Premier League: Should This Be the End for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal?
Arsene Wenger has been in charge of Arsenal for over 20 seasons, and overall, his tenure has been a success. Wenger has led Arsenal to three Premier League titles, including an undefeated season with the 2003-04 squad -- a group that was dubbed the "Invincibles" -- as well as an impressive seven FA Cup titles (more than any other club since he started at Arsenal in 1996).
But success has begun to dry up for Wenger in recent seasons.
After 20 consecutive years of finishing in the top four in the EPL table, Arsenal are now on their way to finishing outside the top four for the second straight year as they are currently 13 points behind fourth-place Tottenham with only eight matches remaining. The Gunners also bowed out early in the FA Cup after losing to a tier-two Nottingham Forest side, and they were blown out in embarrassing fashion against Man City in the League Cup final. At this point, winning the Europa League (currently matched up in the quarterfinals against Moscow) is really the only way to prevent the current season from being an epic disaster.
For the past several years, there have been rumblings amongst Arsenal fans about whether or not Wenger was still fit to be in charge of the club. Since the legendary 2003-04 season, the Gunners have been on a slow decline. They finished either first or second in the league every year from 1997-98 to 2004-05, but they then finished in third or fourth place for the next 10 seasons. Wenger was still well-respected, but even before these past two seasons, it had already appeared that he had taken Arsenal as far as he could.
Arsenal's progression as a club has been mostly stalled for the past decade, but the last two seasons have been a steeper decline. Last season was the first one under Wenger in which the Gunners did not qualify for Champions League, as they finished one point outside of the top four (although their year-end point total was good enough to be in the top-four in every other EPL season). This season, however, Arsenal have become entirely irrelevant in the race for the top four as they now sit in sixth place and are currently closer to seventh-place Burnley than they are to fifth-place Chelsea.
While you can argue the Gunners were unlucky to miss out on the top four last year, their abysmal record this season cannot be attributed to luck or bad circumstance as they have modest stats in several key categories.
|Shots per Game||5th|
|Shots Conceded per Game||5th|
|Dribbles per Game||10th|
Arsenal rank outside the top four in goals scored, goals conceded, shots per game, shots conceded per game and dribbles per game. Considering this collection of lackluster statistics, it is fair to say Arsenal have completely earned their sixth-place standing in the league this campaign.
Wenger still has another year remaining on his contract, and there is a possibility that he sees that contract to its completion. However, it is obvious that Wenger has been unable to keep pace with England's elite as he has gotten older, and his Arsenal teams have been slowly fading for the past decade, with past two seasons speeding up the decline.
If Arsenal wants to return to being one of the giants of English soccer, it looks like they'll have to cut ties with the man who made them just that not too long ago.