If only Arsene would allow us the opportunity

A mercurial wide attacker loved by the terraces was dropped. Despite arriving just three years ago, he is the undisputed superstar, the attacking pulse of the team and a fan favourite. The manager, so loved for his heroics winning the league some years ago, was now largely seen as someone who had delivered a few domestic cups, but nothing beyond that. While this could so easily be 2017 and Arsene Wenger, the above story described the last days of George Graham in 1994, when he dropped Anders Limpar. Limpar, a player whose style would remind us of Ozil more than Sanchez, mirrored the latter’s adulation and performance in a fading season then. The parallels to the end of the George Graham era leave a few key lessons for Arsene Wenger in the remaining two months, and the latter would do well to heed them.

George Graham should be remembered more for the 1989 league victory, for winning the title away from one of the most decorated teams of the 80s. But he is now remembered more as the manager of “Boring, boring Arsenal”. His legacy is tarnished by the domineering memory of the last two seasons. Ironically, his team had scored 81 goals in 1991-92 and half of his seasons since the 1989 season included over 70 goals each season. Arsenal had the highest goal tally in 1988-89, second highest in 1990-91 and the highest again in 1991-92. However, so often people tend to remember you by the legacy that mars the fading end of the candle.

George Graham remained laden with the legacy of defensiveness and dour football. In the end, Graham was regularly booed and abused from the terraces. While the anger and venom did not destroy his legacy, it did get tarnished. The mutual acrimony reached a crescendo when he joined Tottenham some years later, and has reputation has never quite recovered since.

While Arsene may never go down such an acrimonious route, the last few years have seen Wenger being burdened by the legacy of inability to compete in the bigger games. I shudder to think that ten years from now, Wenger is not remembered as the manager of teams that bullied the league through their pace, power and flair during different stages of his Arsenal career. I hate to believe that he would be remembered as a manager of spineless teams that did not turn up in the big games. After the recent run we have only the incredibly underwhelming fight to make the top four once again to look forward to this season. Despite the insularity of the job, Arsene Wenger would know that the writing is on the wall. An obsessive romantic that he is, Wenger would want to fight till the last game, in the faintest hope, that the dream will live on.

But Arsene, we would request you to make one last sacrifice, probably, the most difficult one for you. Instead of this vitriolic yet slow and inevitable decay that shrouds the end of your reign, please help us make it a celebration. Please take the decision away from the board in the summer and announce the end now yourself. Give us a couple of months to celebrate your legacy and career at Arsenal.

While it does feel that we are pretty close to the end for a legend, the romance of him walking away into sunset with a title was not meant to be. In a way, a manager obsessed with Arsenal could depart only in acrimony. His obsession would mean that he would give up on managing Arsenal only when it was untenable, not when it is rosy. The latter scenario would recharge him to push further and the dream would end only when the present drains you of your obsession. Yet, Arsene has a chance to recognise this and accept the end gracefully. The only thing left for Arsenal to play for is a fitting tribute to a man who gave his 20 best years to a single club, to our Arsenal. And it is not a reason to be trifled. It is a cause for celebration of his great career at Arsenal, a unifying celebration of his legacy. If only Arsene would allow us the opportunity.

Guest Writer

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