John Giles: Arsene Wenger needs to get rid of Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
MANY club owners out there watching Arsene Wenger’s torment are probably feeling a bit smug about his predicament.
They are thinking that the Wenger saga shows what happens when you hand control to one man and that his fall from grace shows why they need their Directors of Football and whatever else they want to call the meddlers they use to interfere in the work of the manager.
I’ll bet Roman Abramovich is thinking that way. He’s certainly acting that way and seems to have subdued Antonio Conte’s fire – for now.
I must say, I’m surprised by Conte’s most recent comments. It looks like he has accepted his lot as “coach” and also accepts that his interest in buying a player is an opinion and not necessarily the one that matters at Stamford Bridge.
That’s a white flag of sorts and I didn’t expect it, given the stories in July about how close he came to leaving and how sour Conte looked in the run-up to the Premier League kick-off.
In the wake of that slapstick opening defeat by Burnley, I thought he was angry enough to walk but he seems happy enough now and his team is performing well.
Perhaps he sees no purpose in fighting battles he cannot win and has decided to focus on matters he can have an impact on.
We know from last season that he is very good at organising a group of men and I think he is to be admired for the way Chelsea bounced back from a very low point a few weeks ago and showed that, regardless of what is happening off the pitch, he is fully in control of his players and they are working hard and playing for him.
What all of this says about his long term future with Chelsea is difficult to judge. Logically, a man of his talents should be able to ask for and get the kind of working conditions Pep Guardiola enjoys at Manchester City.
But he will never get that at Chelsea and if the Mansour family, who have been very strong behind Pep Guardiola and given him everything he asked for, feel that what has been a very expensive project so far doesn’t deliver this season, they won’t hesitate to interfere as well.
Wenger’s collapse will embolden those outside the core group of players, staff and manager at many different clubs who believe they have an opinion that should matter but it doesn’t mean that they are right. They will never be right.
The situation at Arsenal is about bad management from top to bottom. Wenger didn’t do what I thought he had to do in the summer to survive; namely, get rid of players like Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and freshen everything up.
He needed to give the fans hope and the only way to do that was to break free from the hair-shirt mentality which helped fund a new stadium but could never keep pace with less debt-conscious clubs.
Instead, they see the faint-hearted players Wenger has been so loyal too down tools and stop playing. Now we’re told they all want to leave.
The irony was lost completely on Thierry Henry when he said that he understands why players like Ozil want to leave Arsenal as if the German international is a bystander with no part to play in the drama.
Players get away with murder in situations like this. Ozil is one of the main reasons Wenger is in trouble and surely Henry must see that the best medicine for Arsenal would be to get rid of him – not keep him.
All of that said, I think Wenger has no credit left in the bank now and he must take responsibility for placing his trust in these players and not acting to make his squad better when he had money to spend.
He is locked into his own world and when offered a last chance to really have a go at the transfer market and shake his squad up, he couldn’t climb out of his rut.
I feel sad about that and can only see this ending very badly for him.
The Arsenal owners have a duty to act in the best interests of the club at all times and there was nothing good about Arsenal’s performance against Liverpool.
They have never interfered with Wenger and are to be praised for that but if the moment has come to sack him, then they should have the courage to do that.
The problem they have is that it would be very difficult to hire a replacement in mid-stream. They could easily find themselves in the same situation Chelsea experienced when they sacked Jose Mourinho two years ago. Abramovich brought in Guus Hiddink to hold the fort and was lucky to have him but Chelsea’s season was dead in the water before Christmas.
They dropped out of the Top Four and failed to qualify for last season’s Champions League as a result.
The important difference is that interference was at the root of Mourinho’s sacking while Wenger has been the architect of his own downfall.