Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger losing his cool ahead of key Bayern clash
Harry Kemble reflects on Arsene Wenger's outburst on Monday and the size of the task ahead for the Arsenal boss
Arsene Wenger should know that the art of a great long-term manager is the rejuvenation process that takes place after sustained success – the Frenchman has breathed new life into an ageing side on more than one occasion.
After arriving 16 years ago, Wenger turned the Gunners’ ailing fortunes around immediately; winning the Double in his second season, before going unbeaten in the league to regain the title in 2004 with a new team.
However, with Saturday’s 1-0 FA Cup loss to Blackburn ensuring that Arsenal’s trophyless run is likely to extend to eight seasons, Wenger is teetering on an acrimonious exit from north London. A club’s loyalty only stretches so far, after all.
Tuesday’s Champions League first-leg last-16 tie against Bayern Munich represents the sole chance Arsenal have of winning their first trophy since 2005.
Wenger once decreed about Arsenal fans: “If you eat caviar every day it is difficult to return to sausages”, after a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough back in 1998 – a minor blip in yet another Gunners assault on the Premier League title.
Fourteen seasons on and supporters are struggling to remember what any success tastes like, with the club sitting 21 points behind league leaders Manchester United and languishing dangerously outside the Champions League qualification positions.
On Monday, tensions simmered when Wenger snapped at a journalist who the Gunners boss claimed was trying to “harm” him by reporting that Arsenal were preparing to offer him a two-year contract extension at the end of the season.
Those involved in top-level sport are rarely assured of a serene exit from their respective game – whatever their standing.
Wenger, despite his service to Arsenal, is no different if his time at the club is coming to an end.
Success for the red half of north London is unlikely to return, with Bayern overwhelming favourites to ease into the quarter-finals.
The German giants are 15 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and keen to avenge their bitter defeat by Chelsea on penalties in last season’s final by going the whole way this time around.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are in fifth – still four points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham. Qualification for Europe’s premier competition seems far from certain.
Of course, victories against a resolute Sunderland and Stoke in the league in recent weeks have given those connected with the club hope of salvaging a season that has once again been one of “transition”.
A recurring theme in recent seasons has been Arsenal’s deplorable inability to grind out results against teams positioned lower then them.
A flaw that Wenger has been unable to correct with stars such as Ashley Cole, Lassana Diarra, Cesc Fabregas, Kolo Toure, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri – to name a few – all leaving the club in search of silverware.
With frequent exits, Wenger has failed to find adequate replacements, repeatedly choosing to hide behind a business model that has been the envy of other clubs with Financial Fair Play regulations on the horizon.
But at what cost? If Wenger does fail to secure a Champions League spot either through the league or by triumphing in the Wembley final, the oft-criticised Arsenal board will have little choice but to wave goodbye to their most successful ‘one-club man’ after 16 seasons in charge.