The travails of Arsene Wenger
I like him. He talks football with the authority of a person that thoroughly understands the subject, but Arsene Wenger may be in trouble – big trouble!
Evening has surely started to set for the great French football tactician.
In the wake of the psychologically dampening defeat of Arsenal by Bayern Munich last week, and the now near impossible mission to catch up with run-away leaders of the EPL, Chelsea, it seems no longer a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’, Arsene Wenger will have to bow out as manager of Arsenal.
From 2003-04 when the club last won the Premier League until two seasons ago, fans of the Gunners had many reasons not to consider the possibility of Arsene Wenger exiting the club.
He capped an intriguing period of unprecedented growth for the club, taking it from one of England’s mid-level clubs when he joined 21 years ago to a club with a rich history of achievements (three EPL trophies in 1987-88, 2001-02 and 2003-04), enormous resources at its disposal to build one of the most modern stadia in Europe, earnings that now make the club the fifth richest in the world, and a global followership of fans in every part of the planet.
Incidentally, the club can easily be described as the best English club never to win the Uefa Champions League.
This season, a brand new Airbus aircraft, with all the trappings of luxury in private beds, baths, a lounge and bars to fly the clubs players to away matches, has been added to the club.
In the past two seasons Wenger has been issued a blank cheque to hire the best available players from any part of the world capable of restoring the glory of the club and even more.
Even then he still invested prudently, about £200 million in the two seasons, not splashing money on the best available players in the world, but assembling a sprinkling of a few world-class players to add to his ‘academy’ of home-grown youngsters, in the vain hope of reviving an old tradition that last worked some 13 years ago when the club went through the entire season without losing a game.
Yes, it is hard to believe that that same club under Arsene Wenger has not won the EPL in 13 attempts since then.
Two seasons ago, Arsene Wenger was handed everything he needed to justify the assumption that he was an authentic member of the elite club of some of the best coaches in the world.
Since then things have not been easy or rosy. Although Arsene Wenger has seen the club through most of its best and now worsening years, he is no longer a favourite of the fans who are anxious for success.
Last season, Bayern Munich’s emphatic victory over the Gunners in the Champions League was attributed to the low quality of players Arsenal bought.
This season Wenger added a few more, but still hardly enough as recent events have clearly shown. History repeated itself last week. The elements intervened and brought the same two teams from last season back to the same stage in the same competition.
The result was exactly the same - another humiliating 5-1 pounding of the Gunners.
There are no excuses good enough to justify the beating this time – it is confirmation that Arsenal are still not good enough. On the night, the team could not deal with the fluidity and smoothness of the Bayern Munich players and their performance.
There was daylight between the two teams.
Now most Gunners conclude that the problem lies in the coach, his poor judgement regarding certain players and his philosophy of grooming young players.
So, rather than invest heavily on ready-made big name players as so many other big teams have successfully done, Wenger chose to use several home-grown players and to rely on his belief in his coaching prowess.
Last week that experiment failed again for the umpteenth time. It was the last straw. It aggravated the pain of fans as they also watched Chelsea running away with the most sought-after trophy in domestic European football.
The once vociferous support for Arsene Wenger’s continued stay as manager has drowned and replaced with a deafening clarion call for his exit.
The new chorus is very unfamiliar – 'Arsene Wenger must go!'
One way or another, Arsene Wenger’s days as manager of the great Arsenal may be numbered.
Chelsea and the most influential player in the EPL
Chelsea FC have been on an incredible run this season, playing some very decent football that has left the rest of the league trailing behind and groping to catch up.
All eyes are now riveted on Stamford Bridge as the unravelling under manager Antonio Conte continues.
All those wondering how Leicester City won the league last season, what is happening to them this season, what has happened to Chelsea this season and how are they top of the ladder, need not seek any further.
Not enough credit has been paid to this mercurial fighting midfield machine, the single tree that made the forest of Leicester City last season and is making a forest of Stamford Bridge this season.
He is Conte’s secret weapon at Chelsea, an extra-ordinary hard-tackling 26-year-old defensive midfield player who runs for 90 minutes, contests for every ball, never holds on to the ball longer than necessary, distributes very clever passes, is always in the thick of breaking down opposing attacks, shooting and at times scoring, and always quietly and efficiently doing his work without seeking any attention.
Is anyone still looking for the one good reason above several others why Chelsea is and will succeed this season?
Claudio Raneiro’s loss in Leicester City at the end of the last season is Antonio Conte’s gain at Chelsea this season.
He is the young France international called N’Golo Kante. In my humble opinion he is the most influential player in the EPL this season.