It's One Step Forward & Three Back as Wenger Continues to Display His Weaknesses at Arsenal
The lead picture for this article sums up the last ten years and counting at Arsenal Football Club - they're clueless.
Following the 4-0 drubbing away to Liverpool in the third match of the Premier League season, the inquisition and calls for Arsene Wenger's head or at the very least resignation, made the rounds across Anfield and English football.
Turning to his assistant manager Steve Bould, who clearly doesn't have much of a say in proceedings at the Emirates and remaining loyal to his staff who followed his every command without question, everybody at Arsenal has two options - bow down to the French tactician or bid adieu.
Ask club-record goalscorer Thierry Henry, whose outspoken opinion and love for the Gunners was not enough to keep him as U18 manager.
Talk to club legend Tony Adams, who consistently complains how he was not given a second thought as a coach at the club. Look to talisman and captain Patrick Vieira, who was overlooked for a position at Arsenal, but is building a reputation as a good manager at New York City FC, after forging links at Manchester City.
Only those who answer to Wenger and don't question his totalitarian dictatorship at Arsenal remain; case in point is Per Mertsacker who has often been caught out in the Premier League because of his pace and missed the entirety of last season barring the FA Cup final, which he performed heroically in. After his retirement next year, he will take the position of new Academy manager for the Gunners - surprise surprise!
Many called for Wenger to step down last year after an embarrassing season, as they could only muster a solitary cup win, while Chelsea were on a mini-holiday after wrapping up the Premier League crown. Did Antonio Conte rest on his laurels?
The answer is no, as the Italian manager demanded the Blues brought in Alvaro Morata, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater, Antonio Rüdiger and Davide Zappacosta to replace the departing few. Meanwhile, finishing fifth behind Liverpool, for the first time during Wenger's reign as manager, Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League due to contract issues at the club regarding the boss and several key players who were mismanaged by the pathetic board. Signing just two players who both started on the bench against Liverpool, the difference in ambition is obvious.
Overpaid and happy to profit at the will of the fans, chief executive Ivan Gazidis and chief transfer and contract negotiator Dick Law were supposed to be in charge of running the business side of the club, ensuring they challenge for trophies and attract the highest calibre of players. Instead, all they have done is run down contracts, lose important first team member's and make the historic club a laughing stock.
Not just off the pitch but on it too, Arsenal are the bunt of all jokes currently, as Wenger demonstrates a naivety and arrogance to not change his tactics or beliefs. He remains loyal to players who have not performed for a long time; take your pick from £42m purchase Mesut Ozil, who is clearly not suited to the Premier League, or £30m acquisition Granit Xhaka who does not address the concern to protect a vunerable and shoddy defence.
Next season at the Emirates, they will more than likely lose Alexis Sanchez on a free transfer in his prime to a rival club after allowing the star player to be surrounded by inadequacy. Ozil will probably depart the club too, academy graduate Jack Wilshere will also leave while energetic midfielder Aaron Ramsey's deal ends in 2019.
Against Liverpool and Stoke, in which they suffered demoralising defeats, Wenger had no clue how to set the team up. In a farcical manner, the former Monaco coach played the departing Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain against his new team Liverpool, who he signed on deadline day for at £35m, out of position at left back - when he stated many times he wants to play central midfield. This is a player who had one year left on his current contract and could dictate his next move.
Nacho Monreal, who is a mid-table team left back at best was playing centre-half for a top-six side, which begs belief, leaving two World Cup winning centre-backs on the bench. There was no protection in front of an alleged stronger unit with 5 defenders, as Xhaka and Ramsey roamed around the pitch in a free-role. Sanchez tried his best but showed little motivation to dig in, Ozil was a ghost on the field as usual in big matches and Wenger's record signing Alexandre Lacazette was left on the bench against a big team like Liverpool.
The manager has shown for many years a stubborn nature, which is impossible to crack. He has signed a new two-year deal unopposed by the board, despite the fans anger at a club that only thirteen years ago finished the campaign unbeaten, frustratingly looks in free fall.
When Wenger eventually retires or steps down, it will be a very difficult task any successor to steady the ship. However, can it get any worse than it is now at Arsenal?