Arsene Wenger is now the longest serving manager in the Premier League – he has transformed Arsenal over the years and has had vast amounts of success with the Gunners.
However, I have started to wonder when, or if, Wenger’s time at Arsenal is up.
I have never known anything different at Arsenal – for many years they have been a team led by Wenger who retain possession extremely well and play with flair and power. From the years led by Henry and Bergkamp, to more recent times with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
Since joining the Gunners, Wenger has enjoyed many successful years, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, going unbeaten for a whole season, reaching a Champions League final and many, many more achievements. However, with just one domestic trophy over the last decade, it is fair to say that he had endured, and deserves, some criticism.
Arsene’s Achilles’ heel over recent seasons has been their inability to beat the ‘top four’ sides, which leaves me wondering whether Arsenal have fallen from their pedestal.
The 2014-15 season was tipped to be a great season for Arsenal, with Sanchez joining from FC Barcelona and Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. Things were looking up for the Gunners, however, the season hasn’t unravelled in the way Arsenal would have been hoping for. After picking up only their third win of the season away to Sunderland, they currently sit in fifth place, nine points off of leaders Chelsea.
Injuries have been a massive factor in Arsenal’s poor start. They look stretched in all positions – they were forced to play Nacho Monreal, who is predominantly a left-back, at centre-back. Ozil, Giroud and Walcott are just some of the names on the injury list. However, that does not take anything away from Arsenal’s inability to kill off games. They have endured their fair share of luck and have been heavily reliant on injury time goals over the past few weeks.
Per Mertersacker and Arsene Wenger both commented on the side’s lack of confidence and how they are not training hard enough. While the mountain of injuries may have played a part, I believe Wenger is short of ideas and has simply lost some of his winning mentality.
The Arsenal sides of old were unplayable on their day; on a completely different level. However, Arsenal only won their first trophy for a decade last season, winning the FA Cup following a narrow win over Hull City.
The Gunners have struggled to replicate the performances that brought them so much glory in the early 2000’s. They have finished in either 3rd place or 4th place in every Premier League season since 2005. This drop could have been due to a decrease in spending following the construction of the Emirates Stadium, however, the same cannot be said for recent seasons, as Arsenal spent £77 million this summer and £44 million the previous summer.
Many have argued that Arsenal need to spend much bigger. After splashing out on Ozil last season, Arsenal did collect silverware and managed to add the Community Shield to their collection, after beating a weakened Manchester City side.
Despite the big names joining the club, Wenger never seems to be far from criticism. In my opinion, Wenger needs to adapt his game-plans to better suit his players. The likes of Ozil and Cazorla seem to be constantly out of position, playing out wide, where they are less effective.
In my opinion, Wenger’s time at Arsenal is running out. I think Arsenal still need to spend big in January and next summer if they are going to mount a serious title challenge any time soon. I do not doubt Wenger’s philosophy, but he will need to add to the players he has at his disposal. Arsenal are in desperate need of a holding midfielder, who can provide some legs in the midfield, with Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta looking past their best. They also failed to bring in a replacement for Thomas Vermaelen over the summer.
To give them credit, Arsenal did bring in Calum Chambers, who has proved himself to be a great prospect for the future. However, the young Englishman has been tossed between right-back and centre-back since joining.
Wenger needs to spend very wisely in the next few transfer windows. The next season could be make-or-break for the Wenger. It boils down to what Arsenal fans expect. After spending £119 million in two years, will the FA Cup be enough?