The publication of the Premier League fixtures this morning brought excitement and a narrative of hope for many clubs and their fans. Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion will play their first ever Premier League games against Crystal Palace (a) and Man City (h) respectively. Tottenham; whose fans will believe this is their best opportunity yet to land the Premier League crown, will open with an away fixture at promoted Newcastle United. While a refreshed Liverpool team might be expected to blow Watford away at Vicarage Road.
Despite the air of early season optimism, it is almost certain that Arsene Wenger will continue to face the wrath of a large proportion of his club’s supporters when the Gunners take the field in their opening fixture, at home to Leicester City.
It’s true that nobody divides opinion in football circles as widely as the Arsenal manager, and the division is most evident within his own stands at the Emirates.
The Frenchman has the opportunity over the next two months to renew his vows with Gunners fans, but we believe he will fail for the following three reasons.
1. He won’t strengthen the team. Sure, players will arrive and the squad will be strengthened, but we think it’s highly unlikely that Wenger will pull the trigger on two or three marquee signings. The finances are available, but it would appear the veteran manager is more interested in leaving behind a legacy of financial management, than football excellence. Financial management is all well and good I hear you say, but it won’t put trophies on the table. True, if we exclude the multiple trophies that he’s won at the club’s helm. Whatever Wenger’s recruitment plans, we’d like to see him start early and big to get ahead of the mob.
2. The laws of football maths. Every financially astute club manager understands that when new players are added to the squad, others must be subtracted. Normally the minutiae of player exits is of little interest to casual fans, who are comfortable saying goodbye to fringe players and once promising under 23’s. But this season could bring something quite different for Arsenal. They could lose global stars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. While Ozil under-performed last season, there is no doubting the player’s potential and his loss would be seen as a big step back by the Arsenal faithful. However this pales into significance when compared with the possible exit of Sanchez. The Chilean is easily Arsenal’s most influential player and his loss would be a catastrophic blow to morale on and off the pitch. There are only a handful of players in world football who could replace him and realistically they’re all out of Arsenal’s reach.
3. It’s the way we do things these days. There is limited loyalty in football today. We are in an era where managers lose their jobs on the back of a month’s worth of poor results. Perhaps the single greatest show of loyalty in the modern game was Arsenal’s decision to retain their manager in the face of such public pressure in May. I applaud Stan Kroenke’s faith in Wenger, but it is surely nothing more than a stay of execution. Wenger may need to sit top of the Premier League in August, September and October to extend his tenure to 2018. And even that level of success is likely to be short lived, because history suggests the Gunners often fold when the cold winter nights kick in.
Whatever his fate, we’re fans of Arsene Wenger at FantasySports.co.uk. We’d like to think he’ll be given the chance to enjoy a peaceful final season, before going on to manage a fine young generation of players with the French national team.