Commentary

Arsene must go so Arsenal can be saved

History shows that eminent football clubs tend to survive. Not all, but most, especially those with strong foundations and a passionate fan base like Arsenal's.

Legendary managers such as Herbert Chapman and George Graham come and go. Arsene Wenger will be saluted loudly, even mourned, when he leaves Arsenal, but the club will go on.

Such institutions possess their own life force, mainly fuelled by fans' loyalty. Blackpool are wretchedly mismanaged but are still here. Even Leeds United will rise up the pyramid again because of their support.

Wenger's acolytes insinuate that the club will collapse without him, gesturing to events at Old Trafford when Alex Ferguson retired. Manchester United have laboured under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, but the club will eventually find the right man - expected to be Jose Mourinho - and rebuild.

The blue flag of Chelsea will fly high again. Liverpool are already reviving under Juergen Klopp. Arsenal too can play the regeneration game.

Next season's title race will be rejoined by thoroughbreds. That season forms the last of Wenger's present deal. Dare the club risk a drained-looking manager, an individual being outwitted by a younger generation, being in charge for another year?

Realists would say that it has come to the stage where results and performances indicate it is too much of a risk for Wenger to stay. It is more hazardous allowing the present situation to fester where the Emirates Stadium is riddled with civil war, fans arguing with fellow fans.

So, when Wenger decides to move on, and it will clearly be his decision as Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke are too in awe of him, Arsenal will carry on.

It is nonsense that Arsenal cannot survive without Wenger. Ronald Koeman could organise and inspire the squad.

Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund is part of the new wave bringing new ideas and energy. People questioned whether he could succeed Klopp; Tuchel has answered the questions in style.

Frank de Boer would bring panache to London and, possibly, Dennis Bergkamp from Ajax.

Arsenal remain an attractive proposition with a magnificent stadium, well-equipped training ground, celebrated history and location in one of the most popular cities in the world. They still have some excellent players in Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Oezil and Alexis Sanchez.

Wenger's successor will doubtless endure some troubled times, moments when the cameras pan up to a 66-year-old Frenchman struggling with his coat in the directors' box.

His influence will always be cherished. The memory of The Invincibles will never fade. Wenger could even confound the critics and bookmakers by putting Arsenal on a barnstorming run up the table, but it is highly unlikely.

Fearing the unknown, those who march under the "In Arsene We Trust" banner argue that it is too much of a gamble to jettison such an experienced manager.

Realists would counter that it has come to the stage where results and performances indicate it is too much of a risk for Wenger to stay. It is more hazardous allowing the present situation to fester where the Emirates Stadium is riddled with civil war, fans arguing with fellow fans.

After the deserved defeat by Watford in the FA Cup (on Saturday), Wenger claimed that debate about his future "is becoming a farce".

It is a farce that so many players are so frequently stricken with injury. It is a farce that Wenger started Sanchez against Norwich City in November knowing that he had a tight hamstring.

It is a farce that he has not ordered Gabriel Paulista to learn English quicker, so he can communicate with team-mates. It is a farce that he relies on Olivier Giroud as his main striker. It is a farce that Arsenal are still too open in midfield, still being tactically out-manoeuvred.

It is truly a farce that nobody on the board, the successors to Henry Norris, challenges a fading force.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Arsene must go so Arsenal can be saved'. Print Edition | Subscribe