The 0-0 stalemate against Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday was far from the most encouraging of results. Similarly, the performance left much to be desired. While Arsenal’s backline was relatively untroubled against Villa’s limited attack, the Gunners were ineffective going forward and once again exhibited the lack of creativity which has been commonplace in recent months.
Gunners fans’ frustration at their team’s exploits boiled over three minutes from the end of the game. With the fixture in the balance, manager Arsene Wenger removed French striker Olivier Giroud in favour of defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin – a substitution interpreted as defensive by much of the travelling north London support. This was after Lukas Podolski had already been withdrawn.
For 16 years, Arsene Wenger has been the key component of Arsenal Football Club. He was responsible for the amazing ‘invincible’ side of the early 2000s and for their Champions League final appearance in 2006. It is also Wenger who continues to keep Arsenal in and among the top four teams in the Premier League despite refusing to splash the cash in the inflated transfer market by breaking the bank. Wenger deserves the respect of all.
As a result, it is reasonable to believe that Wenger knows what he is doing. He has not turned into a bad manager overnight. In terms of the Giroud substitution, it may be that Wenger was happy to settle for a point in Birmingham or that he was aware that Giroud played the full 90 minutes against Montpellier in midweek and, as such, needed to handle the only striker in his squad that he trusts with care.
What the latest Wenger rebellion implies is that there is a growing contingent of Arsenal supporters who are unconvinced, not only by Arsenal’s direction as a club, but also by Wenger’s methods as a manager and coach.
With his contract up at the end of the season, it is questionable whether Wenger will still have the desire to prove to the supporters that he can still churn out results week after week.
At 63 years old, Arsene Wenger is far from past his sell by date. If there is frustration at the current state of Arsenal Football Club, it needs to be directed at those higher in the food chain than Wenger himself. Gunners fans should start to appreciate what they have – otherwise it may be too late.
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