Arsenal fans across the world are still divided in debate over whether the manager should stay on at the Emirates.
The 64-year-old French coach has been a divisive figure in recent years after 18 years in North London where he arrived to take the reigns at Arsenal in 1996. The man has been called a number of things over the years, some appropriate, some not, but his reputation as ‘Le Professeur’ has diminished in the eight years since the Gunners won their last trophy, the FA Cup in 2005.
The Gunners face Hull in the FA Cup final at Wembley next weekend hoping to end that silverware drought amidst rumours of interest in the manager from French giants Monaco, and the backdrop of Wenger still yet to confirm he will stay at the Emirates beyond next month when his current contract expires.
It’s been an interesting end to the season for Gunners fans – whilst there wasn’t the jeopardy of last year in terms of Champions League qualification and the 2-0 win at Norwich had a testimonial feel to it overall (as did the win over West Brom last week), there remain reservations ahead of the FA Cup final as to whether Wenger remains the right man to take the club forward.
For the sake of full disclosure, I was inspired to write about this topic specifically after an incident on the train back from Norwich to London on Sunday evening. I sat in the carriage for the two-hour journey with a phone out of battery and nothing but Arsenal fans all around me. The Arsenal supporter inside me struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman on the game, the club and the conversation naturally moved on to Wenger, the fourth place finish and everything else that goes along with that debate and, before I knew it, there was a full-scale fan war in carriage D.
Lines were drawn, points were made, voices were raised and one young man in particular became so impassioned a police officer had to escort him away. But the whole incident left me wondering how this issue is going to be addressed going forward – it simply cannot be denied and dismissed by the club that the manager is in the middle of no man’s land and shots can be fired at any moment depending on one result, one signing, one substitution, from any and all directions.
I understood, amidst the chaos in carriage D, that, regardless of who was right or wrong or who’d had one too many Stellas, that the fans are hurting, angry, confused and, whichever side of the Wenger debate they’re on, they agree that there has been, at least, some incompetence in some situations whether it’s transfers or tactics and they all want to see progress – not an unbeaten season, just clear improvement from one season to the next.
If the fans in carriage D were a microcosm of Arsenal fans around the world, one thing and one thing only is for sure: Arsene Wenger is no longer ‘Le Professeur’ but rather Le Provocateur.