Arsenal’s repeating history a tragedy for supporters, farce for neutrals

Arsene Wenger should go because Arsenal, despite having the money now, don’t buy well enough and fade out of the Premiership title race usually by March.

football Updated: Mar 08, 2017 21:06 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Arsenal F.C.‬,‪FC Bayern Munich‬,‪Arsène Wenger‬‬
Arsenal fans hold up a banner protesting against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after losing 1-5 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-16 second leg at home on Tuesday. (REUTERS)

About the only thing more surprising than Arsene Wenger getting a new deal at Arsenal would be Jose Mourinho commiserating on social media when he leaves.

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But if Wenger has to go, it shouldn’t be because of what happened against Bayern Munich this term. It should because history has been repeating itself at Arsenal, as a tragedy for their supporters and a farce for neutrals. He should go because Arsenal, despite having the money now, often don’t buy well enough and fade out of the Premiership title race usually by March.

And because while it is true that they often run into Barcelona, Bayern and AC Milan in the Champions League round of 16, it wasn’t any different when they played Monaco over two legs in 2014-15.

Moreover, Arsenal’s defeats in marquee games of the Premiership tend to telescope into each other; cue the 2013-14 season when they were in the title race and lost 1-5 to Liverpool and 0-6 to Chelsea. Phrases such as “overdependence on some players” (read: the injured Santi Cazorla or Laurent Koscielny), ‘mirror image’, ‘when they concede one, they concede many’, seem to be used with increasing frequency by Arsenal fans.

Bhutia seeks change

“Being second, third or fourth consistently can’t be good enough for Arsenal. I think it’s time for Wenger to go,” said former India striker and skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, a Gooner for life. “It is time Arsenal took the gamble,” he said, over the phone from Gangtok on Wednesday.

It seems a sentiment shared by fashion photographer and film producer Atul Kasbekar who is known to hand Gunners’ shirts to his celebrity subjects. To a tweet that said Wenger is a great manager, Kasbekar replied using the past tense.

For a long time, Wenger showed the Premiership how to build a squad, how to work on the players’ fitness and win trophies. He was instrumental in seeking the shift from Highbury because Arsenal needed more bums on seats.

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Constantine’s support

That is exactly why India head coach and Arsenal die-hard Stephen Constantine thinks Wenger should decide his time of departure. “I think Arsene has done an unbelievable job at Arsenal over the last 20 years and while I understand some people’s frustrations, it is the first time in 20 years where we look a little vulnerable and by that I mean the possibility of finishing outside the top four!,” he told HT via e-mail.

The coach in Constantine also batted for Wenger because “he has never overspent… Without him, Arsenal would not have been in the top four for the past 20 years… None of the other so called top teams have achieved that and they have had millions more to spend than Arsene…Personally I like (Paul) Pogba but was he worth the money United spent? Has he made the difference to justify that money, I don’t think so.”

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Asked why, for instance, Wenger bought only rookie Calum Chambers from Southampton in 2014 to replace skipper Thomas Vermaelen who was sold to Barcelona, Constantine said: “…There were other players in the squad who could have picked up from Vermalen’s sale and didn’t. Chambers was just one of the players bought in to continue to build the squad it is a never ending process.” Wenger did buy Gabriel Paulista in January, 2015 but by then, Arsenal were out of the title race.

“I think whenever there is a change after such a long time teams sometimes struggle to redefine themselves under a new manager. I hope that when Arsene decides he has had enough, he help make that transition a smooth one,” said Constantine.

First Published: Mar 08, 2017 20:41 IST