Arsène Wenger, the most successful manager in the history of Arsenal Football Club and one of the most iconic things in all of the sport: growing up I thought that Arsenal were named after Arsène and it might as well be true for all he’s achieved with the club.
However in the past decade – even more so in the last couple of seasons – his place has been called into the question by the Arsenal faithful as well as the footballing world. After last year’s events when Arsenal finished in second place behind Champions Leicester, the only silver lining was finishing above the local rivals Tottenham: but is that real enough for the club the size of Arsenal Football Club?
Ever since making the stadium move Arsenal and Arsène have both been humbled in their ambition. Once a fierce lion competing neck and neck with Manchester United and Sir Alex for the Premier League crown, now they seem content with making top 4 year after year. Financial resources and the stadium debt were a big factor of the latter part of Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, however since 2014, Arsenal have made marquee signings in the form of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez and much to the delight of the Arsenal faithful, the days of them selling their best players to rivals were behind them and they can finally look forward to a more success under the guidance of Arsène.
However, it didn’t really pan out the way everyone would’ve hoped for after that. Two FA Cups and a 2nd place finish behind Leicester City are the best Arsenal fans have to show for all their struggles with the stadium move. Considering the fact they moved stadium to compete with the Barcelonas and Real Madrids of the world, one must say it hasn’t really worked out and Arsenal as a brand, and if you judge by the success on pitch, the club has regressed since making the move to the Emirates from Highbury. Injuries and luck have never favoured Arsenal and Arsène but is it really just bad luck if it happens year after year?
The current Premier League season looks like a mirror image of the last 12 years under Wenger; 12 points adrift of leaders Chelsea by the start of February, it looks like Arsenal will be playing for top four in the league once again. With Alexis Sánchez looking more and more frustrated on the pitch every matchday and the constant contract talks and speculation looming around him and Özil, you just get the feeling it’s not going to be enough for players and fans alike anymore, and Arsenal need a new direction under new management.
Seeing Arsenal without Arsène is never going to feel right after 20 years at the helm for the Arsenal boss, but at this point it seems like one more sacrifice that Arsène Wenger has to make for the betterment of the club. History will always suggest that Arsène Wenger had a barren second part of his reign at Arsenal, but perhaps keeping Arsenal competitive with inadequate transfer funds and being forced to sell his best players year after year is his biggest achievement in his managerial career. However you look at it you can’t deny the impact that Wenger has had over Arsenal and the footballing world. Albeit it’s time to turn a new leaf, for better or worse only time will reveal.