Fear of life after Wenger prevents Arsenal from change
Published 15/03/2016 | 02:30
Many people in football are enjoying Manchester United's travails - schadenfreude is inevitable, given the club's recent dominance - but Arsenal's directors and owners will not be among them. For them, United's difficulties since Alex Ferguson's departure are a terrible warning.
After Sunday's home defeat to Watford in the FA Cup, there has been further growth in Arsenal fans wanting the club to dispense with Arsene Wenger, their tone becoming ever more venomous, but the club's leadership look at United post-Ferguson and shiver.
Ferguson spent 27 seasons at Old Trafford, bowing out with his 13th league title. Since then the club have finished seventh and fourth, won nothing more than the Community Shield (for which Ferguson had qualified them) and are set to miss out on silverware and Champions League qualification again. This summer they are likely to be searching for their third post-Ferguson manager. This despite a net spend of £200m on players.
Wenger has been at Arsenal for 20 seasons, and looks like finishing this one without silverware, but should secure a 19th successive season in the Champions League. He is as supreme and controlling at Arsenal as Ferguson was at United - and could be just as impossible to replace.
Wenger regularly suggests Champions League qualification is equivalent to a trophy and majority owner Stan Kroenke would probably agree. The American has always given the impression his input is an investment, not the price of reflected glory. This was underlined when he said late last week at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston: "If you want to win championships then you would never get involved." Kroenke - who was paid £3m last year by Arsenal for unspecified "strategic and advisory services" - went on to stress the need to make the ownership model work as a business.
Arsenal this season spent £10m on players, a figure comfortably eclipsed by earnings from the Champions League and Premier League TV deal, not to mention the highest season-ticket prices in England. On Kroenke's terms the business model works, regardless of silverware.
Arsenal's players insist they continue to aim for a real trophy. Of tomorrow's Champions League tie at Barcelona, in which Arsenal must overturn a two-goal deficit, Per Mertesacker said: "The season is not over. We have to go there and try to attack, no matter what. That is the only possibility we have. We can be fortunate to have such a big game in front of us. They are the ultimate team."
Mertesacker suggested Arsenal's problem was not their play, or their belief, but their finishing. "What we lack is we need to score at some point," he said.
"We play and play and play until the opposing team scores. That is something we need to work on. We lack that killer instinct.
"It looks like the longer the game goes, we rush and rush our decisions." (© Independent News Service)