In light of the recent string of results which have, most likely, killed Arsenal's league title hopes for yet another year, the chorus of noise around Arsene Wenger and how much time he has left at Arsenal is growing louder and, painfully for some of us, harder to refute or rebut. All of the arguments those of us in the pro-Wenger camp have used to defend him for years are no longer holding true, and it's growing increasingly apparent that Arsene Wenger's legendary single-mindedness is starting to hurt more than it helps.
Given that, we asked each writer to answer a simple question: What does Arsene Wenger's managerial future look like?
bozz: It hurts to say but if I'm being honest, Arsene Wenger's Arsenal future should come to an end this summer. I thought he was turning a pragmatic corner last season but that was just a mirage. The purchases have been largely mediocre the last few seasons, the play speaks for itself and I'm actually now fearing that the big names will now want to leave. I think this club needs a modern manager to combat the influx of talent that's about to hit the league this summer and Wenger, whether as manager or director of football, gives me little confidence in that aspect. It's a fantasy signing and I can't stand the man, but I'd make a full-court press for Diego Simeone and give him whatever he wants (I realize how unlikely it is that he'll come this summer).
There's the likely possibility that he stays until the end of his contract, but what about his transfer history, philosophy and managerial practices should give us hope for next season?
fbj0: What should and will happen are very likely two different outcomes in this situation. I think even the most ardent pro-Wenger supporters (a group of which I would consider myself a member) have come to the realization that his time at Arsenal is nearing an end. That said, the club really cannot fire him. He's an institution. Even attempting to convince him to retire could backfire. His contract runs through May 2017. I think, if we haven't won any trophies in between now and that point, that Wenger will step away as he seemed prepared to do in May 2014. If we win one of the 3 major trophies between now and then (BPL, FAC, UCL), then I think he'll stay on for a few years.
Phil West: It's hard to say good bye, and it's also hard to see a future in which we're playing Manager Roulette, but it's also hard to see a continued existence in which the last three windows have netted us Gabriel, Cech, and Elneny in two seasons where Arsenal's absorbed multiple injuries and drop-offs to most of the attacking half of the roster. Here's my prescription: Make it clear to Wenger now that if Arsenal doesn't win the '15-16 title, '16-'17 is the now-or-else year. We open the warchest (shout out to Spendy!), bolster the lineup, and get rotation and quality to allow Arsenal to realistically compete. By May 2017, we'll either celebrate a league title and see Wenger have a victory lap extension or, preferably, he'll decide to gracefully retire on top. May 2017 also seems like the ideal point, regardless of how it all shakes out, to bring in Jurgen Klopp, who by that point may have improved Liverpool as much as he'll be able to improve them, and by that point may still see Arsenal as a step up rather than a lateral move.
beardyblue: I've been an Arsenal fan since the 2010-11 season. I have known nothing but the greatness and genius of Arsene Wenger. I have watched him singularly take the criticism of a tired and frustrated fanbase onto his shoulders with little complaint as he has trudged towards the promised land of financial prosperity with the likes of Marouane Chamakh and Sebastian Squillaci. I have always been able to find a bright spot amid the darkness, and it has largely been in the knowledge that we are safe in his capable hands. Above all, I've always extolled the consistency that he has brought to us.
Now, in a season where consistency would really be all it would take to grab the title from the clutches of battered, bruised, and otherwise unlikely rivals, our season has been a mess and our title challenge lies in all but tatters. We have failed for more than a year to address the need for a spine that would allow us to control games, instead relying on players who are too old, too inconsistent, too unproven, or just plain Mathieu Flamini. If those problems were not addressed last summer, I do not believe we will address those issues this summer either. Our league position will be threatened not only by our chief rivals' managerial transitions, but by our own aging, inconsistent roster. Our players will want to see ambition or they will want to leave. It breaks my heart to say it, but I have come to believe that Arsene Wenger - the man whose personal assurances brought my now-favorite player in world football, Mesut Ozil, to the team that I love to watch every week - is no longer the man who will sufficiently address our needs in a way that will keep us where we want to be.
The major problem? I don't have a solution, and I hate addressing problems without having at least a suggested solution. Virtually everyone is in the process of changing managers, so many of the candidates I'd be interested are off the table, at least for now.
Arsene Wenger is my footballing hero. He is a man whose good humor and kind eyes have always brought me joy when I have felt my lowest about the team. The abuse and derision he receives - and gracefully accepts - at the hands of some segments of the fanbase makes me sick. I believe he should be given the highest possible honors and a statue outside our stadium. I also believe that it is time for us to move on after this season.
Good luck, boss. You're gonna carry that weight.
Travis: What I think most of us want Arsene Wenger's future to look like, and how we know it will look like, don't line up. I've called the Arsenal job one of the three best in the world in the past, and I still believe that today for the same reasons I did back then. It's because of those reasons - little ownership influence, a healthy financial situation, and some of the best facilities in the world - that I don't believe Wenger is leaving anytime soon. That's not to say he shouldn't, though.
For the longest time, I've been one of his most ardent supporters. Sometimes in the face of convention wisdom, I would back him in any potential controversy because a) he's Arsene Wenger and b) who else besides Sir Alex Ferguson has a track record over such a time period like him? Sure, the late-season stumbles during the Banter Era weren't fun, but he managed to get us in the Champions League and continue on the extremely precarious path towards sustainable success both on and off the pitch.
But things change. And with the expenditure on players like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, and Petr Cech over the past few years, the results haven't changed. In fact, they've gotten worse. We used to write those instances off because of the self-imposed austerity. That's not the case now. The variables have changed, but the control hasn't: the only constant data point in all of this is Arsene. Unless he somehow guides this now-doubtful squad to league glory this May, there needs to be a change in management before the league passes Arsenal by.
AlsoNamedPhil: (long sigh) He's done. Arsene Wenger has given me some of the highest moments in my sports life but he's done. This was signalled in the summer where, mere weeks after Chelsea strolled off with the title, he bought Petr Cech and no one else. While the idea was that good players aren't always available, players are available and Arsenal have money. This lone signing said "this team is ready to compete."
And here we are, the injuries have happened, the struggles that are usual are passed and Arsenal have shown themselves unable to compete with not only last years results but in a diminished league led by Leicester City. They scraped out of utter embarrassment in the Champions League and are struggling to defend their FA Cup. I forget when goals were easy to score.
Whatever Wenger's evaluation of the team is, he's wrong. Beating Spurs on Saturday doesn't change that. Winnning the League doesn't change that. Wenger deserves the remaining weeks of this season to do right by the players he brought in to try and fix the system but I don't think he's earned the right to continue, promises to buy big or not. With everyone reloading next year, with even bigger TV money and stadium builds, the competition is going to get tougher and what Arsenal need is a change in vision.
pdb: It killed me to think of doing this roundtable, and it kills me to write this. That said, I have to assume that Arsene's future at Arsenal is fairly limited. A lot more than the usual local bragging rights hinges on this North London Derby - win, and Arsene can probably see out the final year of his contract (with the hope that the board would say "you have no choice, you have one season to show us you can do this - go spend money"), but lose, and I fear that the discussion at Arsenal will center around "how do we gracefully show Arsene the door this summer".
No matter what, I do believe he'll see out this season - after 19 years and, let's not forget, a ton of accomplishments, he's earned the right to not be fired mid-season. But if the derby goes badly, I can easily see a scenario where Arsene becomes dead man walking, and the board spend the last nine games of the season crafting a graceful exit strategy, because of the cumulative effect of a few years' worth of so much promise and so little return on that promise.
Wenger's issues are legendary, and most of the rest of the writers have touched on them already so I won't repeat them, but I will say that even I am at the point where I'm tired of the status quo. I'm tired of Arsenal not buying players that could help, I'm tired of Mathieu Flamini, I'm tired of relying on Francis Coquelin. I'm tired of watching other teams evolve, improve, and accelerate their growth while Arsenal remain still. I'm not violently #wengerout, with all that that hashtag represents, but sadly, I do believe that his time as Arsenal manager should probably come to a close sooner rather than later.
Ted: I am going to answer this by saying less what I feel his future is and more just how I feel about the whole situation. I love Wenger, and his contributions to Arsenal are practically immeasurable. That said, I am bored, for lack of a better term. The same style, successes, and failures that seem to play out each year since 2006 are who he is, and that's fine, but it's gotten to the point where I am curious to see a different Arsenal. I don't mean trophies, necessarily, but just variety. We've eaten good meals since 1996, and good meals since 2006, but they've been the same two meals. We've had good pizza, but now I want good steak. Even if someone seemingly antithetical to Wenger in approach, like Diego Simeone, came in, it'd be different, and it would feel new and fresh.
So if his future is not at Arsenal, I will be sad, but I'll also be excited to see what a new person could do, what Arsenal would look like. If his future is still at Arsenal, I'll be fine, because I like him, but I will also wonder when we'll get to take a different tack, as I do right now.