Saturday 25 November 2017

Aidan O'Hara: If Arsenal win the league, Ranieri should be sacked

Outside the box

Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester team are five points clear Photo: Reuters
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester team are five points clear Photo: Reuters
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

This column's favourite 'Wenger Out-Rage' moment came a few seasons ago when an irate caller rang Today's FM's phone-in show, after Arsenal had lost against a team they probably shouldn't have, to demand that Arsene Wenger be sacked.

"And who do you think should replace him?" he was asked. "The dream team of Dennis Bergkamp and Martin Keown," was his response.

It's very difficult to argue with such an opinion simply because there is so much wrong with it that the brain becomes over-loaded trying to compute a response.

The current theory that Wenger should be sacked if Leicester win the Premier League isn't quite at the level of stupidity that thinks a legendary player and a pundit - who says absolutely nothing but in a very intense way - would make a managerial "dream team" for Arsenal, but it's pretty close.

If Leicester win the league, why stop at Wenger when it comes to sacking managers?

On that basis, Mauricio Pochettino must be under severe pressure given Tottenham's failure of the last week to put any pressure on Leicester when they had the chance to take control of the title race.


Going into last Wednesday's game against West Ham, Tottenham knew they could be three points clear at the top of the table and with a far superior goal difference by the time Leicester played again on Saturday evening.

At Upton Park, they were dreadful for 45 minutes and were lucky to be only 1-0 down before improving in the second half but still coming up short.

On Saturday, they led 2-1 at home with 15 minutes to go against their most bitter rivals with another chance to go top of the league in March for the first time since 1964 while playing against 10 men. The momentum was with them and they froze in a way that, if it had happened to Arsenal, would have caused an online meltdown. If Leicester win the league, Pochettino must go too.

Roberto Martinez has the league's second leading goalscorer and two of England's brightest prospects making up the spine of his team but his team are 22 points behind Leicester. Sack him.

Stoke spent millions in the last two seasons on the likes of Shaqiri and Bojan and might well finish in their highest ever Premier League position but they'll still be several places below a team who have Wes Morgan and the lynchpin of their defence. Mark Hughes must go.

On the "if Leicester win the league" logic, Slaven Bilic must also be feeling the heat even if West Ham are currently just a point outside the Champions League places with a team that are among the most entertaining to watch in the division. Last season, under Sam Allardyce, they finished six points ahead of Leicester but now trail them by 11 - if Wenger Pochettino, Martinez and Hughes are going, Bilic must be close too.

There is plenty of legitimate criticism around Wenger's Arsenal reign but even after showing enough spirit and quality to turn the tide against Tottenham, one prominent English journalist still "couldn't help but feel that Arsenal had blown it".

Perhaps one day Wenger will take apart the arguments one by one but he is on a four-game winless run so it isn't the time to come out swinging, which must be difficult given his consistent desire to apply logic to every situation.

As well as picking apart the 'Leicester winning the league' theory, the argument that Arsenal lack leaders of the past could be picked apart by a couple of examples of what happened when those leaders were there. Wenger is the common denominator to everything but when Arsenal had a leader like Dennis Bergkamp, he missed a penalty in an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United that would have ended their ambitions of a treble.

In the same game, leader Patrick Vieira passed the ball straight to Ryan Giggs, who ran past leader Lee Dixon, leader Tony Adams didn't even put in a tackle, leader David Seaman made himself small and Giggs smashed it past him.

In the same year, Arsenal and United produced a stunning run of results in the league but Arsenal blinked first when losing to Leeds in the second last game of the season and handed the initiative back to United - even with the presence of their now long-lamented leaders.

Two years later in cup final, the same players were involved when Arsenal battered Liverpool but couldn't deal with a long ball over the top as Michael Owen nipped in and won the cup.

These were all great players who, like Wenger, had more credit in the bank because of their previous successes but the notion that Arsenal didn't lose games, league titles and major trophies when their team was packed full of the leaders they are now constantly criticised for not having is nonsense.

If Wenger was really in the mood for cheap shots at the long line of club legends criticising him, he could point to Thierry Henry's inability to convert a one-on-one in the Champions League final against Barcelona when Henry next laments Wenger's current crop lacking a killer instinct.

Of course, after three defeats and a draw in their last four games, Wenger isn't in a position of strength but if Arsenal manage to time this particularly crisis well, they could still win the league for the first time in 12 years.

To do that, they will have to overhaul an eight-point deficit on Leicester with nine games remaining - if Arsenal win the league from there, maybe Claudio Ranieri should be sacked too.

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