Arsenal fans vent their anger to Arsene Wenger over trophy drought
It’s been a miserable week for Arsenal supporters - are they now starting to turn on their manager?
Not so long ago, being just three points behind the leaders with a game in hand – and with a very winnable trip to West Bromwich next on the horizon – would have given Arsenal fans huge cause for optimism.
Instead, doom and gloom is enveloping them. Arsenal blogs and fans’ sites have made truly fascinating reading since the 2-0 FA Cup loss at Manchester United last Saturday.
From chasing an unlikely quadruple, Arsenal must now focus the mind on the sole pursuit of the Premier League.
And, a fact that appears lost among all this despondency, it is still in their hands. Win their remaining 10 games – including a potential humdinger against United at The Emirates on May 1 – and the title heads back to north London for the first time since 2004. But you wouldn’t know it.
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“Now let’s not let the table deceive us: the season is over,” moaned season-ticket holder Huseyin Faik on the long-running Arsenal News Review site.
Another, Kee Ming San, snapped: “Can this team stand up and deliver the Premier League title? Mathematically we have a good chance if we hold our nerve from now to the end of the season. History suggests otherwise. The house that Arsene built is made to crumble.”
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Season-ticket holder Roy Newson was equally blunt: “At the end of the day, no person is bigger than the club, so for that reason, and for us to get back to reality and common sense, I think it should be his (Wenger’s) last season.”
One columnist, writing for the website of the biggest-selling Arsenal fanzine, The Gooner, implored fans to “...please, please, please stop singing Wenger’s name, and instead start letting the board and Wenger know that this time we really have had enough, and want a complete change of direction.” Ouch.
Words of support for Arsene Wenger are few and far between, although blogger Wrighty7 warned fans to “be careful what you wish for – we are lucky he doesn’t just walk away!”
Some clearly want him to do just that. Frustration has been slowly building over the past 18 months, but with patience wafer-thin, the Frenchman’s tenure is now entering unchartered territory.
Tired of excuses, tired of defeats in key games, and tired of past glories disappearing over the horizon, there is a now very deep unrest among Arsenal followers.
Desperate, embarrassing chants of “We won the league at Old Trafford” during last week’s defeat purely served to remind supporters of the widening chasm between Wenger’s golden years and the barren here and now.
At a time when everyone should be falling behind the most successful manager in the club’s history, with the Premier League still firmly in his sight, quite the opposite is happening.
Wenger, whose calm authority was a notable hallmark when he arrived at Highbury 15 years ago, is a changed man in his early 60s. Far more animated on the touchline, his open displays of frustration mirror those sat behind him in the stands.
“I question myself always, don’t worry,” he admitted this week. “But if I listened to everybody then it would be a miracle that we are still playing for the title with 10 games to go.
“Nobody in England believed we could even fight for the top four, not a soul. The fact we are in the position we are in I think deserves a lot of credit.
“I let other people judge my performances. The only thing I can say is that I’m ready to give absolutely everything to do it (win the league). I’m confident we will but we need now to work to recover.”
The usual spring implosion of his trophy ambitions has been long predicted by sceptics. History backed them up.
Three years ago, quickfire defeats at Liverpool in the Champions League and Manchester United in the Premier League ended hopes of glory.
“This set of players is amazing and I believe this team is good enough to win things,” he confidently claimed after that loss to United in May 2008.
A year on it was a similar story when United were 3-1 winners at The Emirates in Europe, quickly followed by a devastating 4-1 home loss to Chelsea, which left an impressive 21-match unbeaten league run – and Arsenal’s diminishing title hopes – in tatters.
“People have come to the conclusion that there is a massive difference between us and United,” he said back then. “I’m convinced there isn’t. I remain confident that we can win silverware next season.”
But it was more of the same last spring. A 2-1 loss at bitter rivals Spurs, coming hot on the heels of a Lionel Messi-inspired 4-1 defeat at Barcelona, put to bed their Premier League challenge for another year.
“The team has improved a lot,” he again stressed.
A further year on, Wenger continues to maintain the squad is improving, even declaring it is the best he has ever assembled at the club, but key results tell a different story.
Birmingham, Barcelona and Manchester United are now in the past – the next 10 games could be the most crucial of Wenger’s Arsenal career.
“It’s a very, very difficult schedule. It’s been very difficult for the players but they have never shown any sign of weakness mentally,” said Wenger. “Even on Saturday they put in absolutely every effort and can only be proud of how much they fought.”
With Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal all potentially on the market in the summer, a large number of high calibre coaches could be kicking their heels, eyeing one of the most solvent clubs in world football with high-end resources at their disposal.
But despite Wenger’s apparent crossroads, former Arsenal star Paul Merson, who has grown increasingly critical of the team’s performances, still believes Wenger tops the lot – and isn’t going anywhere.
“If he became available every top football club in the world would want him. Even more so than Mourinho, because he spends his way to success, whereas Wenger builds on a budget,” says Merson. “Whatever happens, I just can’t see him leaving...”