It’s always interesting to see how opinions are split when it comes to Arsene Wenger, the manager of Arsenal, who has a strong opposition about the people who matter – the Arsenal fans, but a very strong backing from the media, despite their usual taste and affinity for blood and scandal.
Facts: Arsenal haven’t finished about third in the English Premier League since the 2004-2005 season. They haven’t won the league title since 2003-2004. In the past decade, they’ve finished fourth six times, and although most of the time it’s been behind Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, they’ve found themselves trailing Liverpool at the end-of-season table, a team with a lesser spending power.
Is this enough to get Wenger going? According to the media and Wenger’s backers, no. Not because Arsenal aren’t a club that should be aspiring for more than just dropping out of title contention in February at the latest (and a lot sooner than that in most seasons). But because of what Wenger did for the club during the first half of what is almost 20 years at the same job.
It’s good to have longevity and continuity but at some point the club’s owners need to ask themselves if they’re making the most of this experience. Not for their own personal satisfaction and profits, but in the reality of looking for success, which can be achieved alongside making money. The two can co-exist, as plenty of clubs have been able to show.
Arsenal don’t need to be the biggest spenders in the nation and Europe to succeed. It’s fair to say that Wenger has made some bad decisions in matches and with his player selections considering how other clubs have fared with less money or with similarly-priced signings in England and outside of it. Arsenal aren’t being left behind just because they’re spending less money.
Wenger doesn’t own the rights to the Arsenal manager seat. While fans don’t need to boo him in his face on the train platform, it’s their right to protest and expect something better while vocally asking for it. Wenger has done a lot for the club, but not too much lately. The longer he stays, the lamer his excuses and the more detached from reality he seems. This season isn’t lost or over, but it’s going in that direction.
While it might make someone else the longest tenured manager in the Premier League when he’s gone, a club that sees itself as a local giant and aspires to be one in Europe as well can’t allow itself to hang on to a manager that’s become synonymous with underachieving and making excuses instead of championships and success.