Wenger In vs Wenger Out?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 16 February 2017, 11:53

Arsene Wenger arguably hit a nadir on Wednesday night after Arsenal’s second-half capitulation at Bayern Munich resulted in a crushing 5-1 defeat, which has virtually extinguished any lingering hope the club had of hoisting the Champions League trophy this season.

The Wenger Out brigade have, as has been the case for years, been bellowing their disapproval as Wenger slides down to just 8/1 in the Sack Race, while those in favour of Wenger In are no doubt wounded, but fiercely loyal to the Frenchman.

This morning (Thursday) Arsenal’s hierarchy have revealed that they will wait until the end of the season before both the club and Wenger make a mutual decision on his future.

Below we take a look at the contrasting angles of this divisive debate: Should Wenger stay or should he go?

Wenger In

Arsenal players, staff and supporters would have been forgiven for mistaking Wenger for a science teacher when he first stepped into Highbury back in 1996.

No one could have predicted what followed, as the previously unknown Frenchman went on to have a colossal impact on English football, revolutionising the game on these shores, in terms of nutrition, training, discipline, playing style, and luring over an influx of talented foreign players, while he beautifully molded together the legendary “Invincibles” side of 2003/04.

Wenger’s methods may have been perplexing at first, but they worked wonders on-and-off the pitch, with “Le Professeur” hoisting a hat-trick of Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and four Community Shields between the golden years of 1997 and 2005, while the Gunners finished runners-up to Barcelona in the Champions league a year later.

The silverware has notably dried up since the FA Cup success of 2005, with Wenger only adding a brace of FA Cups to the Arsenal trophy cabinet, However, Wenger is the longest-serving manager in England for a reason, consistency, and if the remit is a top-4 finish and Champions League football then he has flourished, with Arsenal accumulating a simply staggering 20 consecutive top-4 finishes since his arrival.

Those supporters demanding Wenger to be sacked or resign should be careful what they wish for. Just look at the massive effect Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure had on their rivals Man Utd. The Red Devils crumbled, going from Premier League champions to 7th place in a space of a season, followed by 4th and 5th, while the club is currently on their third boss since Fergie’s retirement.

Let’s not forget that Wenger single-handedly transformed Arsenal, while it’s worth mentioning that Wenger has had lucrative offers to leave in the past, but has always remained loyal to his beloved Arsenal.

Wenger’s current contract expires at the end of the season, although he has been offered a new two-year deal worth a whopping £8-a-year.

Simply put: Wenger is the greatest manager in Arsenal’s history, he’s remarkably never finished below a Tottenham manager, while only Sir Alex Ferguson boasts more Premier League titles.

Wenger Out

The glory, trophy-laden, years of the late 1990s and early noughties seem an eternity ago for Arsenal fans. In the 45 major competitions since the 2005 FA Cup triumph the Gunners have enjoyed success in just two, and it’s fair to say that the built-up pressure on Wenger is now reaching an almost unbearable level.

Wenger cut a dejected, solemn and fatigued figure in the aftermath of the Bayern battering, perhaps coming to the shattering realisation that it’s time to move on. Arsenal may consistently qualify into the Champions League, but they are on the verge of exiting Europe’s elite competition in the last-16 for the seventh straight season.

Since Arsenal last lifted the Premier League trophy (2004), Man Utd have triumphed five times, Chelsea four, and Man City two, while even Leicester have stormed to the summit of English football. This barren run is likely to be extended to 13 years this term, with the Gunners down in 4th, 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Wenger has stubbornly refused to alter his philosophy, and frequently fails to lure over the right calibre of players. Arsenal consistently miss out on their main targets, and have been desperately void of a world class out-and-out striker, a midfield king-pin, and a dominant central defender for some time.

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The mental fragility is alarming. Virtually every season takes on a similar pattern. It’s now so exasperating that even some of Wenger’s loyal former players are questioning his future. Ian Wright for example (see video below).

Pardon the pun, but in Jens Lehmann terms, fresh ideas are desperate needed.

Arsenal are suffering from a severe case of Groundhog Day. It’s time for a change.

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Claudio Ranieri
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