Arsenal fans were left feeling disappointed following a season of what might have beens.
In an incredible season that saw Leicester City lift the Premier League title, Arsenal once again finished inside the top four. In fact, they recorded their highest finish in the top flight for 11 years. Somehow though, second place with 71 points just seemed to paper over the ever widening cracks.
Arsène Wenger has done incredible things for the Gunners. It is ironic how what he brought to Arsenal in 1996 is now what Gunners fans are craving the most - innovative ideas. Ideas that were ahead of his time in ’96, but philosophies that are become archaic the further into his tenure he is allowed to continue.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger during the lap of honour at the end of the match
On the face of it, second in the table could be deemed a success in what is the toughest league in the world in which to compete. Look into it deeper, however, and the problems at Arsenal are clearer than the light of day. Leicester winning the league with their budget has shown that you do not need multi million pound acquisitions to be successful, but you do need to scout in the right places, and have a game plan in mind to prevail.
When the plan is not working, and this is the crucial part, there needs to be a plan B to revert to, and sometimes even a plan C. Something that Pep Guardiola has demonstrated in abundance at Bayern Munich, sometimes switching formation up to four times throughout a game.
Wenger has one system that he uses all season, and his idea of switching things up is to bring on Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after 70 minutes if they are losing, or introduce Kieran Gibbs for Alexis Sanchez when they are winning. His stubbornness and ideologies are preventing Arsenal from reaching the heights their fans know they are capable of, and something has to give.
Arsenal fans hold up banners protesting against manager Arsene Wenger after the game
The media seem to have created this notion that Arsenal fans should be scared of change, citing what happened at Manchester United as an example of the pitfalls of appointing a new boss on the back of having such a long-serving manager. Would it not be a more apt point that they just appointed the wrong man? If Jose Mourinho had taken the reigns following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement would they be in the mess they are in now? There is a strong argument to suggest that they would not.
The burning question at the Emirates is who will eventually succeed Wenger? Do they make a statement and appoint a Diego Simeone type manager? Or go down the Barcelona route and promote in-house and give someone like Steve Bould an opportunity? Either way, the key thing to note here is that there will be a fresh approach, with new ideas, something that can get not only the fans, but players excited too.
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil warms up before the match
Mesut Ozil looks like he is completely devoid of interest in playing for Wenger, and his words are hardly emphatic when stating his so called love for the club. He ended the season with 19 assists, one short of Thierry Henry’s Premier League record, but only four of those came in the second half of the season.
Was this down to poor man management from Wenger? He continually used Ozil for 90 minutes every game. When he was at Real Madrid under Mourinho he would regularly be substituted after 60 minutes, in a league far less demanding than England’s top flight. Would a new manager reinvigorate the German and give him purpose to commit his future to Arsenal?
Wenger deserves great credit for maintaining Arsenal’s place in the top four of the Premier League throughout the years of the stadium move to the Emirates, but now the time has come for him to start producing with titles. How long can he go on, living on past glories? Will Arsenal become the new Liverpool, referring to their league titles 20 plus years ago?Something has got to give at Arsenal, but the problem is when you have a dictatorship, the ego of the person in charge will always get in the way of progression. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but how long will Arsenal fans have to wait to see it?