Never has the future of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal been more in doubt than at this moment in time, following a humiliating 5-1 thrashing by Bayern Munich in midweek to effectively end their Champions League campaign this season. Fronted by Piers Morgan and ArsenalFanTV, the #WengerOut brigade are out in force and gaining members at a worrying rate from the 67 year old’s point of view.
But in my opinion, it really does not make any sense to sack Wenger now and perhaps fortunately the Gunners board recognise that too. Firstly, there’s the question of who would replace him. The favourite of the bookies and Arsenal supporters is seemingly Massimiliano Allegri. Personally, I would be stunned if the Juventus boss made the switch to the Emirates Stadium. Why would he leave a side 10 points clear at the top of their league, in the semi-finals of their domestic cup, with a very winnable tie against Porto in the round of 16 in the Champions League and a better team in general? I think Arsenal fans certainly overestimate the attraction of managing in North London. Perhaps at the end of the season he would consider a switch, but right in the middle of a title, cup and Champions League run-in? No chance.
It is at the end of the season that I think would be the best time for Wenger to depart. His contract is up and he will leave on his own terms, which is the least he deserves following a historic 21 years at the club in which he has been the best, most influential manager they have ever had. It’s not as if the Frenchman is being arrogant and demanding a new five year contract, he knows that his time at the helm is coming to an end, telling the press this week “No matter what happens I will manage for another season. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, that is for sure.” Without explicitly saying it, that is Wenger admitting that he won’t be in charge next season. If you’re an Arsenal fan who wants him out now, be content with the resolution that he’ll leave in the summer, get behind him and the team, take down the ‘Wenger Out’ banners and help your club finish as high as possible in the Premier League and win the FA Cup.
Some fans seem to think that sacking Wenger would solve all of their problems. It won’t. You’ll still be fourth in the league and you’ll still be knocked out of the Champions League. A new manager is not going to come in and reverse the result in Munich or ask the FA for 10 free points in the league. I get the impression that the Emirates Stadium crowd would expect results straight away, yet in reality would a different boss do any better than Wenger would in these final three months of the season? I don’t think so. Just look at how Manchester United struggled following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. A similar decline in North London post-Wenger is not out of the question. Even in the summer, an instant turnaround is incredibly unlikely. There’s been the same Wenger regime at the club for over two decades, it’s going to take some getting used to for the staff and players to follow a different, perhaps even opposite regime. Plus, the board are not suddenly going to give a new manager an unlimited budget to spend when they’ve been pretty stringent with Wenger’s funds. But perhaps that says more about Stan Kroenke’s position at the club.
I know there are some Arsenal fans who just want Wenger out ‘because he’s been here too long’. They know that they won’t get a good replacement, they know that they won’t get results straight away, but are just desperate for Wenger to go. From my point of view, this is incredibly petty. It’s disrespectful to a man who has transformed their football club.
To conclude, let me say that I do agree that Wenger cannot take Arsenal any further. 13 years since a Premier League title is unacceptable for a club with such a history as the Gunners. But sacking him will not make the situation better in the short-term. And in reality, we are only looking at the short-term, as in the summer I’m 90% sure that the Frenchman will step down on his own terms. That is the right outcome for all parties.