Sunday 19 November 2017

John Giles: It’s sad, deeply sad to me that Arsene Wenger is reduced to this

Read John's column every week in the Herald

Arsene Wenger cuts a lonely figure after humiliating Crystal Palace loss. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Arsene Wenger cuts a lonely figure after humiliating Crystal Palace loss. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
John Giles

John Giles

I never, ever thought that one day, I would see the title Director of Football used in the same sentence with Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.

It’s sad, deeply sad to me that Wenger is reduced to this.

But it is a sign that, as I said a few weeks back, Wenger wants to hang on and has no intention of quitting.

If he agrees to a Director of Football role and stays, many more of the qualities which made Wenger a hugely successful manager will be abandoned in favour of survival.

Clearly, he has nothing else in his life to fill the hours without football and would rather allow the iron grip he had on the club to relax than give up managing the Gunners.

The only card he has left to play really is to throw off the financial shackles he attached to the club and buy a new team.

I believe that this is the way he will try to sell it to the Arsenal board and to the fans. He will say that the time has come to change tack and Arsenal will be in the middle of all the big deals this summer.

If he can somehow secure Champions League football and win the FA Cup, they will buy it.

I know most people believe that Arsenal fans have had enough and that the scenario I’m painting is no different from any of the last eight seasons.

But it is. If Wenger promises new faces and a different approach, it will match the wishes of the fans. It won’t be the same as last season, or the season before that.

As far as the Arsenal owners and directors are concerned, they will want to know that the numbers are right but I don’t see a problem with that either.

If Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have to go as part of a big clean-out, Arsenal could get well over £100m for them.

PANews_P-90fdb3c5-ceb0-44d6-84e6-c6267b8f04b8_I1.jpg
Mesut Ozil came in for criticism following Arsenal's defeat at Crystal Palace on Monday

Add that to the cash reserves the club has and Wenger would be in a position to bid for the top players.

Let’s be honest, that’s what he needs more than anything else and he will have to concede that his model of developing young players and team building has not worked. The club needs lads who will hit the ground running next August.

Of course, there is the distinct possibility, even likelihood now, that Arsenal will not finish in the top four and that they will not win the FA Cup.

At that point, I honestly don’t know what might happen.

The people who own Arsenal don’t think like football fans and as long as the accounts look healthy, they are happy.

That might change if the flow of cash from the Champions League stopped.

I’ve said for some time that Wenger should retire now before he damages his legacy and becomes as big a liability to Arsenal as he was an asset in the glory years.

He still has credit in the bank, even after all that has happened since he had a winning team, but not much and it wouldn’t take a lot to turn him into a mug in the public’s eyes.

A new two-year deal and a big investment in new players would clean him out. He would be starting from scratch again.

It’s not an unlikely prospect to imagine Wenger, three months into next season and with a bunch of new players, sacked because of bad results.

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