In 1996, Arsenal were a club in desperate need of modernization. The team had fallen behind their rivals both on and off the pitch. They brought in Arsene Wenger to help make those changes, and Arsenal quickly became one of the most dynamic and forward thinking teams in England and Europe. Without going into all the familiar examples and details here, suffice it to say that Wenger was years ahead of everyone in the English game at the time.
In 2017, Arsenal again needs another culture change, another modernization. That can only happen when Arsene Wenger, the man who helped create the modern game, finally leaves.
Wenger may have been far ahead of everyone else in the early 2000s, but as the game has evolved, Wenger has not.
Wenger has not grown as a coach or manager in all his time in North London. He is still coaching with the same ideas and tactics that were used with his 2007 team, as he is with his 2017 team. As teams have made counters — and counters to the counters — to “Wengerball”, he stubbornly sticks to his ideas as they have grown ineffective. He cannot accept that he is wrong.
Off-the field, the club also has a Wenger problem. Arsenal are the only major club without a director of football, nor does it have several other tactical assistant/consultant positions other teams have created to help themselves run at maximum efficiency. Most worryingly, Arsenal is a club that seemingly fails to understand the new transfer market. This is a direct result of Arsene Wenger’s refusal to adopt new practices, his failure to evolve.
It happens to almost every master of their craft. One day, you grow too set in your ways and too stubborn. You no longer are innovative. You become old-fashioned and ineffective. The game has now passed Arsene Wenger by, just as it has and will pass countless other managers.
What has happened to Wenger has also infected Arsenal, due to Wenger’s complete rule over everything. It is a club that has stopped growing. Arsenal is out of fresh ideas. Arsenal is no longer suited for the modern game, and is now regressing behind its rivals.
Arsenal have shown in their past that they’re not afraid to make big, culture-shifting moves in order to serve the club better. It’s now time for the club to make a big, bold move similar to the one made in October 1996 that brought in Arsene Wenger. This time, though, the bold move needs to be moving Wenger in the opposite direction, and building a front office that isn’t entirely dependent on one person.
All of these issues for Arsenal under Wenger aren’t new. These problems have persisted for years under Wenger, but the board was reluctant to move. They were more than happy with the consistency of finishing in the top 4, making the round of 16 in the Champions League, and winning some FA Cups.
But Arsenal are no longer guaranteed to qualify for the Champions League as we have seen last year. Given how quickly the rest of the top 6 is improving, it will end up being a league with a top 5 if the board finally doesn’t finally act. There are no more excuses or reasons that Wenger should stay. Him staying only hurts Arsenal’s future. The board must make the hard, but right decision. It’s time for Arsene Wenger to go.