Many fans expected Arsenal to win the Premier League title at the start of the 2015-16 season, but now with the team seemingly faltering again, supporters have been left divided on the future of their long-serving manager Arsène Wenger.
As the most successful manager in the club’s long history, he’s now facing a backlash after their early season promise seems to have faded, leaving them third in the title race, 11 points behind surprise league leaders Leicester and four off second-placed Tottenham.
When Wenger first took over Arsenal back in 1996, former club captain Tony Adams was quoted as asking what he knew about football, claiming he looked more like a schoolteacher. Twenty years down the line, Wenger has undoubtedly proven he knows a lot about the game.
During his two decades at Arsenal, they’ve won six FA Cups and three league titles, including going through the 2003/2004 season without losing a match. England’s longest-serving football manager, the Frenchman has become something of a legend. Yet the silverware has been thin on the ground lately, and the Gunners have won just two trophies in the past 10 years. They haven’t won the league since that unbeaten season and this season, were recently knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona.
It’s looking like the Gunners will fall short again of winning the Premier League as Leicester continue to grind out the victories and are beginning to pull away from their rivals. Arsenal fans are now divided into two camps, those backing the manager and the “Wenger out” brigade.
The question is, why do Arsenal keep falling short every season? The pundits all have their own theories on why they never quite make it. The Times’ sports correspondent Henry Winter labelled Wenger a “fading force”, while other accusations are that he’s stubborn tactically, that he has too much power, that he doesn’t spend enough on new players and that his teams are mentally weak.
Wenger’s influence on English football is undeniable. He is credited with being the first manager of an English club to introduce special diets for players, a trend that every other professional club has followed. He changed Arsenal’s style of play from being mainly defensive into a faster-flowing, attacking style.
However, the Premier League title still eludes them and the banners appearing on the terraces saying it’s “time for Arsène to say goodbye” have been much publicised.
Of course, the title race isn’t won yet, although there aren’t that many games left for Arsenal to catch up an 11-point deficit. Arsène supporters point out that Arsenal’s remaining fixtures, are on the whole, fairly straightforward, although no victory is ever a certainty and there are always upsets.
There’s still a considerable gap to make up, but some pundits argue that Arsenal represent a more significant challenge to the Foxes than Tottenham do, especially since Arsenal have a game in hand on both the clubs above them.
Contact: Janie Rabet