By Oma Akatugba (@omaakatugba)
It is Groundhog Day at Arsenal, following what looks like another season of
familiar mediocrity and barrenness. A spell of bad run and shoddy
performances has seen the club knocked out of the title race in England
and the FA Cup by lowly Nottingham Forest.
Things are further compounded by the club’s inability to stake a claim in
the Big Four, stoking fears of another Champions League miss considering
the difficulty of winning the Europa League with the inclusion of
obviously better sides such as Napoli, Lazio and Atletico Madrid.
All of these factors have culminated in a sense of fear and anticipated loss
of big stars like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who look like they are on
their way to rival clubs. Whichever way you turn at the Emirates, it is
hard to see a sign of hope or joy and this, predictably, has increased the
call for the club’s longest serving manager, Arsene Wenger, to call it
Yet, reality suggests that he remains their best choice.
A lot of Arsenal fans, some of whom have formed a group called ‘Wenger Out
Brigade’, have cited a plethora of reasons, including the exit of Robert
Mugabe, as justification for Wenger’s sack. However they struggle to
provide a coherent answer to a simple question: Who replaces him?
A surface evaluation of happenings at big clubs across Europe makes
obvious an incontrovertible fact; there is a dearth of elite managers that
would represent an upgrade to Arsene Wenger. The likes of Jose Mourinho
and Pep Guardiola are obviously tied to jobs elsewhere and won’t be free
until seasons from now, while available ones are unlikely to settle for
Arsenal, given their rarity and demand, from far more appealing clubs, for their signature.
The exception is if Arsenal wants to settle for managers like Carlo
Ancelotti who have suffered severe damage to their reputation and are in
search of a rebirth, or try out a young, emerging manager. But that is
also fraught with risks. An instance is the case of Borrusia Dortmund that
have, in less than two years, cycled through Tomas Tuchel, Peter Bosz and
now Peter Stoger (who by the way relegated Cologne), with no significant success recorded at the club.
Beside the lack of a worthy successor, internal changes at Arsenal also
suggest that Arsene Wenger is either trying to wean the club off his
sizable influence (a significant factor given the troubles of Manchester
United following the rather abrupt exit of Alex Ferguson) and pave the way
for a replacement, or remodel himself for a new assault given the existing
realities of the league where defenders are now being bought for the price
of a striker (apologies, Jose).
Either way, this sensible process – which has seen the signing the likes
of Sven Mislintat signed from BVB as new Head of Recruitment and
Barcelona’s former Director of football, Raul Sanllehi – will be disrupted
if the Frenchman is asked to leave.
The immediate consequence would be that the new manager would be thrown
into the deep end of completing a project he neither initiated nor agree
with, revamp an unfamiliar squad with no guidance (yeah, Ivan Gazidis has
no clue on deals negotiations), and all the same deliver trophies – as
that, after all, forms the core reason for his hiring. From experience,
experiments like this often end badly and they take years (and lots of
money too) to correct.
While the frustration of the fans is understandable, the truth remains
that there are no easy answers to Arsenal’s problems and a solution, both
in the immediate and long term, must involve the man with the best
football knowledge at the club; Arsene Wenger.
However, Arsene Wenger knows that beating Bournemouth this weekend will
help ease the pressure on him.
Click here to back Arsenal now.
Picture credit: independent.co.uk