Arsenal finishing in the top four of the Premier League has almost been a foregone conclusion each season; such has been the consistency and stability that Arsene Wenger has been able to provide the club within the twenty years he’s been at the helm.
Despite Wenger’s multiple failed attempts at winning the title, the fact he’s been able to ensure Arsenal’s presence in the Champions League for 19 consecutive seasons (an English football record) can’t be overlooked and deserves credit.
However, Arsenal are capable of much more than finishing fourth. The ‘consistency’ of the Gunners is instead now seen as a negative; a repeated failure of missing out on a larger piece of the pie. After all, where is the achievement in continuing to qualify for the Champions League tournament if you never seem to get close to winning it?
Arsenal’s failure to improve over the past decade is now starting to cause severe unrest within the club. However, Wenger, who was once described as a “specialist in failure” by rival manager Jose Mourinho , has not made any attempt to change his tactical approach which in turn seems to be having a detrimental effect on Arsenal’s ability to launch a viable title challenge.
There has been growing discontent from Arsenal fans towards the French gaffer for his unwillingness to bring about a change in tactics but more importantly personnel.
Many players who currently ply their trade at the Emirates are considered not to be of a good enough standard as far as a title challenge goes and Wenger consistently appears unwilling to spend money on those who are.
The Premier League has evidently evolved into a highly competitive division with clubs showing a bit more ambition, zeal and tactical prowess than ever before, and in a large part, this can be attributed to the spending ability of clubs in the modern era.
With more clubs going into the title race than ever before, and even more, teams challenging for a place in the top four, where does that leave Arsenal? A team that always seems to be left behind by its rivals off the field is now in real danger of collapsing on it, as at least four other Premier League teams now appear strong enough to secure European qualification.
Arsenal have been able to go toe to toe with the likes of Chelsea, United and Manchester City in the past due to the quality of their players, and teams elsewhere in the league not possessing the players or finance to challenge the ‘big four’. However, things appear to have changed significantly this summer due to each Premier League team receiving an enormous amount of money from TV companies. Arsenal’s rivals are bolstering their ranks with world-class players thanks to this cash, while Wenger’s side have sat still and only boasts the services of the likes of a misfiring Olivier Giroud and other inconsistent defenders.
The order of the day at the Emirates has always been to outplay the opposition while keeping an eye on the team’s defensive structure, and while this approach tends to work against smaller sides due to the quality some Arsenal players possess, when going up against similar or better opposition the Gunners tend to lose.
We’re in an era where tactics matter just as much as the players who kick the ball. Every great team has a master tactician at the helm, and that alone is a facet of league success, something that has eluded Arsenal for over a decade.
In retrospect it all adds up; Arsenal haven’t become accustomed to the modern game. Wenger still upholds the values of the old days in football which is why the club hasn’t seen much progress ever since the famous ‘Invincibles’ season.
Tactics and marquee signings go hand in hand for clubs aiming for league glory. Wenger has not advocated either of them well enough. Arsenal remain naive and far too open when playing strong sides, as has already been shown this season with their opening weekend home fixture against Liverpool that ended in a 3-4 defeat. Arsenal might already be out of the title race before it even takes shape.
With more teams gunning for a place in the top four this season, a decline could also see Arsenal miss out on Champions League football. If the North London outfit fail to make it into the top four, there’s no doubt that Wenger will have to be finally axed from his role at the club.
Midway through the season, Wenger may find himself in a tight spot if Arsenal aren’t among those at the top of the Premier League. The 66-year old’s current contract expires at the end of the season, and cries for his exit will become louder and louder with each point dropped given that the “Wenger Out” group of fans is already high in numbers.
Arsenal are currently winless from their first two Premier League outings against Liverpool and Leicester, meaning the club are already likely to be viewing their game against Watford on the 27th of August as a must win.
Wenger is undoubtedly a legend at Arsenal having turned the team into what it is today, but in a bid for the club to move forward it is becoming increasingly easy to make a case for a change of management being required. But lest we forget that the season is just beginning, and Wenger still has 10 months to convince the Arsenal faithful that he can take the club to greater heights.
The number of fans that have grown increasingly impatient with Wenger are a good reminder that we have good reason to believe that this season could determine whether the Frenchman stays or goes.