There Needs To Be A Change

Yes, we’ve beaten West Brom and moved up to third. And yes, I’m happy that Alexis is continuing his personal revival. But I don’t want to talk about the game. A win against a side that has nothing to play for does not cover the huge cracks that have gotten bigger and bigger throughout the season one bit.

The last time I was able to celebrate a goal like it meant something was Welbeck’s winner against Leicester back in mid February. Since then, our customary run-in collapse has yet again taken place, but this year’s capitulation tastes more bitter and feels more heart-wrenching than the past times for me, and probably most Arsenal fans as well. Some obvious reasons for that are Leicester being the team we trail by 10 points and Tottenham looking likely to finish ahead of us for the first time in over 20 years and unthinkably even winning the league. But I’m not going to dig deeper into those reasons and rant about them. I want to focus on Arsenal.

Watching Arsenal play since that Leicester game has been hard. I did think this was our year, having seen all of our usual rivals struggling for consistency and thought that we would be able to capitalize this year and eventually outlast Leicester and Tottenham since our squad (on paper) is stronger than the other two teams. However, yet again, it is our inability to perform when pressure is on and expectations rise that has seen us slump. In particular, when we went behind against Swansea and after we conceded to Crystal Palace last Sunday, the players looked like the would rather have the pitch open up and swallow them underground than play the game. Yes, I agree that the crowd can get hostile but who can blame them!? In the past 10 years or so, our fans have not seen the team stay in the title race past March once, but have witness the team blow its chances every single time we’ve had even a glimmer of hope of winning the league. From how things have gone recently, a typical Arsenal season can go either one of the two ways: have a really bad first half of the season and have some sort of good form at the second half to finish third or fourth, or have an excellent first half of the season and then collapse in the second half in a way that only Arsenal are capable of and finish third or fourth. Simply put, it is getting boring and tiring to watch the same scenario happen every year only for a place in a competition the following year that we are far short of winning anyway. I feel for the overseas fans like me who have woken up, watched every match religiously and faced disappointment after disappointment for the past decade, and I feel even more for the local fans who have paid a large amount of money to attend games home and away. Our fans deserve better than what the team has been delivering. There needs to be a change.

I realize that the fanbase is about 50:50 on Arsene Wenger’s position at the club. And I can understand both sides. Arsene Wenger has been the one constant at Arsenal Football Club for the past 20 years, the sole person responsible for the club’s best years in history, and has just guided the club through its most difficult period (the years of Emirates Stadium debt repayment) while remaining in the top four. I’ve always loved him and respected him for he is the reason why Arsenal football club are where we are today- a big team in the world. But I’m now also afraid that we are standing still at where we currently are. I’ve always seen Arsene Wenger as a philosophical and calm manager who has a great knowledge of the game, but never as the type of man that can motivate the team and lift the mood of the squad during bad periods. During Arsene’s best years, the team had natural leaders in the squad and his own leadership qualities were never really required or called into question. However, in the past decade when there has been a lack of leadership in the dressing room, Arsene has not been able to rally the troops and as a result, a blip in form evolves into a capitulation. Another flaw of Wenger that usually seems to haunt the team at one point or another during every season is his self-blinding faith in his players. For example, everybody felt that we needed a striker but he had faith in Giroud and Walcott, both of whom have let him down a number of times this season.

However, nobody is perfect, and who does not have flaws! I want to defend Arsene from what went wrong this season and wish all the blame could be put on the squad that underperformed at the crucial time and didn’t show enough desire and character. But I can’t honestly do that. I think he is just as guilty as the players are for this mess of a season for reasons such as his negligence to strength the squad during the summer apart from buying Cech, his stubbornness to keep believing in players such as Theo and Oxlade at the expense of somebody like Campbell, and his inability to motivate the squad when needed.

People like me are torn between supporting Arsenal and supporting Arsene Wenger. Since I became a fan 10 years ago, all I’ve known about Arsenal has had to do with Arsene Wenger. And I’ve had the belief that not supporting Arsene Wenger as the Arsenal manager equates to not having faith in the team. However, for better or for worse, Arsenal football club has existed before Arsene Wenger became manager and will remain to do so after his tenure as well. There is a saying that goes something along the lines of “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone”. We’re spoiled by Champions League football year after year that we take it for granted nowadays and don’t consider it a success. I’ve breathed Arsenal enough and understood the club enough to consider 3rd and 4th place finishes a success for the past decade. But I want more now. I’ve never seen the club win the league and if next season were to be Arsene’s last season as a manager, I’d love nothing more than witness him go out on a high and see my team return to its golden days. But I don’t have the faith that it will happen, based on what I have seen in the past seasons.

That is why I think it is time for a change. Maybe it is time to ditch our transfer policy and buy big name players to really put our team in the mix with the other super powers in the league. Maybe it is even time to bring in a new leader for the team that can galvanize the squad and the fans in an energetic manner like a Klopp or Pochettino does. Or maybe it’s time for both.

I want to see some sort of change happen at the club, either at a squad level or a managerial level. I want the club hierarchy to send a message to the fans that they are willing to make decisions for the success of the club and not run it like a business. I am not pro or anti Arsene Wenger. All I want is the club to return to where it belongs- challenging for and winning the league- sooner rather than later before we become a club like Liverpool have.




Soe Latt Naing

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