For many Arsenal fans today, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal are one in the same.
At 21 years old I as a fan have never known the club without the canny Frenchman at the helm. Indeed the thought of our club entering a ‘transition phase’, otherwise known as a complete overall, seems pretty daunting- just take a look at our friends at Manchester United (surely it wouldn’t be that bad right?).
Sure as a young kid we are proud to announce to the world our support for a football club but we aren’t really conscious supporters until our age has hit double digits and by this measure, I base Wenger’s performance from the 2004/05 season onwards… leaving much to be desired.
The people of my generation are yet to celebrate true success at the club as conscious fans. Sure we may vaguely recall our parents boasting about this generation of players known as the ‘invincibles’, but this landmark was achieved when I was aged 8. Needless to say I’m not the ideal candidate to be your ‘phone a friend’ for our 2003/04 season.
As the years ticked by the optimism dropped, the number of critics steadily rose and Arsene Wenger watched on as the success he once enjoyed became nothing but a memory. Then came the turning point, the financial chains of The Emirates move were broken and Arsenal began bringing in some of world football’s top talent…Wenger was finally splashing the cash fans had been crying out for, yet success even to this day remains elusive.
Sure some will be quick to point out the two FA cups we have won in more recent years and true this is a valid achievement, but as a club we need to decide what ‘stick’ are we measuring ourselves against? What does ‘good’ look like for Arsenal FC?
For me, success at the top flight of the modern English game, we will leave the European stage for another day, is measured by your ability to perform well; compete for silverware and establish a sense of pride in the badge. Even during the trophy drought, our club was competing. There was a real sense of optimism when the charity shield came round to kick off the season and the team were renowned for their scintillating football.
Yet old wounds simply wouldn’t heal; the lack of leadership, problems in the defence and a never ending need to strengthen key positions. At the start of this season there was a very real feeling of fear amongst fans, could it be, is this the year ‘that team down the road’ finish above us?
Well it is clear these preseason rumbles have translated into nothing short of a catastrophe. We have a real fight to hang onto our spot in the top four; our humiliation at the hand of Bayern Munich continues to hurt fans and success in the FA cup looks remote with fierce competition standing between us and the trophy. Add to this the mass exodus expected in the summer and it makes it impossible to defend Wenger’s position.
Our position in the league, our performance on the pitch and our ability to attract and retain the best players have all declined in recent times a trend that, as disappointing as it is to admit, looks set to continue.
The club had done little to reassure the growing unrest amongst fans, Stan Kronke remains characteristically muted and the statement released by the club lacked any real clarity.
For many Arsenal fans the fairy-tale of success is over, for my generation the fairy-tale is yet to begin. It’s time to say ‘au revoir’ Arsene and welcome in the next chapter of our club.