Trying … trying … but largely failing, along with many long-time Arsenal supporters. Just take a look at this misty-water-colored-memories-of-the-way-we-were post over at Arseblog. (The post is a couple of years old, but it’s been making extensive rounds on Twitter today.)
In an earlier post I wrote that “none of this is going to change until Wenger has retired. And I can imagine no circumstances in which he would voluntarily leave before the end of his contract, and very few circumstances in which the bosses would force him out.” I am still convinced that the very idea of resigning is anathema to Wenger, but now think it at least slightly more likely that he will get heavy pressure from the board and that he could possibly leave after this season. I don’t remember who first said this, but more than a few people have now commented that the least bad solution now would be for Wenger to announce that he’s leaving at the end of the season, so that (a) the supporters can give him thanks and praise for all that he’s done for the club over the years and (b) the board can get to work making a plan for the future.
I would just add that it would be nice to see the Gunners play badly enough for the rest of the season to fall out of European football altogether, and focus next season fully on domestic football. And that is a distinctly possible outcome.
So if Wenger does resign, then what should the remaining club leadership do?
- Hire a new manager by June 1, so that the club can participate fully and confidently in the transfer market. Players looking for a new club need to believe that Arsenal is a legitimate option.
- Make sure the manager you hire understands the quality of some of the young players and is willing and able to train them up in the way they should go, as the Good Book says, and to give them opportunities to show that quality.
- In between now and the hiring of the New Guy, talk to the best players and reassure them of the club’s commitment to rising again to the top of English and European football. Tell them it’s not their fault (even when you think it’s kinda their fault) and that they’ve been let down by management, but they need not fear, a new coaching staff will be coming in to bring the very best out of all the marvelous players.
- I know there will be a lot of disagreement about this point, but I would suggest that the new management not be too quick to cut loose, or even to marginalize, players who have played badly under Wenger for these past couple of chaotic years. Xhaka has typically looked like a wholly lost cause, utterly unsuited for the demands of the Premier League, but he is one of those guys (Ramsey and Mustafi are others) who looks like a totally different and far superior footballer when playing for his country than he does when playing for Arsenal.
- This is an extension of the previous point: keep in mind that a number of players feel that they have simply been abandoned by the coaching staff, given no direction, cut adrift, left to their own devices. That Wenger made no substitutions against Man City, even when down 3-0 at the half, even when still down 3-0 after an hour, suggests that he really has given up. The board needs to be patient with players who have been so neglected.
- Finally, everyone should pray for God’s mercy and grace.