The End Of An Era?

**He may be my father but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with all of his views on our beloved football club.</p>

After Saturday’s disappointing performance at home to Blackburn, the old man has clearly had enough of our most successful manager ever.</strong>

Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996 and by 2005 the club had won 3 championships including becoming the only team this century to remain unbeaten during a complete season in the top flight, 4 FA Cups and 2 league and cup doubles. However as we all know the club have not won anything since 2005 and having spent a terribly depressing evening watching Arsenal labour to yet another 0-0 draw I felt the need to evaluate the Wenger era and try to ascertain why it has taken such a turn for the worse.

When Wenger arrived he inherited the best defensive unit Arsenal have ever had and behind them one of the finest goalkeepers in the club’s history not to mention the services of Dennis Bergkamp. He was astute enough to use the defence as the basic foundation of his first team and brought in Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars. He then produced a team playing a style of football that had not been seen in the English league in my experience which goes back to the 1950’s. As the defensive unit gradually grew older he recruited the likes of Sol Campbell and brought Ashley Cole through and although Lehman was a little eccentric at times he was nevertheless an experienced international keeper. Added to this were the likes of Ljungberg, Pires and the incomparable Henry but perhaps his most important signing was that of Gilberto Silva who was the archetypal midfield holding player and protector of the defence.

For some reason, after 2005, Wenger decided that he wanted to build a team made up of youngsters and bargain buys which would be coached to play “the Arsenal way”. I realise that the move to the Emirates was a factor here when it came to transfer fees and wages but the accounts each year suggest that a reasonable transfer kitty was available if necessary.

Since 2006 we all know we have needed a top class keeper, at least one top class central defender, a proper midfield holding player, a natural winger and a natural striker and most importantly one or two players who are capable of inspiring the team on the pitch with their leadership qualities. Again Wenger has not addressed any of these issues, preferring to make do and mend with players, several of whom are not up to top class Premiership football. This may be due to his obstinacy and ego and a desire to prove he can build a team without star players who will play the “beautiful game” in his image.

I also think it is necessary to look at the undoubted fact that ever since Wenger decided that the best way forward was to employ a 4-5-1 system both at home and away it has made it a lot easier for teams to plan their strategy against us, especially at the Emirates. If things are not going well at home there is never any attempt made to alter the system to present a different problem for our opponents and in fact substitutions rarely make a difference as it remains just different players within the same system.

Bearing in mind that we have always qualified for the Champions League during this trophyless period and that, on occasions, the football we have played has been a joy to watch, I did not wish to even consider that Wenger’s position was under threat. However over the last 2 seasons I have become more and more frustrated with his refusal to comprehend what is happening in front of his eyes but merely to look at the league table in a self satisfied way. Quite clearly the only reason we are 2nd in the table at present is the failure of some of the teams below us to be consistent rather than the quality of our play and next season we will struggle to finish in the top 6 let alone the top 4 unless Wenger has a complete change of heart as far as his policies are concerned.

I believe that Almunia, Fabianski, Eboue, Squillaci, Diaby, Denilson, Rosicky, Bendtner and Chamakh should be allowed to leave in the summer. Obviously this will not happen but it does show how many players we have who are not really up to the standard required for top Premier League football.

My conclusion is that as nothing has really changed during the last 5 years it is time for Wenger to have a close look at himself and if he is not prepared to change then perhaps he should leave the club and someone should be appointed to bring fresh ideas into the club both in coaching and tactical terms.