It’s like I’m slowly waking up from a bad dream – more like a nightmare. Without wanting to get too excited, there is now genuine hope that Arsene Wenger will decide to call it quits and leave Arsenal at the end of the season. At this morning’s press conference, Wenger made the unique statement: “No matter what happens, I will manage next season. Is it here or somewhere else?” My first thought was, is that a threat or a promise?
But Arsenal fans need to be careful about how they respond to this statement. It is not conclusive, so this is not the time to empathise, get teary-eyed or celebrate the success of Wenger’s long-distant past. Since he has still not made a definitive statement about his departure, now is the time to force him out the door. Protests need to begin, home and away, between now and the end of the season, irrespective of results.
Don’t make the mistake of feeling sorry for Wenger. His past achievements may warrant respect, but as a human being he deserves only ridicule and derision. Wenger is a distasteful fraud that is more than aware of his own shoddy bungling and has been trying to manipulate the narrative for over a decade. Comments this morning such as “Even if I go, they [Arsenal] will not win every game,” demonstrate his continued refusal to accept culpability. Make no mistake, Wenger still seems to think he is beyond criticism and blames outside forces for everything that he is accountable for.
He’s not gone yet and Wenger will still do everything he possibly can to cling on to power. I read a blog quote yesterday that stated: “If Wenger does not sign a new contract, it will not be because he thinks he cannot do the job any more, it will be because he cannot stand the pressure any longer, which in turn leads to even more pressure from the fans”.
Wenger is an arrogant egomaniac who does not believe he is past his sell by date and never will. He has not had a sudden realisation that he’s a tactical cretin, or that Arsenal were humiliated by a bunch of old men at the Allianz Arena, or that he can no longer inspire or motivate his players - it’s the exhausting clamour from the fans and media that is choking him. The players obviously read it and are affected by it, and now see Wenger for what he is – a deluded charlatan.
It was only a short while ago that Theo Walcott effusively praised Wenger for an Al Pacino-like dressing room speech, yet a few weeks later the lazy clown can be seen standing idle as Alonso jogs past him to score Chelsea’s opener in Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge. That microscopic display of apathy was magnified x 10 at Bayern Munich, and says everything about the eroded bond between the manager and his players.
It's astonishing that what I wrote SEVEN years ago is as true today as it was then. Commenting on Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at home to Barcelona: “The fact is, after watching last night’s game and despite the undoubted excellence of Barcelona, I have never been more mortified by Wenger’s tactical ineptitude. He sent that team out there utterly naked, reprehensibly clueless as to what to do with regard to team shape, marking, communication, gameplan – anything. It was an abomination.
“Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows what I think; and that’s that Arsenal don’t compete for anything – they just give the illusion of competing by buzzing around the top four every season and taking part in a Champions League they clearly have zero chance of winning.”
Arsenal Football Club is at a crossroads. It needs a new owner, a new CEO, a new board, a new manager, a new assistant manager, new coaching staff and new players. But not everything needs to be changed at once to bring competitiveness back to the club. I still insist that the club’s figurehead, Arsene Wenger, is the primary rotten maggot feeding off the club and mismanaging it into a spiral of never-ending mediocrity.
You can blame Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis all you want, but they’re not the principal reason for Arsenal’s failure to compete for major trophies. Yes Kroenke’s ownership model is derisory and Gazidis is a comatose CEO, but they have supported Wenger fully in terms of finances. The club is not profiting on transfers, quite the reverse - Arsenal have not made a profit in the transfer market in any of the last five seasons. Player expenditure has been £306m, with a £90m rebate on player sales. The wage bill has risen exponentially, and is now virtually on a par with the club's competitors. So don’t tell me that Kroenke is not supporting the manager financially. The problem with Kroenke is that he is comfortable making a net profit and does not make Wenger accountable for his perpetual failure to compete for major trophies.
But there are definitely problems at the club and the way it is run. Arsenal has long been a playground for protectionist rich old men. Shares cost £17,000 and are infrequently traded on the specialist ISDX market for SMEs. Stone-age Tory merchant banker Sir “Chips” Keswick is a puppet Chairman and the club’s top brass has its fingers in the till. Arsenal is a club where everyone buys each other’s silence and loyalty. This operates right from the top of the food chain to the bottom, from Kroenke pickpocketing £3m from the club coffers to Gazadis awarding himself an eye-watering £2.6m salary.
They pay an incompetent manager £8.3m as gratitude for keeping them prosperous, while further down the food chain, Wenger buys the loyalty of assistant manager Steve Bould – a once respected warrior defender that now sits mute on the bench. Like all corrupt dictators, Wenger throws money at his closest allies to keep them sweet – a lot of his coaching staff have been there since forever. They don’t question him, because he keeps their snouts in the trough. And Wenger has long bought the loyalty of his players, paying wages incommensurate with their talent - a policy that has become utterly self-defeating.
Over the past 10 years, the few players that have a semblance of world-class ability and ambition get bored, fed up and leave. That’s when Wenger gets busy covering his tracks, fervently manipulating the agenda by perpetually absolving himself of all responsibility and blaming other clubs’ wealth and resources for his inability to compete. But now, Arsenal is collapsing under the weight of its own ineptitude. Years of neglect and self-interest is threatening to cost the club its place in the big money league. Arsenal is a one-man team (Alexis Sanchez) who not only fires the bullets, but is the gun itself. When he goes, what’s left behind is abject, but should still do better than it is now.
Wenger is on his last legs; don’t let him off the hook. The club desperately needs change and the supporters need and deserve hope - your loyalty has been grossly abused. Seize your chance to put out the rubbish by making Wenger’s departure a reality, even if means not turning up to games. A half-empty stadium sends just as big a message as vociferous protests, although I would fervently encourage both.
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