In the wake of yesterday’s West Brom funfest, Arsene Wenger said he’s made a decision about his future, but that he won’t reveal what it is yet. This is a huge problem, not just because it ratchets up already high fan frustration, but also because of the impacts his silence has on the future of the club Arsene says he loves so much.
Why? Because it’s March 19th. The season has basically two months to run. Which means at other clubs, teams are already looking at their options for next season, already weighing up what players would make them better and what players they need to cut loose. They’re looking at the coming season and they’re trying to optimize their approach to it, however they can, an effort that will only intensify once the season actually ends.
At Arsenal, though, everyone’s waiting on tenterhooks for the man who runs every detail of the club, from player signings to training ground menus, to announce whether he has decided to be around next year. The first problem with that is that without that bit of information, Arsenal’s player evaluation staff can’t really know who to look at for next season - will they want to get players who fit Wenger’s mold, or will they need to find players that can work with an as-yet-unnamed new manager? Who on the current roster can stay, and who should be told they’re no longer needed? While other clubs have already started the race, Arsenal are still behind the starting line, stretching their hamstrings and loosening up their arms.
There is also the not-insignificant matter of Arsenal having to reshape the way they approach doing business post-Wenger. He wears a lot of hats, which means replacing him is, almost by definition, impossible. And it will involve replacing one man with several people - people to do player-related stuff, people to make high-level academy/training decisions, etc. And those people don’t just appear by magic and get good at their jobs from day one - they need time to get up and running.
Arsene saying to the media “I know but I’m not saying” is also the clearest indicator yet of who holds the power at Arsenal. Why, when Arsene said that, did the board not demand he reveal his plans to them? Why did they just sit by and let that statement float out in the air and not push back, or give him their support? I assume it’s mostly because Arsene doesn’t feel like he needs to worry about the board, which is less than ideal, power-structure wise, as we come to a crucial decision point in the timeline of Arsenal Football Club.
The one caveat to all this, of course, is if he has already let the board know of his plans and not been public about it - that’s definitely a possibility. And if that’s the way it works, that’s great. I just have a very uneasy feeling that it’s not the way it works at Arsenal, and that Wenger, for all the good he’s done in his career, will be leaving the club at a huge disadvantage by choosing to handle his eventual exit the way he has.