I am not sure a superhero costume is necessarily the right thing for him. Indeed, I would argue that he isn’t one but to some it doesn’t matter; Arsène is in trouble, send for him. Niall Quinn has called for David Dein to return to Arsenal to give the club a better chance of success. According to Quinn, the day Dein left was the day Arsenal stopped being a football club. It’s a commonly held view that conveniently omits the truth; one man saw this period of prosperity and engineered both Kroenke and Usmanov’s arrival. The aspect he didn’t share is the stadium; he wanted the short-cut of being tenants (or owning) Wembley Stadium when it was being redeveloped.
The question of Dein’s return follows the same spurious logic about Arsène’s own future. His contract remains unsigned and the stories emerge of the board becoming nervous about whether it will be. Or how, as John Cross puts it this morning, you should be careful of what you wish for, David Moyes at Manchester United proves what happens when you try to replace a manager who is pivotal in a club’s history. I believe the biggest mistake United made was letting Ferguson have any part in the selection process for his successor. It strikes me as human nature that he would choose someone to whom he could relate, someone who seems like a ‘mini-me’; a protegé. Arsenal could fall into the same trap by letting Arsène have too much influence when the time comes. Reportedly, the Arsenal hierarchy are concerned he has not signed the contract. I cannot see why, Wenger has left renewals until the end of the season before but like a large number of supporters, they have known no other manager and recall the last time around when Arsène signed quickly during the season.
Be careful what you wish for is a mantra coming into play now. Every replacement for Arsène is disparaged as being unproven in the Premier League, no trophies to their name. It is a false refuge; if we apply that same criteria to the players, what money Wenger has spent has been wasted. We don’t have a Premier League champion in the squad, probably haven’t done so since Michael Silvestre left. Think about the spurious logic I just applied to players before you apply the same false rationale to the future managers of the club. This is about Arsenal’s future; I have no issue with either end of the spectrum, like most I occupy the middle ground capable of joy and despair in equal measure. Sometimes, emotions are rawer, memories of some wins and defeats linger. Losing to Chelsea has seared into my psyche and I am not alone in that. But the season has not imploded because of Stamford Bridge, arguably the defeat at Anfield was more damaging as it was the beginning of a run of seven games which has seen just two wins and two draws with the team at the top of the table and relishing the upcoming clashes with rivals, failing miserably in them all.
The first half of the season spoiled us; Aside from Villa, Arsenal won matches that they previously come a cropper in. Or did they? I cannot see one where that scenario fits, indeed there were two out of the norm which were the opening day defeat and the win over Liverpool. Everything else pretty much went to the form of the last few seasons. The difference was that the fixture list brought them all into one run, much like the tail end of last season. Arsenal capitalised and built up a head of steam but rather than being a marked improvement, were they flattering to deceive? The failure to take more than two points from four key matches before Christmas suggests that to be the case. Hindsight suggests that the first warning signs should have registered when an exceptionally ordinary Manchester United side won at Old Trafford in the November meeting between the two sides. Of course injuries play a part and losing Ramsey and Walcott has hurt. Wilshere too but the recurring them in all of this is that there was an opportunity to rectify that and that was spurned; another familiar theme of recent windows. The squad was left light through under-investment and now Arsène is reaping the reward.
And the summer’s movements are already well under discussion. At least Team Sagna are not being slow to leak news of other clubs interest in Mr Consistent. Latest to offer him a three-year deal are Manchester City, reportedly at £90k per week as opposed to the weekly wage of £60k over two years. Presuming that this is correct and you have to allow for both agent and club spin on the situation, you have to wonder why City are interested and willing to tie the player to a three-year deal. They can afford to will be the quick answer; so can Arsenal. It just begs the question as to why one club only values over-30 players at two-years (with an option according to some) and others are more phlegmatic about it; perhaps more practical. It used to be the acknowledged policy for those approaching football’s pensionable age to be given a rolling one-year deal, now they are getting two straight years but to me that devalues what a player is bringing to the squad. Sagna still has a season and a half of first XI football in him (at least) and more importantly, that is allowing Arsenal to bring through whichever youngster at a slower pace, making sure their adaptation from reserves to first team is smooth, that they are pushed into the first XI on a regular basis when ready rather than out of necessity. Signing the full back for longer this time allows Wenger to address more urgent needs in the squad and not have to worry about replacing Vermaelen (I am convinced him will leave this summer) as well as finding new midfielders and another striker. At the last count, the squad felt about half-a-dozen players short if Sagna leaves; Arsenal are incapable of sealing that many deals in one transfer window, they simply are not geared up to it.
At the moment, Arsène is woefully short of options to offer any respite to his players who are shorn of confidence and self-belief. City are probably the best and worst of opponents to face; good for the players to be facing a tough match, a win would do wonders but a team more geared to ruthlessly expose weaknesses, you could not wish to meet. A pity the walking wounded are not fit but even if they were, a place on the bench is the best we can hope for.