Wenger and Arsenal have to think about the future + Arsecast 416


Morning, lots to get through from yesterday and the Arsene Wenger’s press conference. After a difficult week he’s been under fire from many sides. From ‘within’ as some sections of the fanbase grow increasingly vocal about his future; and from outside where ex-players from Arsenal and ex-footballers in general are being wheeled out to stick the knife in at will.

I mean, we’re all really interested in what Diego Forlan or William Gallas have to say, right? Do me a favour.

The manager’s contract is up in June and he was not going to be pressured into giving away anything yesterday. Asked specifically about his intentions, he replied:

Once again, thank you for caring about my future, but that’s not the most important thing.

My future is in front of me every time I make a half-turn. What is important for me is that Arsenal Football Club does well, and I dedicate my whole energy to the club doing well.

It’s very nice for you to care about how I feel, but it’s not the most important. I am a professional and I have to do a job and that’s what I want to do.

Given that there are 14 league games, the FA Cup and the Champions League still to play for at this stage, it’s understandable that he’s focusing on that rather than what might happen later on, but it’s clear that his future and the future of Arsenal are inextricably linked – whatever decision he makes.

With some headlines this morning saying Arsenal are fearful he might walk away, and rumours about Max Allegri leaving Juventus in the summer, you can see how the machines might work overtime on this.

And if the season doesn’t end well, if he feels like we’ve underachieved, he might well call time on it. It’s a suspicion I’ve had for a while now, but much will depend on these last few months of the season.

It’s not the healthiest situation for the football club to be in though: a kind of managerial/structural limbo, and if he is minded to go then I think he has a duty to inform them this is a possibility as soon as possible. Whatever you think of Arsene Wenger and/or his performance, there’s no looking beyond the fact that his departure would create an enormous vacuum.

He does the work of a number of men, so beyond a new manager you’ve got to look for a Director of Football, a Sporting Director, someone to deal with transfers, and that’s to mention the inevitable churn of coaching/medical/fitness staff that usually occurs when a new manager/coach comes in.

The absolute dearth of modern football people on the board is a massive concern too, and while you could easily advocate Wenger moving upstairs, it doesn’t seem like something he’d want to do – even if his knowledge and experience would be invaluable to help transition the club into a new era. That boardroom is issue is one that needs to be addressed also, and when you look around there aren’t many candidates for it.

So, let’s not pretend this isn’t anything other than a seismic shift if it does happen. Which of course we’re not sure that it will. But it might. Perhaps. Who knows? Only Arsene. And you wonder if he himself knows at this point.

He’s also called for some unity ahead of what is a taxing period on the pitch. Hull tomorrow, Bayern away in midweek, FA Cup, Bayern again, Liverpool away. He and his team are going to have dig a lot deeper than they have in the last couple of games, but he’s hoping the fans can play a part too:

It’s never over – we cannot behave like that. Even if you think it is, I don’t. We cannot even think like that.

Our fans have been consistent and have a high level of expectation, as I have as well. But I don’t feel it is absolutely clear. You cannot be a fan until last Tuesday and not be a fan anymore and not be behind the team this Saturday, it doesn’t make sense.

I want the fans to be behind the team. But at the same time, I am not fool enough not to know that the first priority is us and our dynamic inside the team that will create and facilitate the support of our fans. That is down to the quality of our performance.

So, it’s a bit of give and take to an extent, and he clearly knows that the team have work to do to get people back on side by the way they play, and by how they approach games. But football is often for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and all that, and right now it’s a bit sick and a bit worse, so fans can help too.

First and foremost though, the manager has to get his team right for Hull, and that team have to respond with a performance. I think he has to make some changes, some players who didn’t do what was required in the last couple of games need to be reminded that they shouldn’t take their places for granted. And if the ones who come in do well, then their reward should be keeping their place.

Let’s see what he does, and let’s see what the players do as well, because for all the focus on Wenger, they have to share some of the criticism at the moment too.

For some extra reading this morning, check out Tim Stillman’s column looking at the jazzy football stylings of Arsene Wenger.

Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast. On this week’s show, recorded in a hotel room in Camden, I chat with Hugh Wizzy about the state of play at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and his future, the boardroom state of play which is contributing to our on-pitch issues, the Hull fixture, and lots more. I’m nervous ahead of an exciting gig, and there’s a bit of the usual waffle including some extra waffle at the end. Enjoy.

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Right, that’s your lot. I gotta go get dressed up real nice like, more throughout the day on Arseblog News, and I’m back to preview Hull etc tomorrow.