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Arsenal won’t sack Wenger in search of the short-term fix – nor should they

19 Mar | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Arsenal won’t sack Wenger in search of the short-term fix – nor should they

There is still good reason for the Arsenal board not to sack Arsene Wenger who has divided supporters so markedly for several seasons now

THEY ARE now near-certainties to make it back into the Champions League. 

Their critics suggest that it is simply so that they can lick their wounds yet again at this very same stage next season.

It has indeed become a ritual of frustration so familiar in north London that even Gunners fans are peddling variations on the ‘Specialists in failure’ jibe that sparked so much anger when Jose Mourinho hurled it at Arsene Wenger last season.

And yet there is still good reason for the Arsenal board not to sack the Frenchman who has divided supporters so markedly for several seasons now. 

For starters, whether Wenger stays or goes is very much his decision, let’s be clear about that.

You need only to look at the anxiety up at Manchester United – a club that once took their Champions League place for granted – to realise that you don’t get rid of a man who gets you into European football every season on a whim.

The squad that Wenger has built at the Emirates is probably just two players away from being the most complete in the Premier League. 

Buy Petr Cech from Chelsea in the summer and, say, a defensive midfielder in the mould of a Geoffrey Kondogbia (a fabulous player at just 22) or a Blaise Matuidi at PSG and suddenly you’re in business.

Wenger does have his faults. No arguments about that. He is too loyal to certain players and too blind to deficiencies in certain areas. 

But I was at Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea simply melt in the face of a ferocious rearguard action from PSG’s ten men last week. Manchester City were humiliated by Barcelona. Liverpool couldn’t get out of the group stage.

By contrast Arsenal’s display in the second leg against Monaco was packed with character and outstanding technical ability. 

They are out of the Champions League not because they were not good enough but because they were too complacent going into the first leg. They thought they only had to turn up and turn in one of their routine Premier League performances to win.

Even their fans were metaphorically cracking open the bubbly when they were drawn against the French club seen snobbily by many – including some in the media, let’s not kid ourselves – as being among the weakest left in the competition. 

This was not Bayern Munich or Barcelona who had broken the Gunners’ hearts in the recent past. It was Berbatov and co, not even in the top three of the league in the French top flight.

And yet it was Berbatov – of all people – able to accuse Arsenal of not wanting it badly enough in the first leg. 

The Gunners are a club from whom there is more to come while in European terms. 

However disappointed the decision-makers at Arsenal must be this week, they would never want to be in the position of City, trawling around for the next gun-for-hire after Manuel Pellegrini’s abject failure this season.

The defending champions have spent over £170million over the last two years and yet – on current form – are not even certainties to finish in the top three in the Premier League let alone the Champions League.

If Wenger leaves, who comes in? Pep Guardiola is doing very nicely at Bayern Munich, thank you. Go for Carlo Ancelotti – who could leave Real Madrid this summer if they finish trophyless – and you are venturing down the road of the short-term fix.

Diego Simeone – after winning the Europa League, the Copa del Rey and La Liga, as well as reaching last season’s Champions League final – is being offered a new deal to stay at Atletico Madrid and is expected to sign. 

And Jurgen Klopp, the hipsters’ choice, has just seen his Borussia Dortmund side – the 2013 Finalists – handed their backsides by Juventus 3-0 at home to complete a 5-1 aggregate hammering.

Of course, “there is nobody better” is not a reason to stick with mediocrity. And Real Madrid, with a haul of trophies over the last ten years or so, will argue that actually pulling the trigger on underachievement is not such a bad thing.

But they value continuity at the Emirates. They know that Wenger will be missed most when he is gone.

So there will be no knee-jerk reaction after this week. Just continued backing for Wenger ahead of another tilt in Europe next season. In the meantime, there could yet be reasons to be cheerful about this season.

After that performance at Old Trafford to dump United out of the FA Cup you’d have to make the Gunners favourites to win that competition. With Manchester City falling to pieces (three wins from their last 12 in all competitions) second place looks there for the taking.

There could even be a chink of light in the Premier League as Chelsea are suddenly going through a dodgy spell (four wins from their last 12 in all competitions). 

Right now nobody is suggesting Arsenal’s chances of reeling them in are anything but remote. But Jose Mourinho’s men DO have tough games to come in April against Arsenal and Manchester United and in May against Liverpool.

In the meantime they will be as used to the criticism at the Emirates as they are to the frustration of having to put away the passports for another season. 

What they will not – and should not – be doing is overreacting. 

Wenger may have cut a subdued figure in his press conference on Thursday morning but there could yet be a bit to salvage from the ashes of yet another campaign in Europe ahead of next season.