Since that spectacular win against Leicester at the Emirates, here’s the sequence of results that Arsenal has managed over the seven games which followed: Draw. Loss. Loss. Loss. Draw. Win. Loss. Win. The form guide makes for a terrible reading, given the way Arsenal performed against Watford before being ousted from the FA Cup. A tournament in which they had been unbeaten since 2013 and was possibly their only chance of silverware this season.
The narrative has unraveled at the drop of a hat. After two seasons in which Arsene Wenger dispelled the club’s barren streak in silverware, this campaign was meant to be the one in which this squad came of age. The signing of Cech was an important one, the one that looked like it was finally the crucial last cog in a jigsaw puzzle that had flickers of flair, seasoned heads and genuine technical maestros. However, not signing an outfield player was always a risk and when Cazorla picked up that injury in November, that’s where the Gunners’ midfield lost the creative link between defense and attack. In the winter transfer window, this problem wasn’t addressed and what one’s now seeing is a dismal lack of cohesion throughout the team in which the players just don’t seem to know what they’re supposed to do.
Arsene Wenger’s key philosophy has always been to allow his players a free range in which they can affect the game with their creative disposition. However, when the going gets tough, there has to be fall-back plan, something that’s sorely missed in the team. Recently, Wenger has displayed tactical proactivity when he’s hooked off underperforming players and thrown on attacking firepower while they’re chasing a game. But that tendency springs into action as an anomaly, rather than a norm.
With two wins out of eight games, they’re close to equalling Wenger’s worst record in charge of Arsenal. This should have been the season where Arsenal should have run away with the Premier League title. Chelsea has imploded, Liverpool and Manchester United are average at best, Manchester City is not firing on all cylinders and in all fairness, Arsenal does have a squad capable of staying ahead of Leicester City and Tottenham. But when that’s not the case, who does the blame fall to?
And… the Arsene Wenger transfer policy
The manager’s role, besides analyzing tactical weaknesses in opposing teams and identifying game plans that can boost the side’s chances to win, is also to deal with the intangibles of the game. Form, confidence, belief and the very spirit that Arsene Wenger refers to, in most of his interviews are all up to the manager to be instilled in a team. When that doesn’t work out, like one has seen since the draw against Liverpool, the manager has to try different techniques to squeeze out as much potential as possible from a squad.
That’s not where the only problem lies, though. The transfer policy has always been under the scanner under Wenger since they transitioned into the Emirates Stadium. It’s not like they’re strapped for cash anymore as this post analyses. But, the inertia in spending money on top quality talent seems to be hurting them more than ever. In the Deloitte Money League, Arsenal is the seventh richest club in the world, beating the likes of Juventus, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid. And almost every other club has won silverware in some form or the other.
But is it too soon to bay for Arsene Wenger’s head? It may very well be the case. One only needs to look at Manchester United to know how difficult it is to replace a legendary manager— an individual who has revolutionized the club. Even though results have not been up to the mark and it’s nearly certain that Wenger is no longer the kind of manager who can get results to win a trophy like the Premier League or the UCL, to sack him from his position will only lead to more problems. A smooth transition should be the first priority of the Arsenal board and install an assistant manager who can learn the ropes from Wenger and then take over makes sense. They could also look at doing everything we can to retain Steve Bould in case, they decide a change in managerial affairs.
Two seasons ago, with Hull 0-2 up against Arsenal at Wembley in the FA Cup final, it looked like it would be the last day, one would see Arsene Wenger in charge of Arsenal. Having won that 3-2, and then going on to win the FA Cup again, the following season, the loss at the hands of Watford in the same tournament could very well be the point where the first few final nails are hammered into his managerial coffin at Arsenal.