil that those three teams went through wasn’t entirely mysterious; rather, they all were dealing with volatile/new managers and/or squads in relative transition, compared to our club. Our manager, meanwhile, has been around forever, and our squad, while hardly perfect, had relatively good depth, very few new players, and a good balance of youth and experience (obviously, this is all to Wenger’s credit).

        So, even if by money alone they should have expected to be ahead of us, by the middle of the season we really should have expected to finish ahead of them (and did in the end, of course). So that just left Leicester and Spurs, two teams that, both in terms of money and in terms of the actual quality of the squads last season, we should expect to finish ahead of. But we failed to do so. Spectacularly so.

        In short: as exasperated as fans have been with Wenger for many years (for good and bad reasons), I think up until the last two seasons, you could make a strong case that he was doing an excellent job, and that the failure to win big trophies was down to a lack of resources and Wenger playing the long game in terms of building his squad rather than looking for quick fixes. It’s only last season and this one–when he’s more or less built the squad he wants, and on paper we should be competing with our rivals better than we are (whether or not that indicates that some of them haven’t spent as wisely as they should)–that his management has been found really wanting, and all the patience that he rightly received in the lean years has not really been rewarded.

        1. I don’t disagree there hasn’t been disappointing times, particularly last year, but sometimes it feels like some fans, not you personally, have a million and one excuses for why team x,y and z didn’t perform or didn’t win, but when it comes to Arsenal there seems to be less understanding. Maybe that’s the nature of support and I’m sure there’s many who think they’ve been more than patient.

          Like how we should obviously finished above spurs and Leicester based on resources but it rarely seems ‘obvious’ that chelsea, city and united should always be finishing above us.

          We’re just expected to never underperform based on our resources and when we’re not above those teams people get angry. A few weeks ago when we were above everyone but chelsea people weren’t talking about us doing well. People still thought we were doing poorly while making lots of excuses for every team below us. If finishing 4th, 3rd and 2nd in the last few years is Arsenal being disappointing or poor it just doesn’t seem to leave much room for things to be acceptable beyond finishing 1st.

          I don’t mean any of this as personal insults. Last year was really disappointing but in my opinion it’s been the only year where I thought we really messed up. Generally we’ve been pretty good, which can be it’s own kind of boring I admit, but being boringly consistent doesn’t make you terrible or a joke.

          I hope this comment doesn’t come off as aggressive because that’s not my intention. In my own way I’m just as frustrated as most everyone else here.

          1. Not at all an aggressive comment.
            I think we were also pretty disappointing the spring of 2014 when we got destroyed by Liverpool and Chelsea (and had been destroyed by City that December). Maybe we shouldn’t have won the league that season, but it was also a pretty wide open league (it’s the year Liverpool almost won it with a pretty average squad and Rodgers at the helm, for crying out loud), and we at least should not have capitulated in such spectacular fashion. Again, it’s not so much about league finishes, but the spectacular ways we fall apart: 3-0 and 4-0 leads become 3-3 and 4-4 draws. 6-0 embarrassments at our bitter rivals. Etc, etc, we all know what I’m talking about. I don’t appreciate the ridiculously biased media narrative about us, but to some degree the fact that we’re seen as weak bottlers has SOME origin in actual fact. Other teams also lose and disappoint, of course, but none of them have the kind of reputation we have, and I think that’s because even outsiders perceive the absurd disparity between our obvious class and the absurd depths to which we semi-regularly plunge.

            And I also think many of us fear that this year is going the way of last year (though admittedly there’s a lot of football still to be played!). We’ll see. If we start playing well again, finish 2nd (say), have a genuine run in the Champions League (pulling off an upset against Bayern), and win the FA Cup, along with bringing a few of our younger players along in their development the way we did when Bellerin and Coquelin and then Iwobi came into the team (e.g. if the Ox suddenly makes this midfield birth his own and looks like our future answer to Dembele), and if we sign at least one of Ozil or Sanchez (or line up equally exciting replacements in the summer), THEN I think you’d see at least some optimism return to the fans, and I would be willing again to give Wenger 2 more years. But I don’t think I’ll ever return to actually having confidence that he will deliver the Premier League.

          2. Jeremy, coming 2nd, 3rd or 4th is fine if the team plays to its full potential. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case. We don’t overachieve when we are 3rd or 4th. Leicester over achieved last season while we blew it. We as fans are now conditioned to bring in all kinds of justifications to mask our disappointment every year. But let’s be honest, we are never in the mix for title when it counts. That for me is the biggest failure. If we had ended up in top four after giving a good fight right till May, I would readily support Wenger because I would see a team which fights till the end to be champions. For past few years, with new players in and Wenger having the financial freedom, we should not be giving up in title in Feb itself. Sorry, but that is rank underachievement. There is no way to sugarcoat it.

            The problem with half the team is that all these youngsters have been cocooned by Wenger during the financial austerity years. They didn’t have to fight for their places like players in top teams. Walcott, Ramsey, Ox, Iwobi, Gibbs, Wilshere have all flattered to deceive. The biggest mistake Wenger made was to hold on to Walcott and not sell him the first time he demanded a striker’s role and a pay rise. It gave a signal to other players that you don’t need to perform at 110% to earn the right to play at Arsenal. You can tread water and still be given a pay rise and frankly half our team is treading water right now.

            We have absolutely no playing philosophy. We don’t know when to attack, when to hold on to the ball, when to press. We are so incoherent as a team. More than the disappointing results, I would ask Wenger to move because if this reason. It is really excruciating to watch our players at times. Results like Chelsea at home are just flash in the pan now.

            Even Spurs have found an identity, the coach has moulded a team in his image, they fight for him, most of them are young unknowns, their wage bill is way below ours. No big superstars in the team. Yes, they blew their title chances last year and ended up 3rd. But, at least they came close and fought for the title while we didn’t even compete. That’s what drives me mad.

  19. I am so glad to be part of the Arsenal family, the ones on here who resurface after a bad result bitching and moaning,blaming and criticising. this player shit,that coach is crap,When will he ever learn? Same mistake, well the mistake is losing a football game,surprise surprise The Arsenal do it every year (well mostly) This of course should never happen because the diehard Arsenal,fan/critic/miserable sod, decrees because it his there team they should of course win all the games,buy all the best players and bring total and exhilarating joy to the entire fan base,
    Get a life will you all (a successful one), not one where you spent a year at the taxpayers expense partying and drinking when you should have been learning Russian,
    Let those who are perfect be the critics then most of the sad whiners would be silent.

    1. There probably aren’t many better ways to spend tax income than in providing education to the people. And while you may think it is time wasted, even getting drunk and…umm…wasted.. is a part of the education process. Education goes beyond books and classrooms.

  20. boys, i’m torn. just like you, i’m frustrated with arsenal’s failure to progress. likewise, what other manager could have kept arsenal playing at a near elite level while buying walmart-quality players? now that he has more money (arsenal spent quite a bit this summer), he’s earned the right to spend and build how he really wants.

  21. keep in mind that arsene has a lot of his players injured, namely his senior leaders that provide direction to the team on the field. santi or mert out on the pitch would likely make a very significant difference.

    i can’t agree unequivocally that arsenal has more talented players than chelsea; i’d love to have the option of bringing wilian and fabregas off the bench. regardless, being more talented doesn’t make you a better player. the difference between a talented player and a good player is a good player knows how to use his talent to good effect in game situations. if you can’t do that, no one gives a hoot how talented you are. you also have to respect the fact that chelsea is chocked full of players who’ve won the premier league before, including kante. they all know what it takes.

    in short, arsenal don’t always use their talents to good effect and they don’t have the experience of winning this championship. wenger can’t control who chelsea has on their roster but he can control the development of his talent. one has to ask what is his approach and why? is “wenger out!” the way forward? i could make arguments either way. it’s certainly not as black and white to me as it seems to be to most of you.

  22. There’s so many layers to the debate on here.

    The disappointment I felt this week hasn’t been for Wenger. I felt disappointed for us as fans. Contrary to what people who draw hard conclusions from social media bubbles say, I think we have some of the best fans in the country. I’ll never get tired of turning up the volume when our travelling supporters start drowning out the home fans at away games. George Graham was our manager when I started supporting Arsenal. In the years before Wenger came along, we had a definite knack for losing big games in poetic fashion (pretty sure everyone knows about Nayim’s goal – watching on TV I remember thinking it was the most Arsenal thing ever).

    The poetic losses have always been a part of supporting Arsenal. Maybe they’ll never go away. But I think about the generation like me that was inspired by Graham’s title wins or the fans who came to love Arsene’s early title-winning teams and I can’t stand the fact that so many potential Gooners are being lost to City, Chelsea or (whisper it) Dortmund.

    I kept the faith with Wenger throughout the lean years. We were let down by the ownership in many ways, particularly in terms of how competitive the team would be, and the financial restraints that Wenger wouldn’t admit to until a couple of years ago. Many fans who lost faith early didn’t forgive him or the club for that deceit and it’s part of why the fanbase is so divided today. But we had a majestic stadium and still played some great stuff in a great league so most of us decided to support the club and keep negative thoughts to our ourselves. I thought he should have gone before the FA Cup wins, and I’m still amazed he didn’t choose to go out on a high after winning the 2nd in a row. I don’t begrudge him staying on – my main thing is that he leaves in a dignified manner. But he does need to go. I agree with Tim; the details are less important than the fact we need to change.

    Not buying an outfield player last year was insane, as was the Flamini substitution against Barca. Being in the last 16 of the Champions League seems to have no bearing on how we conduct transfer business in January. It didn’t last year either (having to bring on Flamini after we signed a cup-tied player in January was banter-era Wenger).

    There is no shortage of coaches in world football, only a shortage of imagination. Maybe history has obscured the size of the risk Arsenal took in appointing Wenger in the first place. Leonardo Jardim looks like an interesting option to me. He’s steadily improved Monaco since knocking us out in 2014/2015. Very well-organised and the top goal-scoring team amongst the notable Leagues. We didn’t do too badly the last time we got a coach from Monaco did we?

  23. Those last two defeats and the discussion here have crystallized something for me.

    Time to move on? Ok, can you find me a better manager? – I think it depends what you want and I don’t see this being explicit in the discussion above. But I think it is key.

    Do you want the excitement of not knowing what could happen – we could finish first or eighth – allied with a feeling that change is in the air; or do you want to guarantee a certain position in the league?

    I feel that difference is behind many of the comments above (and is often at battle within a given individual).

    And if it were a marriage? Twenty years and the same old arguments, you say this time it will be different but they happen anyway. Is there not a tipping point where you say enough? I guess it depends on what you want (see above) and that isn’t easy to work out.

    How will it be living on my own? Will I meet someone else? What about the kids (fans?)? Will I earn enough on my own (league position?)?

    That’s how I see it. No easy answer but this week I find myself getting off the fence.

  24. Heartfelt comments, people. I am on the fence. Which means I’ve drifted towards the Wenger out camp quite a long way. But part of that I feel is just time moving us towards an inevitable conclusion: he has to go some day. And part of it is a general disillusionment with the league – the 24-hour coverage and rumor mill, the disgusting amounts of money in the game, the borderline corruption and the astronomical egos of the players and the managers. Wenger seems philosophically ill-equipped for these times.

    So part of me wants to hold on to him because he is pretty unique and his values are more or less my values. And part of me wants to see him gracefully retire with his dignity and record of consistency intact.

    I do find it surprising that people love him, respect him, think the club will struggle without him and still want him to go. That speaks to a deep level of malaise, ennui, chaise longue and other words I totally understand the meaning of.

  25. First of all I have to say I have enormous respect for Wenger as a person. I almost see all of his pre/post match press cons and I think he’s as intelligent a man as you can find in football nowadays. So the reason I think we should change the manager now actually has more to do with the overall environment of the Premier League and Football in general.

    Every decision has its risk and rewards and what will we risk if Wenger goes? Yes there’s a chance that we will finish 6/7th for the next few years (worst cast scenario). But the way the Premier League revenue is structured it’s not that much of a loss financially, and in terms of reputation/draws for good players, is finishing 6th every year that much different than finishing 2/3/4 every year without winning the league? I don’t see it being a problem for Man Utd. We have established our base in English football already and a few season at the bottom of the top 6 won’t change much, I think. So I think we don’t have much to risk.

    What will we potentially gain? A chance to win the league. It may not be a big chance, since a few clubs still have more resources than us and it tends to matter in the long run, but by changing to another philosophy we buy ourself at least a slight chance (I don’t know, maybe 15%, 20% chance?), which I don’t think we have if we’re still under Wenger. He’s sort of proved over the last 3-4 seasons that his philosophy won’t win us the league.

    So if I balance the risk with the potential reward, I think now it’s the right time to take this bet, imo.

  26. I remember a cetain Man C game under Mancini against a cetain team. Man C was trailing and posing no threat to the opposition. Mancini made his substitution in the MIDFIELD and went ahead to win the game. His explanation was that the problem was not with his attackers but with those whose job it was to supply the attackers with the right balls. i loved his answer because I love things that can be explained.

    With Wenger I just can’t get past that nagging feeling that some of his choices border on superstitions. Or does he see only the brighter side of his own things ; that attack that surely ends in a goal, Walcott’s incrdibble pace and a bang and a goal, that perfect crossing met by the flick of Giroud’s head, Ozil’s final pass one after the other.

    I obviously have a nature, maybe too rational, that contradicts his. But when I look at history I keep myself in check. Maybe he’s got a 6th sense that I haven’t.

  27. I Blame the Players. If we properly analyse the structures and history at arsenal, it is the only sane conclusion.
    Losing in the same way is soul destroying and boring but not really relevant as we would just like to lose less, just like everyone else. Losing the Klopp or guardiola or mourinho way isn’t somehow better. There is nothing better than winning the arsene wenger way. The way we lose is the arsenal way. Wenger is at this point in a large way representative of arsenal (to say) so it’s understandable when he receives the blame. However taking into account history, future prospects, competition or anything else there are zero concrete reasons to change Wenger. None stand up to scrutiny.

    So to the players starting with Ozil. PR genius extraordinaire, it’s a complement to him to say his PR talent matches his talent with a football. Delicate well timed touch and delivery after what seems an age of elusive movement and anonymity only to strike the killer blow. If only he was stronger in making a statement, and a tad more aggressive he be perfect. A balance needs to be struck in our understanding. On the one hand we say he needs to go to a club like Real Madrid where he can make assists all day while holding on to the ambition of existing as and being seen as a big club. The type that has players like ozil in it. The ozil who was attracted by arsene wenger(+cash obviously). Ozil represents all of the problems arsene wenger faces as a manger in terms of balance. Other mangers would just either make it work or tell Ozil to fuck off. I hope arsene makes it work. The only reason this is a problem is because arsene believes in people not systems. Extrapolating that point over any other part of life and I’d want wenger in charge.

  28. I wanted to add one point that I haven’t seen made yet. Every other club in the world, EVERY club, deals with replacing managers. Arsenal are the only club in this position b/c there are no other 2 decade managerial tenures left. AFC will have to figure it out eventually, b/c Arsene is 67 years old. But this fear that change will lead to death is unwarranted, I’d suggest. There are lots of talented people out there. Not to say AFC will hire someone like Diego Simeone, but there are great minds and motivators on the market.

    1. I want Wenger to stay, and I agree that it is a poor argument to make that Wenger leaving means the demise of Arsenal. There will likely be some turmoil, but I am quite sure it will be less than that at ManU.

      Not because I think Ferguson’s loss was greater for them, but because I believe Wenger sees it as part of his job to lay down a legacy that is bigger than him, which Ferguson quite clearly didn’t. We should be fine when we lose Wenger, though part of that also means that future managers would have to work in the sort of structure that Wenger and the club have laid out as part of their vision.

      Also, most clubs fire managers all the time. Most do it for the immediacy of the results. The few that don’t do just that, are essentially looking for their version of Arsene Wenger.

  29. After the baying mob chased Arsene off of the platform at Stoke I have no doubts we will get the manager we deserve.

    So it goes…

  30. Wenger might leave at the end of the season. Or he might stay for another 2 years. I have no problem with either.

    But I really really don’t like this being the usual discussion every time after a defeat. And yet, I keep getting sucked in.

    By now, we know what the people wanting him gone think, and we know what the arguments for him staying and actually doing a good job are.

    There’s merit in both. But my leaning is towards Wenger staying. First, the emotional angle. You can knock it as stupid, but following Arsenal is primarily an emotional investment, and I am emotionally invested in and connected to Wenger. I like him as a man, and I like his footballing philosophy too. I need no other reason to validate my cheering for Arsenal than knowing that we are not a boring, diving, cheating bunch who will justify anything in order to win. I don’t want to give up on Wenger for a few trophies (as if that is guaranteed) when I know what he’s done for this club and in the face of some very difficult (and even seemingly corrupt) challenges put in his place.

    On a more factual level. I think while Arsenal are undoubtedly one of the biggest clubs in the world, we are also in a situation where at best, we are 4th among a group of 5-6 clubs in the league that can also make that claim. When arguing about never winning the league since 2004, we are comparing ourselves to ManU and Chelsea and City. Are we really in a position to operate like those clubs do?

    Arsenal’s true competition is Liverpool and Spurs (Newcastle and Villa and Everton have fallen off) When was the last time those clubs won the league? We keep hearing about mental strength because apparently only Arsenal implode. But both those clubs have imploded quite spectacularly too. We just don’t seem to think about it that way because it doesn’t affect us, and more to the point, because they do SOMETHING about it. ie change managers. Has that won them the league? Why would it make us more likely to? Simply because we’d be more volatile in our results, so the yo-yo effect might spring us higher eventually?

    Sorry, but I don’t see that as a convincing argument. Evolution over revolution unless something is truly broken. Arsenal are not broken, and the fact that Wenger is going to eventually retire is no reason to break it now and ‘rebuild’.

    As for Leicester and Chelsea winning the league. Maybe we should finish out of the European spots. Certainly seems to make keeping a first XI consistently fit a lot easier.

    1. Well said. To the degree that I still feel the way you do, it’s for the reasons you articulate.

      It’s just that, when I look at our squad in comparison to everyone else’s, and I look at how we perform, I think over the last two years we’ve really underperformed (though granted this season isn’t over yet and we might turn things around, at least to some degree). And it’s not that the rot (so to speak) only began to be evident in the last two years–one of the hardest things for so many of us to swallow is that the same weaknesses have been evident for sooo long–it’s that before the last two years there were good excuses for falling short: the financial squeeze due to the stadium, the fact that other teams had used their greater finances to build better teams, and the fact that, even after the purse strings began to be loosened, it would understandably take Wenger a while to build the team he really wanted. But those excuses don’t carry much, if any, water any longer.

      I’m emotionally invested in Wenger too. It’s just that I’ve now completely lost any hope that he can take us any farther.

      1. Oh, and I wanted to whole heartedly agree with the point about the huge advantage that finishing outside of Europe gives a team (now more than ever, I think I’ve argued on here before). In no major American sports league would such an obvious advantage for some teams be allowed to continue–it’s completely unfair, but of course, it’s just a relic of the mental way that football was historically set up, and it’s likely never going to be addressed (unless we get a European super league) due to football’s fundamental resistance to any kind of change.

    2. Arsenal are already broken. Finishing out of the top four is almost a certainty for me. But because we aren’t quite broken enough, I see us playing in Europa League next year.

      Unless we drop to 7th*, which I don’t see happening, we are playing in Europe.

      *6th might also be out of Europe, depending on results.

  31. As for those that say it isn’t fun to watch Arsenal anymore, I have sympathy with that point of view. I mean if you’ve reached that point, I can appreciate how any change is positive. (Which also explains to me why Liverpool fans are generally happier than Arsenal fans despite a lower level of performance.)

    But for me, the biggest challenge to my enjoyment of watching football in general, and Arsenal in particular, is the poor and biased standard of refereeing, and reporting.(Like on the elbow on Bellerin) And while people hate hearing it, I am quite sure that the latter, over the years, is a big part of the reason for where we are with the discussion over Wenger.

      1. I don’t know what it is, Tim. I genuinely don’t. I also don’t say that we are completely innocent in this. If you notice, even though ManCity beat us on offside goals I didn’t chalk that defeat down to the officials. Nor the Chelsea defeat to the uncalled foul on Bellerin. We make heavy weather of things all on our own. But when the margins are so tight, the refs decisions can be decisive. We have been on the wrong side of those, let alone gotten any favours (except maybe one or two this season), for many many years. Conspiracy sounds like such a big word, but yeah, I think there is something wrong with English refereeing that punishes Arsenal (at least) inordinately.

  32. I think Arsene Wenger has taken us as far as he could. This is not evident in the back to back losses, but in the lack of fight in important games. I don’t mind a close loss if the players give everything on the pitch. But somehow the manager is unable to get the best out of the players when we play the important matches. We will struggle without Wenger, but we also need him to leave for the club’s sake. To create room for growth. Which will bring growing pains with it for sure. As long as we keep finishing above the Spuds, I’m okay with that. I don’t see us beating Man $ity, Man Ure, Chelski or Liverpoopoo any more. At leat not when it matters.
    That said, I fully expect us to go on a run. With the pressure off, knowing we are not winning the league this season, we will probably start another winning run.

  33. I have been in the Wenger out camp for a good few seasons now. But this season, I am way in the camp. Arsenal have been playing very poor this season. Getting very late goals in a lot of games to paper over the cracks. They are a shambles on the field this season. It’s like watching a hodgepodge of players who haven’t been coached at all. Stanford Bridge is always going to be a hard game, but Chelsea absolutely murdered us. Arsenals defending is atrocious. They’ve got to get a Coach in who can help them in that department. Not Simeone though. His style does not suit Arsenal.

  34. How irrelevant is Arsene Wenger now? How many clubs would take him even today, damaged goods as he’s deemed to be? When Bayern hired Pep, they said Arsene Wenger was in their conversation, as per usual. Would they still be interested if he were to leave at the end of the season? What about PSG? Maybe he isn’t the right man for Arsenal anymore, but the assumption that he’s past it may not be as true as many like to make out.

    I mean we assume that him vacating the Arsenal post means retirement, and seeing how much he has given this club that might be a fair assumption to make. But the temptation must be there to move clubs for a last attempt at winning the CL, with a different squad and in a different environment than England and Arsenal.

    1. Actually, I don’t think Arsene is past it. It’s just that the league has changed tremendously and his philosophy of possession based football is just not working with the team he has. Frankly, I feel that he unfortunately is the victim of his own philosophy. I won’t be surprised if he ends up winning CL with a better set of players. But all out Attack minded teams don’t win much these days unless they are blessed with exceptional players. Unfortunately, the current side is all his image and frankly half of them don’t deserve to be in 1st eleven. Wenger encouraged mediocrity once he bowed to Walcott’s demands. He set a bad example and now we are paying the price. Wenger could have gotten Kante or Wanyama in the midfield but we persist with Coq. I read all about money but who knows maybe players want to play for Conte or Poch more. Maybe they connect better with younger managers. We just got to accept that Wenger is as lost with this bunch of players as they look lost on the pitch. That’s why we have no playing style. Wenger has a motley crew of talented players but as he was never a believer in a rigid “system” he cannot get these guys to create symphony on the pitch. Conte said he asked for blind faith in his ideas. He had “buy in” from his players. Wenger has not managed to sell his vision to his players yet or they are not good enough to implement his “jazz band” brand of Football.

  35. Fascinating debate. particularly the part in which Dr Gooner describes the well-articulated arguments of Tim and others as “change for change sake.”

    Admitting that Arsenal could struggle without Wenger is just bringing honesty and nuance to the debate. We don’t know for sure. It’s neither a given that we will or we won’t (though like Tim I’ve argued that it’s likely). Using that starting point admission to argue against change is not a logical approach, and much as I knwo what to expect from Doc, I’m surprised that he would conclude that it’s a willingness to put with failure, just “for the sake of change.”

    Come on, man. You’re smarter than that. I took against Wenger, after being a stout defender, 3 years ago with a suddenness that surprised me. How many times do you have to experience Groundhog Day for the penny to finally drop.

    He done. He has been for years. Pep out-tacticed him playing with Sane and Sterling as strikers, for God’s sake.

    1. There’s no sound of a penny dropping here, my friend. I’m simply arguing for a well planned succession as opposed to a helter skelter witch hunt. This club doesn’t need evisceration, just maybe some fresh ideas. I do think change for change’s sake is dangerous and you need look no further than Tottenham. They eventually stumbled onto something with Pochettino, but how many years did that take? And they still haven’t really come close to a title even with him. Liverpool has been the same story. Newcastle never managed it either. We all know about Man United since Fergie. These are clubs with big resources who hardly sniffed the champions league, let alone the title, in the same time span that we accuse Wenger of sucking.

      I don’t mind being disagreed with, but it’s not like I’m waiting to realize the grand truth that others have long ago. My eyes are open. I simply see things differently than you.

    2. And that fair enough, that we see thing differently. But since when does changing Wenger equate to eviscerating the club? Since when is changing Wenger in itself a badly planned succession?

      1. Well, I thought you were referring to the “top to bottom” change that Tim wanted in his post. Firing Wenger without a clear plan as to who will succeed him is poor planning. Not even Man United did that.

        1. Yeah, I’m almost certain that even if Wenger goes, we won’t be hiring Simeone or someone to ‘shake things up’.

      2. The sum total of no one is advocating firing Wenger without a clear plan as to who will succeed him. I do not expect the board to succession plan in a haphazard manner. No one’s advocating the things you are pushing back against.

  36. I realise that this is a blog for Amrican gooners, but i cant wrap my head around the notion of being done with Arsenal — regularly espoused by some and stated by Blaustein here. Its not how we support our team elsewhere. While there is no one, approved way to support a team, and i cant lecture others in this, i still find the sentiment kind of odd. Wtf does being done with Arsenak mean? Youll switch to Chelsea? Youll stop watching footy altogehter? Youll give away your shirt?

    Victories and trophies shouldnt be the basis of supporting our club, because we’re not entitled to victories and trophies. We cheer on our team to those ends. Thats how ive always understood it to work, whether we support the Cubs or the Gunners. Dont let the door hit you.

    1. I think what it means is more that they won’t have Arsenal be as much a part of their daily thoughts and routine as before. I’m guessing something like what ——-SPOILER ALERT FOR FEVER PITCH————Nick Hornby described at the end of Fever Pitch, though that was because Arsenal finally won the title and he could move on with his life. (Or something. It’s been a while since I read it. Should dig it out)

      I feel that’s a perfectly acceptable attitude to take without it making them poor fans. Don’t think the club deserves blame for it though, nor will it make any difference to them.

      I find that the more I avoid the 24 hour news cycle and wall to wall coverage, the happier I feel about Arsenal, football, and even the world in general. In that sense, my obsession with Arsenal has reduced (or gone back to resemble a better time 🙂 )

    2. On the issue of American fans. I get what you are saying, but I find that English football has some things to learn from American fandom and how they view their sports.

      Maybe it is because they have better sports coverage than the output from SKY, BT and Motd, but I think they are generally more knowledgable about the game, and more understanding towards it being a business, for both the owners and the athletes, and even the league. Maybe that is the game losing some of its charm, but on the other hand, it works and delivers a more polished, professional product.

    3. It’s just a phrase we say over here to express disgust. No one is done being an Arsenal fan. “I’m so done with this ice cream” doesn’t mean that they will never eat ice cream again. Americans use hyperbolic statements to mean something less than hyperbolic. We use “extreme” and “love” to mean “above average” and “like”. And being “done” with something just means that we are disappointed.

  37. But the thing about Hornby was that he never reached a point where he gave up on Arsenal, because they weren’t doing well enough for him. What Hornby said/felt is actually the opposite of what was expressed by Blaustein and others on this blog.

    I find it bizarre.

    If you think about it, supporting a team has a very high proportion of frustration. But it’s your team, and that’s part of the package. You don’ get “done with them.” Cubs winning the World Series was all the sweeter because of the barren years and dashed hopes. That is sport. Why should soccer be any different?

    Unless I am missing something, I really don’t get what being “done with Arsenal” means. And yes, it rubs me the wrong way.

    1. Read a little more closely, dude. I was talking about giving up on Arsene. (As the conclusion of the article clearly states.) But as far as the American/English thing goes, I’ve admitted many times that I started following Arsenal 6 years ago. It is not a lifelong addiction, nor did it spring from loving my local team, as my Dad did before me. (And my grandfather before him.) So it does become more of a choice, how much time and mental energy to devote to the enterprise.

      As I’ve written here before, I’d been inclined to give Arsene the benefit of the doubt. My time as a fan tracks with the phase in which he has been able to spend money, and in which he’s won 2 trophies. But what I’ve seen in the last 2 seasons has convinced me that he no longer has what it takes to field a Championship winning team. So as a fan, I’d like to see the club bring in a manager who is at least capable of matching up with the new guard of super-managers spread throughout the top 6.

  38. SG Gooner

    About being out of the title race in February. Rank underachievement you say. Last season, yes. But this season, I’m not sure you can pin Chelsea’s incredible form on Wenger. They retain the core of a team that was champions two years ago, and have no CL football. I know it sounds like a specious argument but it’s true that Chelsea went on a near record winning run. We couldn’t keep pace. Neither could anyone else despite not having the same sorts of injuries we dealt with. Underachievement in the sense that it is disappointing, but I’m not so sure that it’s as terrible as is made out. If it weren’t Wenger but a new manager, would your reaction be the same?

    That said, the bit about a lack of identity rings true. We’ve seen many variants tried, but we lack the personnel to keep the same style going if a few injuries occur. But then, how do you replace Cazorla? Or do you devise a system that doesn’t need him? Maybe that leads to a loss of identity. Going around in circles. Not pretty, not great, and definitely an issue. But I don’t believe sacking the manager fixes it. It’ll just be different. Which it seems would suit everyone just fine.

      1. I freakin love Cazorla. But Chelsea don’t have a Cazorla, or anyone close to doing his role. Neither do Liverpool. Man City have similar players, but, without Gundogan, they have no one playing deep in their midfield like that. Ditto Man United. Only Spurs sorta have a like-for-like with Dembele (stronger, though in my opinion not as brilliant overall).
        We can’t use the “we lost Cazorla and there’s almost no one in world football who can do what he does, so we’re doomed to sucking until he returns” excuse.

        1. Did I say that was an excuse? I certainly didn’t mean to.

          What I meant was that Cazorla is our best midfielder and what he brings is pretty unique. How we play with him is what our identity is. When we lose him, we struggle to play the same way. If our identity is to exclude/minimise Cazorla’s influence then we might have a more stable identity. But would you leave out your best player for that?

          Also, we’ve looked disjointed in midfield because we’ve had a disjointed midfield. Injury troubles have struck midfield both the last two years (and not just Cazorla)

          You can’t tell me any club in the world would deal with losing 4 of their 5 midfielders and not struggle like we did against Chelsea. When our first choice, Cazorla and Coquelin played we looked good. Xhaka and Ramsey is the other combo that did look good during the short spell they played together. Which suggests that we did have a viable alternative plan/identity in place too.

          I agree we haven’t looked pretty. I said as much. I also agree that we need to do something about this. I just disagree that this is something that gets ‘fixed’ just by hiring a new manager.

    1. Yes, Chelsea had an amazing run, with the help of no Euro football, but we dropped points in games we shouldn’t have. Set the Man City and Chelsea games aside. If we got 1 point at Everton, 2 additional points at Bournemouth, and 3 at Watford, we’d be only 6 points back and still in the race, even AFTER Saturday’s debacle. I know every team drops points they shouldn’t drop against weaker opposition (a good example of this is us only getting a point at home against Boro: they were set up excellently defensively, and simply outplayed us on the day; it wasn’t a bad point in the end). But it’s the WAY we dropped those 6 points: slow starts (or, in the Everton game, inexplicably poor first half after taking the lead), very cheap goals conceded, etc, etc.
      In other words, we could have gotten those 6 points even holding fixed the fact that we struggled significantly to play our best in those three games. It just required a little intelligence in pressure situations and a bit of mental fortitude. And a bit more team cohesion, not playing like the players had just met in the tunnel before the game. Note too that these dropped points came when we didn’t have European football, and in fact had a run of easier games.

      We have underperformed. It has nothing to do with Chelsea. And it’s not the first time in the last few years.

      1. Last season was the only season I thought we underperformed. And that’s actually a weird thing to say because we played very well most of the time and were let down only by our finishing.

        This year, we’re actually not playing as well as last season, but have generally been more efficient. While we’ve dropped some silly points, we’ve also picked up points where we kept our mental fortitude and belief.

        And you know what..I just realised, that’s exactly what affects us. A lack of belief. Maybe it does come from the manager. What I think certainly does is that Wenger’s style of play requires the players to have confidence and belief in themselves. When that’s eroded, we can look really bad. When it’s there, we look like potential world beaters.

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