This, his 20th, could very well be Arsene Wenger’s final season in charge at the club. He arrived at the club 20 years ago and was seen as a revolutionary but now is more like a reactionary. Hopelessly out of touch, out of date and perhaps even a little bit out of his mind, Wenger is a sorry man playing catch up with the rest of the major clubs. On Sunday, with a home game against Liverpool in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger begins his 20th full season in charge of Arsenal, the last for which he is under contract. With that in mind, it is no exaggeration to state that the next three weeks may decide his fate at the club he has served for two decades. And I can’t wait for it to end!
When Wenger signed his current contract to finally secure his position and put talk of an exit to bed, official confirmation only came two full weeks after Arsenal had beaten Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup final. The manager later confirmed that had Arsenal lost, and at 2-0 down that seemed a very distinct possibility, he could well have ended his reign at the club. Arsenal fans can expect another season of contract speculation, with a resolution likely to again outlast the domestic campaign. With nine months to go on his deal, Wenger told the BBC on Tuesday: “My contract runs until the end of the season. What I do after will depend on how the season goes.”
Winning the 2014 FA Cup and then in 2015 did a lot to placate a section of the fans who believed that progress was happening. The question now is: what constitutes the level of success that will convince Wenger to sign a new contract, and what kind of achievement would quiet supporters once again? He effectively confirmed there will likely be no option to go out in a blaze of glory; a trophy success would give this workaholic a fresh mandate, not the perfect exit strategy. If he is to avoid an undignified exit then Wenger may have to meet the expectations of a fan base that is just as febrile as it was three years ago. To do that, he may have to show a capacity for change that has appeared beyond him in recent years.
Not only is a £100 million fee no longer beyond consideration, an English club has broken the transfer record for the first time in 20 years, (Newcastle signed Alan Shearer for £15m from Blackburn Rovers in 1996). The huge new TV deal that comes into effect this season has changed football’s financial landscape; Arsenal are still wandering around with an out-of-date map. There are precisely three weeks left until the transfer window closes, and Arsenal are still at least two major signings short of where they need to be: an elusive new centre-back and striker. We won’t get them before Sunday and the first game. It’s a case of wait and see; what we thought was going to be a good season might end up in terrible shambles and we all know who to blame.