I’ll start with a confession: I’m a Gooner. Have been since birth, when I ate with “I can dribble better than Liam Brady” emblazoned on my bib. It happened to be the year in which the little known Arsene Wenger took the helm. So, I am not an impartial bystander, far from it in fact. And like all Gooners, this debate has annually consumed me and indeed every Arsenal fan for the past six years. It is like the winter flu, creeping up on you just after Christmas and striking you down when you feel on top of the world.
The question comes around like ground hog day. Somewhere between a disappointing defeat to a ‘title’ rival and a shambolic display in the Champions League. This year has been particularly painful. An abject defeat to Chelsea was quickly followed by the annual dose of humiliation served to us in Europe, this time administered by Bayern Munich. As expected the ‘Wenger Out’ posse is in full voice right on cue.
Although I share the dejection after yet another season of hope has been misplaced, I will not be partaking in the protests. This is not because I’m happy with the so-called ‘mediocrity’ of fourth place for the 20th consecutive year, a feat, by the way that the Mancs, Scousers, Spuds and the lot from the Bridge could only dream about. No, this is simply a measured approach from a realist. An approach from which idiotic Arsenal fans like Piers Morgan or the morons on ArsenalFanTV would benefit.
Is being one of the top 4 teams in one of the most competitive leagues in the world for the last 20 years really that awful? Should one complain after receiving consistent Champions League football while other teams like Chelsea, United, City and Liverpool have all flirted with the dreaded Thursday evening slot? I think not. Perhaps a step back to the land of perspective might be in order.
Embittered Gooners should detach themselves from their sense of entitlement and not make comparisons to teams of old. Leicester City anomaly aside, these days successful managers usually have a sheik or oligarch lurking in the shadows. Wenger has proudly stood alone all that time and kept us in contention without the oil slicked gazillions of other clubs. That is genius right there. His demeanour and poise is unmatched and his humanity and humour are certainly more palatable than a certain pompous Portugeezer.
We must be careful about what we wish for
It angers me that he is not getting the respect his reputation deserves. Anyone with a modicum of footballing experience is astutely aware of his quality. He is an acutely intelligent man and he has even hinted that his time is coming to an end. I realise that change is coming but I am not asking for his head on a stick. We must be careful about what we wish for. Transitional phases are never easy. Moyes and Hodgson, taking the reins from Fergie and Rafa, faltered when they had their chance in the spotlight. Equally, we should think back to the days of 12th place with Bruce Rioch and be grateful that Wenger graced us with his presence.
Until there is a well thought out exit plan, let’s enjoy the little things. Let’s create a ‘4th place trophy’ and be grateful for more Champions League football. Let’s win the FA Cup. Let’s celebrate these alongside the reassuringly inevitable St Totteringham’s Day that follows an unavoidable capitulation from the Spuds at the Lane. My message is simple: let’s take solace from this uniformity, let’s not force change and when the time comes let’s give this man the send-off his loyalty and prestige justifies.