KADEEM SIMMONDS believes it would be best for all involved if the Arsenal boss left at the end of the season, before things turn really ugly for the Frenchman
IT SEEMS everyone and their dog has had an opinion on Arsene Wenger over the past few months. So it is only right I took the leash down and took my dog for a stroll around the park, to discuss the Frenchman who continues to polarise opinion in north London.
I got into football around the time Wenger had taken the Arsenal job. I don’t remember the days before he arrived so have no recollection of previous Arsenal managers and how they did.
But that doesn’t mean that myself or anyone else under the age of 30 aren’t allowed to voice their opinion on the matter and if that opinion is that he should leave now, why is that such a bad thing?
Gunners legend Ian Wright felt the need to attack a supporter on Twitter for holding up a banner which thanked Wenger but told him to leave.
Nothing wrong with that, he had paid his money to watch the game and felt that this peaceful demonstration was the best way for his voice to be heard.
Let’s not pretend that the Arsenal manager is doing an amazing job. The supporter only said what thousands of Gooners are thinking and are now starting to say. Wenger has served the club well but is not immune from criticism.
With no league title in 10 years, back-to-back FA Cups are papering over the cracks. These so-called “title-challenges” are far from an actual challenge.
Being out of the title race by March every season is not good enough for a team the size of Arsenal.
Fans are not stupid, they know they can’t win the league every year. But let them dream. And let that dream last until April or May. Not in February when things really start to hot up.
This season especially, with all of the usual suspects having a stinker, Arsenal were in the perfect position to take advantage and win the Premier League at a canter.
And yet with eight games to go, they find themselves eight points behind.
And while the league is not finished yet, no-one truly believes that Arsenal will go on an eight game winning streak to put Leicester and Tottenham under pressure.
There is a mental fragility in the side which is at odds with the players Wenger has signed over the last few years. Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil have won multiple league titles and the World Cup.
Petr Cech has won everything there is to win in England as well as the Champions League. Alexis Sanchez was part of the Barcelona side that dominated Europe.
You would think they have the mentality to deal with a vigorous league season and their must-win attitude would rub off on those around them.
But apart from Ozil and to some degree Cech, the other two have gone hiding when Wenger and Arsenal have needed them the most.
Wenger’s response is that the media and fans demanded he make some big-money signings and he did so, here is what you get.
But while he is right, it took way too long for them to come in.
Wenger has a blind spot when it comes to loyalty and persisted with players when everyone could see they were not of Arsenal quality.
Say what you want about Chelsea and the way they discard players without really giving them a chance, but there is a ruthlessness that all top clubs need.
The Blues may get rid of some players too early — Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne immediately spring to mind — but they know a dud when they see one.
Wenger allowed the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong, Abou Diaby, Wojciech Szczesny and countless others to clog up the first team when everyone saw upgrades were needed.
If you look at the current squad, an argument could be made that Jack Wilshere can’t stay fit and should be moved on, while they can still fetch upwards of £25 million for him.
Theo Walcott has not improved one iota from the raw talent they signed a decade ago.
And the fact that we are still having the debate about his best position could be used as an argument that he be moved on in the summer.
Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky are two great players, when fit, but could also be allowed to leave and replaced with younger talent who are available throughout the season.
Olivier Giroud will continue to drive supporters mental and while he is a terrific striker on his day, his day comes around once every few weeks or months and, for a club with ambitions to win the league, a more consistent striker is needed.
Up the M6, Alex Ferguson knew how to dismantle a team and put it back together instantly to win a league title.
The argument that Manchester United are a case study in what happens when you kick your long-serving manager out of the door is not a good example.
United fans didn’t force Ferguson out of the Old Trafford hot seat. They understood that it was the right time for their manager to step aside, winning a league title and with a squad capable of leading the Premier League for the next few years.
Whether David Moyes and Louis van Gaal failing miserably is down to the state the United squad was left in is a debate for another day.
What you cannot deny is that Ferguson made the right choice in walking away when he did.
Not every manager has the opportunity ride off into the sunset a hero.
Wenger hoping he can emulate Ferguson in that sense looks less and less likely.
He had the perfect chance at the end of the previous two seasons, after lifting the FA Cup, but choosing to hang around in hope for another league title and the possibility of a Champions League is ruining his legacy.
Next season isn’t going to be easy. Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will not be this bad come August. Chelsea are likely to bring in Antonio Conte and launch an assault on the title.
Liverpool will give Jurgen Klopp a budget to make the team is his own and push for a top-four finish.
And United will once again spend millions to give their potential new manager a chance to propel the side back to the top.
Given all those teams strengthening and Leicester, who could be champions, and Tottenham likely to be around as well, there is no certainty that Arsenal will secure a top-four finish. And then what?
No-one wants to see a footballing great booed and hissed out of the stadium like a pantomime villain.
But to say that Wenger deserves to leave on his own terms is wrong. His previous success counts for nothing if he is failing the club in the present.
It is the job of the board to assess his role as manager at the end of the season and if they feel he is not reaching their targets, then a change is needed.
The problem the Arsenal board has is that they are delighted with continued top-four finishes as it fills their pocket with millions of pounds.
Add in the odd FA Cup and they see Wenger’s job as untouchable.
But the fans feel differently. They are tired of the excuse that the side are unlucky after another loss in which they dominated possesion but failed to really test the opposing goalkeeper, tired of seeing their season end at the same hurdle every year.
They understand that while there may not be a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings, a replacement is needed.
Things may get worse — they may miss out on the Champions League one season.
But at the moment, every Arsenal season is groundhog day. And with there being no guarantee that next year will be the year that they win the league, they have had enough.
This season City, United and Chelsea all forgot to turn and paved a path for Arsenal. Wenger, however, decided he didn’t want to win it the easy way and declined their offer to take the league.
Leicester and Tottenham said thank you very much and head into the final stretch of the season locked in a battle for the title. The though of Spurs winning the league is enough to turn Arsenal fans against Wenger for life.
Gooners have the right to voice their opinion and so do the media.
If that opinion is that this season should be Wenger’s last, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it may just be the correct one.