Arsenal are on the verge of their first trophy in almost nine years.
This could be the end of a drought that has seen manager Arsene Wenger constantly ridiculed in the paper, and in a cyclic love-hate relationship with Arsenal’s fanbase – one week he’s a legend, the next a clueless dinosaur who needs to be sacked.
Barring a disaster (like the 2-1 Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham in 2011), he’s set to finally bring in a reward for the fruits of his labour via this year’s FA Cup final.
But is this enough to keep Wenger in a job?
After a decade of failing to significantly challenge (over the course of an entire season) for any major trophy, one FA Cup may not be enough to appease Arsenal fans who are hungry for the club to progress.
Under Wenger, quite simply, the club are treading water.
The board and supporters have been extremely (and admirably) patient with their manager, but such a lack of progress must eventually mean that the club will need to look at other alternatives.
Wenger’s message, in the face of all of this, has always been that it takes time – winning titles doesn’t happen over night, and the club are building a young team that can take them to where they want to go.
But just how long is that supposed to take?
Chelsea, under Ancelotti, and Manchester City, under Mancini, are examples that Premier League success doesn’t have to take a decade.
Admittedly, the success of those two financial juggernauts comes with the caveat that they’ve spent insane amounts of money to achieve their end goals, and Wenger has used this as an excuse time and time again.
In fact, this justification may be why he still has a job at all: But how does Wenger justify the need for time in the face of Brendan Rodgers?
Rodgers has, in only two years, transformed Liverpool from a club that was lingering from sixth to eighth place in the three years prior to his arrival, to a team that is challenging for, and will likely win, the Premier League title.
And, to throw yet another wrench in Wenger’s fallacy, Rodgers has done so with an extremely small net spend.
Wenger can’t keep using the same excuse – if Rodgers can implement his plan in two years, why should Arsenal fans have to wait for a decade for Wenger’s to come to fruition? Why be content with finishing third or fourth every season?
That’s if they even finish fourth this year at all; Everton, under the leadership of Roberto Martinez, are another club to make rapid progression – another club to prove Wenger wrong.
While Arsenal toil every season to make the top four, Martinez has instantly turned Everton into exactly what Arsenal has laboured for a decade to maintain – a genuine, eye-catching top four candidate.
Everton have progressed by changing their style of football and by adapting when necessary. Wenger, on the other hand, has caused the stagnation of Arsenal by doing just the opposite.
While Wenger has always boasted playing attractive football (and his Arsenal teams certainly do), he is also extremely stubborn. His unwillingness to actually change any style of play has caused Arsenal to become predictable. Arsenal play good football, but by now everybody knows how to counter them.
Look at Rodgers’ Liverpool, Mourinho’s Chelsea, Pellegrini’s Manchester City or Ferguson’s Manchester United: these are sides that are unpredictable, sides that can change their style of play or formation in an instant.
Wenger’s Arsenal is certainly not this – it’s a side that reflects the stubbornness of the manager. He simply never changes anything (besides his excuses).
Couple that with his stubbornness in the transfer market, and it’s hard to see why Arsenal persist with Arsene Wenger.
Yes, Wenger will forever hold a piece of history for creating Arsenal’s invincible season of 2003/04, but that doesn’t mean he himself is immortal.
If Arsenal’s owners have the ambition to further the club (rather than just line their pockets with Wenger’s steady stream of Champion’s League income) then it’s time to look at other alternatives.
Maintaining a financial stable club is crucial; of that, there can be no doubt. But a football club is not solely a business – the most important thing is success.
Wenger’s previous success is a massive part of Arsenal’s history, and rightly so. But he’s looking less and less like the key to their future.