Although I have a lot of respect for Jamie Carragher’s punditry, I think he’s called it wrong this time. The former Liverpool defender thinks Arsenal should announce that Wenger will leave at the end of this season.
Does anyone remember when Sir Alex Ferguson first announced his retirement? Results went down the pan and, let’s not forget, Man United’s starting point was significantly better than Arsenal’s.
The reason cited for that was players are less motivated when they know the current manager is on the way out. Professional football is about small margins (except when Arsenal play Man City) and any slight decrease in motivation can savage performance.
Arsenal need salvaging and salvation but, to do that, they need savagery in the boardroom. The directors must brandish the axe! Wenger has to go now before he damages the club, he professes to love, further.
Wenger says he is an ‘employee’, but if he is going to decide the manner of his departure he is proving that he is bigger than the club. As many others have pointed out, he’s more like an unaccountable dictator than a respected leader. He simply cannot have the right to choose how and when he goes. Although he has done a lot for Arsenal, it is a two-way relationship that has turned toxic and it is only wishful thinking that makes anyone think it will improve.
Even if Wenger leaves at the end of his contract in 2019, this is not stability. Ironically, a new appointment on a longer-term deal would make the future appear more secure. Instead, the Emirates is a broken home with a father figure, who doesn’t know whether he is coming or going.
In fact, all this uncertainty around contracts in general is a major reason for the malaise at Arsenal. I’m not sure that this is all Wenger’s fault. However, he is a poor role model for the players when all his contract negotiations are prolonged and new deals are struck at the last minute, as was the case after the FA Cup final of 2017.
Consequently, players can see nothing wrong in doing the same (running down their contracts contracts) and Wenger is in no position to criticise. The Wilshere situation is ludicrous and the Ramsey one is only a slight improvement on it. What other top club operates with this level of uncertainty in the background? If Wenger and whoever is negotiating contracts think this kind of thing does not impact on performances then they need their heads tested.
Meanwhile, the only thing being tested is the patience of Arsenal fans. The empty seats regularly seen at the ground tell their own story. Unless decisive action is taken, the rot will continue until Wenger’s departure.
The rot on the pitch is evident in nearly every performance now as, although Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat at home to City was a big improvement in terms of effort, the lack of confidence in the team is tangible. The players need a different voice; they need someone there who makes them think they are worth the money they are getting paid.
Wenger cannot perform this role as he is obsessed with values, prices and costs. While he does try to protect the players from criticism, what does he do to boost their morale?
Arsenal Football Club has become a money-making machine turning out sub-standard performances on the pitch. All this is presided over by a penny-pinching miser, who is only interested in lining his own pocket. Anyone with dignity would have walked away from such a shambles, but Wenger is too arrogant and self-righteous to do that.
The weak board have no control over him and this filters down to the players, who are disorganised, dispirited and in total disarray.
The current crop of players have not become useless overnight, although maybe Cech and Koscielny are showing signs that their days at the top are numbered. The rest of the misfiring Gunners simply need direction and that can only come from the manager, who seems to believe that playing two creative passengers in the same team (I.e. Mkhitaryan and Ozil) will lead to improvement. It hasn’t.
Only a new manager will see the folly of fielding a team of creative players without taking note of work-rate or defensive responsibilities. While it’s true, Man City are a top team, Arsenal’s lack of a game plan allowed them to be. A more defensive-minded manager could arrest the decline and shore up Arsenal’s leaky defence.
Of course, the Gunners have a chance to get back on track against Brighton away and if Arsenal strike first, it may be possible. If not, another defeat is likely and a hammering could be another nail in the coffin that Wenger refuses to climb into.