There isn't much that hasn't been said in regards to Arsenal's turbulent last ten years or so. There have been plenty of calls for the great Arsene Wenger to be sacked, whilst the blame game has also been put upon the board and the players.
However, with the Gunners stuck in perhaps one of their darkest ruts since the 1980s, a selection of VAVEL writers shared their thoughts on just how bad it's got for Arsenal.
Wenger in or Wenger out?
Matt Dawson: Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest things to happen to Arsenal Football Club. Despite the numerous bad season's Arsenal have had, nothing can deter that. However it is time for him to go, and it has been for all too long. He should have left after one of the club's recent FA Cup triumphs, but my worry at the time was that Arsenal would slip out of the top four under new management, much like Manchester United did. The thing is, that's happened even with Wenger at the helm. It can't get any worse than it is at the moment; his tactics are almost non-existent and enough is enough.
Dylan Walsh: For the longest time I have been Wenger in, but this season has seen my opinion shift to the polar opposite. Wenger is an Arsenal legend, and one of the best managers that English football has ever seen, but this season has just been depressing to watch. When we used to lose, I used to get emotional and annoyed with the club, now all I feel is a numb feeling because it has happened so much this season.
Rob Tonkinson: I’ll be shocked if you find any other Arsenal fan with a different opinion at this moment. He deserves a send off, sadly, the chance for a really touching tribute was missed last season when he should have left after the FA Cup win.
Adam Fowler: It is time to go for Wenger. The results of late have proven just how far he has fallen, both as a coach and a tactician. He has seemed to watch on as his rivals have surpassed him - Pep Guardiola’s City are unplayable, Jose Mourinho has the best defensive record in the league and Mauricio Pochettino has Tottenham Hotspur playing Champions League football. What people tend to forget is how much Wenger has done for Arsenal Football Club. The best thing for him to do now would be to officially announce he is resigning at the end of the season, so supporters can get behind the team and the man that has brought us so much success. A sad end to an illustrious career.
Neil Leverett: Wenger Out! I’ve been as guilty as the rest of us with regard to Arsenal's former illustrious manager but enough is enough now. The apathy I feel watching Arsenal has grown over the last four years and I want to love my club again. Quite frankly, it would be a tragedy for Wenger not to get a send-off but he’s not going the right way about it. And I honestly don’t see how that situation arises. Wenger will have to be sacked to leave the club.
How much of the blame should the players get?
MD: I don't think all of what's wrong with Arsenal at the moment is Wenger. A small degree is down to the players. They are the ones that go out on the pitch and constantly churn in average performances. But what isn't their fault is the lack of style and direction in which Arsenal are playing with at the moment. Long gone is the quick passing and attacking nous and that isn't the players fault. They need a fresh approach from a different manager and we may finally see some of the players in this team achieve their potential, because there is plenty there.
DW: I think our poor performances are split 50/50 between the players and the manager. Yes Wenger has our players playing a boring and embarrassing style of football, but most of our players show so little passion on the pitch it makes me ashamed to see them play for my team. We have a squad of seasoned internationals, World Cup winners, and Champions League winners, yet not one of them show any passion to play for the shirt.
RT: The players have been awful in recent weeks and just because they don’t like the manager it an isn’t excuse to put in a lack of effort. But this doesn’t feel like a personnel problem, they’re all talented players, the majority of them expensive internationals. There is clearly something terribly wrong in the coaching.
AF: Nowadays it seems the players get a free pass when a manager comes under this much scrutiny and this is all wrong. In short, the performances of this Arsenal squad have been nowhere near good enough, irrelevant of who’s in charge. Yes, there has been questionable tactics in recent games, however showing a bit of passion to play for this huge club should be a given and we have not seen that this year. The Hector Bellerin/Arsenal Fan TV drama came at a bad time and caused some very unneeded friction between the players and the fans, which only made the current situation worse. It would be interesting to see what a new manager does with this current squad.
NL: Player power speaks volumes in the game today, but it disgusts me if any of our lot are doing it (which I think they are). That said however, each player in our squad are looking for new ideas and a new approach from football's former most innovative manager. But that is not forthcoming, so no I can’t blame them for much of it.
Thoughts on the current board/hierarchy at the club?
MD: To be quite honest it's a mess. Ever since David Dein left things seem to have gone downhill, and haven't shown any sign of improving. Arsenal have become a laughing stock in the transfer market and the board's inability to see what's wrong with the club at the moment is nothing short of a disgrace. Ivan Gazidis spoke of a 'catalyst for change' and indeed we are seeing that to some degree with a number of new appointments throughout the club. However Wenger leaving is that catalyst, and it has yet to happen.
DW: What else can be said about the board that hasn’t been said? Stan Kroenke is a businessman and nothing more. He isn’t interested in seeing Arsenal win trophies or get the fans excited. He treats the club, just like all his other mediocre sports teams, as money-making machines.
RT: I’ve been critical of the ownership of the club for a while, there are positive steps, the additions of Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi show some future post-Wenger direction but the fact there has been seemingly no pressure from the likes of Kroenke whilst this slump has gone in is alarming, yet not surprising if you know the man’s history of how he runs his sports teams. Hopefully, Arsenal can get a similar bounce to the LA Rams when they finally got rid of long-term failing coach Jeff Fischer.
AF: Gazidis seems to have Arsenal’s best interests at heart and constantly meets with the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust to get their opinions on the club. He was also pivotal in the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, travelling with head of recruitment, Mislintat to Dortmund to get the transfer across the line. On the other hand, it seems Kroenke is distant from the club with no real passion for football. In this current crisis, he sent his son to observe the on-goings behind the scenes rather than coming himself. It is known however that Kroenke and Wenger have an excellent working relationship and that this would be pivotal in whatever decision is made at the end of the season regarding the manager.
NL: Let it be said I’ve never been a fan of the Arsenal board. Danny Fiszman, Peter Hill Wood, or Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, even before Kroenke, but I’d take them back in a heartbeat if that were possible. It’s disgraceful that our majority owner does not have a scooby doo about football, nor running a football club. It merely scorns us as fans to see Kroenke then buying ranch after ranch in Texas - making money from his investment - whilst the club falls apart. As for Gazidis, he needs to have the balls to stand up to Wenger and get rid of his boss - let’s make no mistake that’s the club power hierarchy. Else, we’ll all be singing again, ‘Ivan Gazidis what the....' well you get where I’m going.
Who could or should replace Wenger?
MD: This is a difficult question because since Arsenal's period of discontent they have missed out on some great managers who have arrived in the English game, Guardiola being the prime example. I think the lure of Arsenal is still an exciting prospect, and the history should attract some large names to the club if and when Wenger does pack his bags. I'd like to see Carlo Ancelotti come in as a short term fix to the issue, whilst Mikel Arteta could be an interesting proposition in the future. Luis Enrique and Max Allegri are two more names I'll throw into the mix.
DW: 99% of managers in the world would jump at the chance to manage a club like Arsenal. My personal choice would be Patrick Vieira given his reputation at the club and how well he has developed as a coach with New York City FC. But the man who should replace Wenger is Ancelotti. He has been a success at every top club he has managed, and Arsenal could be a great test for the Italian.
RT: Diego Simeone, I've been the Argentine coach's biggest cheerleader to replace Wenger for several years now. His teams employ a discipline Arsenal sorely lack and yet that doesn’t take away from the excitement of his team’s attacking football like it can with some coaches. The fact he’s been able to consistently challenge the La Liga duopoly, including winning one title as well as being close to winning two UEFA Champions Leagues speaks for itself.
AF: Arsenal need to be realistic when looking at replacing Wenger. There are obvious front runners with an abundance of experience such as Ancelotti and Joachim Low, who would likely be able to bring stability to a very unstable squad. On the other hand, the board could take a risk with a number of different managers, including Thierry Henry who has expressed his desire to one day manage the club. Other hopefuls include former Arsenal midfielder Arteta who is currently Guardiola’s understudy.
NL: Well here is the 64,000 dollar question. It would be unrealistic to think one man could bring back a sense of wonderment to the club. Maybe Low could be that man, I’m not sure. I genuinely think any capable hands would do; Antonio Conte, Ancelotti, but I’ll state now I don’t want Henry anywhere near managing Arsenal. As much as I love the man he is an idol and I don’t want to see another club legend tarnish his history as an Arsenal favourite.
Would winning the Europa League this season just paper over yet more cracks?
MD: Without a doubt it would. Arsenal's transfer window in January was a bit of a mess. How we signed Aubameyang is beyond me and that at the time merely papered over the cracks, as can be seen with recent results. Winning the Europa League would at least get Arsenal back into the Champions League but the damage has already been done. A European triumph would be a fitting way for Wenger's tenure to end, just as long as it is his final swansong.
DW: It would certainly salvage us some credibility after we inevitably finish 6th in the league table, but the harsh reality is that we won’t win the Europa League based on the points I have already made. No passion, and no fight will only see us get knocked out in the round of 16 in Europe again. At least it isn’t Bayern Munich this time.
RT: It’ll be a lovely way for Wenger to finish to finally win a continental trophy but there are still serious failings at the club that need to be addressed and retaining Wenger past this season won't help fix them.
AF: Winning the Europa League should be Arsenal’s number one target in order to gain their place in the Champions League next year. However, winning the competition should make no difference to the decision that the board make regarding the manager. I firmly believe if we hadn’t won the FA Cup against Hull or even the year after against Aston Villa, we would’ve seen the last of Wenger as Arsenal manager, and that would’ve been the perfect time to go. However, winning these trophies earned Wenger several new contracts when he arguably didn’t deserve it. Winning the Europa League could do exactly the same thing.
NL: Just a tad. We have somehow scraped three FA Cups in the last five years, but had either one been lost in the final, Wenger may not now be in the job. As it is, victory in the Europa League would vindicate our managers delusional views that he is doing a good job, or as he says is ‘the right man to take us forward’. How he believes that is quite beyond me, but for the record - and although I can see us beating Milan - the presence of Lazio, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund will at some stage prove too great an obstacle for us to win the Europa League.