One of England’s great clubs is a shambles. An owner who doesn’t care about winning, a board obsessed by the bottom line and a manager whose time has passed. If you used it as the basis for a film script, no-one’s sure whether it’s a comedy or tragedy.
But there won’t be a happy ending.
Arsenal are a club in crisis. A very Arsenal crisis, it must be said. There’s a very stiff up lip from The Establishment Club as were known in the 1930s. Even the recent statement from the Arsenal board reeked of decorum, of wood-panelled boardrooms with cigar smoke wafting over the glasses of port.
Your interpretation on the recent events at the club are defined by whether you think Arsène Wenger still has plenty to offer or if he has overstayed his welcome, with the club regressing under his stewardship.
Protests before the humiliating defeat against Bayern Munich and FA Cup win over Lincoln, polarised opinions. Supporters believed they were either the manifestation of frustration or the self-entitlement of spoilt brats.
It isn’t just Wenger’s contract which is up for grabs. The likes of Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all heading toward the last year of their contracts, and will either renew this summer or be sold.
But they haven’t grabbed the headlines until now. Mesut Ozil recently claimed he was minded to stay at the Emirates but was waiting to see whether Arsène Wenger left or stayed.
He clarified his comments over the weekend with Bild, a German newspaper. The midfielder said that it was “wrong” to link his and Wenger’s future. They were not inextricably linked, and reinforces the sense that Ozil wants to see how Arsenal’s board handles the situation.
With Wenger so much an integral part of the club, it needs an experienced manager and one who is used to a big football club. It’s why the likes of Eddie Howe are being discounted.
But another curious aspect of Wenger’s situation is the recent demonization of Alexis Sanchez over his contract situation.
The Chilean held talks with the club last summer and recent comments in the media from Wenger suggest that they are still ongoing. The figures bandied around for his wage demands are staggering with most reports agreeing on £300,000 per week. That’s £100,000 more than Ozil is asking for.
Having experienced problems with the Spanish tax authorities, it’s no wonder Sanchez hasn’t signed. Deals are frequently complex at this level and it would be no surprise to learn some involvement with the British taxman has delayed the deal.
As well as this, Sanchez appears to have genuine doubts about Arsenal under Wenger. The repetitive nature of the club’s failures on the pitch are demoralising for a player who wears his heart on his sleeve.
Broadcasters focussed on him in recent matches, catching him berating teammates and exhorting them to match his own work-rate. Bizarrely in the eyes of most supporters, Arsène Wenger chose to berate Sanchez for not trying hard enough recently.
The club uses GPS tracking for players and Alexis’ stats reportedly said he could do better. Anyone who has watched Arsenal recently will know that he – along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – has carried the team. Quite simply, the repeated punches from losing big matches at home and abroad, have taken their toll on the squad.
Yet Wenger chose to deflect attention away from himself onto his recalcitrant South American.
As soon as the Frenchman made those claims, stories emerged of a training ground argument between Sanchez and Wenger. This was followed by allegations of rows between Sanchez and the rest of the squad after the lifeless first half performance at Anfield.
Dropping Sanchez to the bench was a disciplinary action by Wenger. It backfired as Arsenal were awful in the first half, and Alexis was introduced to the action at half-time. Rather than teaching the striker a lesson, it raised questions over the manager’s judgement and decision-making.
As soon as it became apparent that the initial media spin had backfired, the onslaught intensified against the Chilean. Rumours that Arsenal, the club, were behind the leaks, refused to go away. That the stories broke simultaneously was deemed proof that Machiavellian hands were working behind the scenes.
More tales at the weekend. Alexis, it’s alleged, has been sent to Coventry by the rest of the squad, who are tired of his attitude. Again, it’s backfired with reaction to the news much more in favour of the Chilean.
It’s all very unseemly for a club which habitually claims it “does things in the right way”; the Arsenal Way.
And, if the club are behind these stories, they have backed the w