Since 2011, Arsenal has bowed out of the Champions League in the round of 16.
Their recent thrashing at the hands of Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich made it 10-2 on aggregate and left fans with the most bitter pill to swallow.
— Dan Gallagher (@slevinupyoholla) March 11, 2017
Currently fifth in the English Premiere League table, the Gunners are about as lukewarm at trying to fight for a better position as Tim Tebow was for his first spring training game as a baseball player… however, that is a whole other topic.
The lethargic and uninspired reason for Arsenal’s slow downward spiral rests on the shoulders of one man – their French manager Arsene Wenger.
Getting the Ammo
Wenger brought discipline, structure, a unique style and then helped bring Thierry Henry to Arsenal where the French player became a global sensation and icon.
Wenger, like Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, was a constant at Arsenal. Fans knew what they were getting and how they were getting it. The best players would want to play for these men at these clubs and, at the time, Wenger was hailed as one of the world’s best managers.
His 2003-2004 side which featured Patrick Vieira, Robert Pirès, Thierry Henry, and Dennis Bergkamp, was called “The Invincibles” thanks to their 26 wins and 12 draws leading them to a record of unbeaten games in the Premier League.
Four years after arriving in London, Wenger brought Arsenal to the UEFA Cup finals but they lost to Turkey’s then-all conquering Galatasaray.
In 2006, a decade after arriving, he brought the Gunners to the Champions League final where they lost to Barcelona. Despite the loss, they showed that the North London club could dance with the big boys.
In the 11 years since their Champions League final appearance, the team has failed to reach the last stage of play. The team’s inability to perform in Europe has tarnished Wenger’s legacy.
Yet, each and every year, fans hope for change only to be let down. The team, which is valued at nearly a billion dollars, has been able to maintain a top 4 EPL status but not much else. The 66-year-old manager has also been criticized for not breaking the bank on star players.
In recent years, Wenger has become notorious for selling some of his stars to other English teams instead of sending them abroad. In 2011, he sent his stars Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy to Manchester City; in 2012 he sent Robin Van Persie to Manchester United; in 2013 Kolo Toure was sent to Liverpool; 2014 saw him send Bacary Sagna to City. There are rumors that Alexis Sanchez might go to Chelsea next season.
Wenger’s methods and approach, which for a long time proved hugely successful are no longer so. His inability to adapt to a new era in the EPL, an era of massive fees, powerful agents, insanely rich owners, and an influx of talent (on and off the field) to direct rivals, might ultimately prove too much for a manager who in the last 20 years has molded Arsenal in his own image.
This was proven in their Champions League thrashing to Bayern Munich this year.
Wenger told BT Sport following their epic exit: “You know how it is, we recently had a big disappointment in the Champions League, after that in our job you have to respond in the next game. Therefore you need players who are solid mentally and united, the experience is easier when you’ve gone through difficult periods before than if you’ve never known it.”
In his time with Arsenal, Wenger has won the FA Cup six times and the league three times, the last being in the 2003-04 season.
During the thrashing from Bayern Munich, many Gunners fans were holding “Wenger Out” signs as they left the stadium. Adding insult to injury, Alexis Sanchez was seen laughing in the Arsenal dugout at the 5-1 score line. All signs point towards Alexis leaving Arsenal even though he has a year left in his contract.
As the unity among Arsenal players diminishes, Wenger’s case to remain at the helm becomes weaker. It seems to be a harsh reality check for Wenger.
Not even the Pepsi ad is safe pic.twitter.com/M1AooyDmGg
— 90min (@90min_Football) April 5, 2017
— Will Foulkes ?? (@WillFoulkes_) March 7, 2017
— AW The Rise And Fall (@StuartSherry) March 12, 2017
During the 2016 offseason, in typical Wenger fashion, he was either unwilling or unable (depending on whom you ask) to bring in any exciting new blood and add depth to deal with injuries. There were rumors of possibly bringing Inter’s surgical striker Mauro Icardi but he stayed with his team. There was also talk of bringing the best striker in the history of Serie A — Gonzalo Higuaín from Napoli; instead he signed a blockbuster deal with Juventus. At one point PSG’s Edinson Cavani looked close to becoming a Gunner, but that didn’t happen either. It is a pattern. Add Jamie Vardy’s snub to the list.
Arsenal truly have not been the same since the departure of Henry in 2007 when he left for Barcelona. However, they never exactly looked to find his replacement.
There have been rumors that the message from fans and pundits is starting to ring in Wenger’s head and he has allegedly told the board of directors that he is stepping down from the club at the end of the season. While no official statement has been made, his legacy will almost certainly be remembered for what he achieved early on with Arsenal and what he didn’t do and failed to win towards the end of his tenure.
Time to Reload
Juventus’ Max Allegri has been rumored to join the Gunners as a manager, adding another Italian to the league. So have his paisans Roberto Mancini and Claudio Ranieri.
Should Sanchez depart too, Arsenal could fill the hole in the squad with the likes of Arturo Vidal, Gianluca Lapadula, or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
All of this means that Arsenal will need to spend this summer – no question – if it wants to compete with the likes of Chelsea, United, City, Liverpool, and Tottenham who are all likely to strengthen their squads.
It would be a refreshing change for a team that’s grown stale and content with being in the top four.