Opinion: Arsene Wenger, Arsenal fans, and the future

It’s that time of year folks. Results have been poor, the challenge for the Premier League title extinguished long ago, and a Champions League round of 16 departure is likely on the table. Oh what a wonderful time to be an Arsenal fan.

Be careful of what you wish for

The wild Arsenal fan will take two approaches to this dilemma.

They will either A) accept that this stuff happens to clubs, their's more than anyone else, and will continue supporting the club until the end of the season and see how the club reacts in improving the squad. Or they will B) overreact like the world is ending and blame the manager for everything and order the board to sack him immediately.

Unsurprisingly, option B, and sacking Arsene Wenger, is the most popular choice within the Arsenal fan base.

You know, the same Wenger who took Arsenal from a good team to a great team. The same Wenger who led Arsenal to an undefeated season in the most competitive league in Europe. The same Wenger who is the most successful Arsenal manager in their history. Yeah, that Wenger.

It seems like this scenario happens every season, and you would be right to think so. Last season, after a shock FA Cup exit to Watford, #WengerOut once again took its place as the number one trending hashtag on social media sites.

The year before that, it was a 2-1 loss to Swansea City, and a viral video from the infamous Arsenal Fan TV YouTube channel, that once again called for Wenger to be axed from the job.

And as Arsenal lost to away Chelsea 3-1 on the weekend, the Wenger Out brigade were out in force yet again. However unlike most years where the media would brush aside mediocre fan protests, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville decided to speak out about the criticism of Arsene Wenger.

Neville said: "He's an idiot (in reference to a fan with a home-made Wenger out banner), that guy. Arsene Wenger doesn’t deserve that. Obviously the Arsenal fans are disappointed, but to pre-empt by bring a banner into the ground, it’s a joke."

He added: "Think about changing your manager; it might be that you don’t finish in the top-four for a few seasons, and actually what Arsene Wenger has achieved is fantastic. So be careful."

Neville’s words should be taken with caution. His former club, Manchester United, have suffered the fate of losing a long-time manager and seen the replacement take the club into a downward spiral that United have only just started to recover from.

The fan holds the power

Are some Arsenal fans right to protest against a man who has taken the club to incredible heights in the 20 years he has been at the club?

On one hand, the fans do have a right to do so. They have the right to show their opinion and speak out against something they don’t agree on, however, to state your opinion in a manner that seems almost childish is something you should receive criticism for.

Losing two games in a row, one of which at a ground the club have only won at twice since Wenger took over the club, isn’t a sign of a crisis.

Rather, it is a sign of the fans expecting way too much from a team that don’t have the quality or mental strength to win the title when so other teams, including their hated rivals Tottenham, do.

Wenger even said during a press conference after the 3-1 loss that Arsenal fans should behave more like Spurs fans, saying on Thursday: “Of course, our fans have been consistent and have a high level of expectation, as I have as well. But I don't feel it is absolutely clear. You cannot be a fan until last Tuesday and not be a fan anymore and not be behind the team this Saturday. It doesn't make sense.”

Wenger told journalists: "All the other clubs, everywhere we fight with - Man United, Man City, Liverpool - they have big expectations as well and big histories. We are in a fight there, we absolutely have to be united or we have no chance to do it. You have Tottenham, everyone is in the fight and everyone is behind their team. We have to do exactly the same, even if we had two disappointing results."

The future of Arsenal

The end of the season will mark the end of Wenger’s current deal with the club, and with rumours of the club set to offer the 67-year-old a new two-year deal, fans have once again set themselves on fire.

It has always been viewed that Wenger would end his long Arsenal career with a bang, i.e. winning the Premier League one last time. But as reality starts to set in after the promising start to every season, the elusive fourth Premier League title has yet to materialise.

Would the board actually consider keeping Wenger on until he is almost 70 just so the Frenchman can leave the club on a high? Even the most lenient of club boards would disagree.

However, the Arsenal board may be resigned to letting Wenger leave or retire after looking at what happened to the aforementioned Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement from the game in 2013 after leading Manchester United to 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two Champions League triumphs in the 27 years the Scotsman was at the Manchester club.

His replacement, then Everton manager David Moyes, seemed like a smart appointment from the board, but after a terrible debut season that saw Moyes lead United to sixth place, a lack of quality signings, and questionable tactical decisions, Moyes was sacked in April of the same season.

It’s not to say this could happen to Arsenal, but with managers such as Massimiliano Allegri, Thomas Tuchel, and Roger Schmidt all being reported to be Wenger’s replacement, Arsenal’s future could be very bright when Wenger does decides to leave Arsenal. When that is, is still up for debate.

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