Wenger stopped the rut by winning the FA Cup for the past two seasons but for many supporters the pinnacle is clinching the Premier League. Often, the Gunners are ridiculed for playing safe football and just targeting Champions League qualification. This season, like every season in the past, started with huge expectations that Arsenal would lift the domestic title.
Wenger has the best chance to erase years of hurt by winning the title this year – especially with most of the big clubs faltering. Unfortunately for the Gunners’ fans Wenger’s side has not been able to make best use of this opportunity. In fact, the loss to Chelsea left Arsenal slid down to third in the table. The loss is particularly hurting because Chelsea this season hasn’t been the one challenging for title but rather fighting the slide down the table.
The question still remains – should Wenger walk away after another year of drought in Premier League? In the past, Wenger has brushed aside retirement suggestions and spoke about his decision being “instinctive and impulsive” and not “pre-planned”. It would not, though, be going overboard to say that in his mind at least, Wenger would have timed his retirement.
Wenger’s current deal expires in 2017 and there are suggestions that the Frenchman is close to agreeing a new contract that should keep him tied to the club till 2019. Really? A contract extension even if there is no Premier League win?
You don’t need to be a football expert to decipher that this season is the best chance for Arsenal to win the title. At the risk of overstating the obvious and undermining Wenger’s credentials, this could even be his last shot at the title. Win the title this year or win it never!
There is a school of thought which says that Arsenal have improved this season. But the fact of the matter is that the teams around them have fallen so much that Arsenal looked like having improved. There is no evidence that the old problems have been resolved or an effort is being made to resolve.
Take for instance, the often used barb at Wenger’s sides – soft underbelly. The emergence of Francis Coquelin was hailed as an answer but his loss to injury (more on those later) has brought them back to square one.
And the less said about injuries, the better! The annual injury crisis is back at the Emirates and there are players (like Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere) who have seen more of the treatment table than action on the pitch.
What should hurt Wenger more is that they lost to sides whom they should have easily won against – West Ham, West Brom, Southampton and Chelsea. Questions still remain over the fragility of the mindset of his squad, though Wenger wouldn’t want to entertain any such conversation.
There is a growing sentiment within fans that Wenger has overstayed his welcome and it is to time for new ideas at the Emirates. There isn’t an iota of doubt that Wenger has lifted the profile of the club since his appointment in 1996. But, this is a new era and it is time for a new mind to take the club forward.
If Arsenal cannot win the title this season, Wenger would have exhausted all his excuses and should rightly step down. The big question right now is, will he?