Monday night football. It’s like introducing an international break into the middle of the season. Consecutive away games, two Monday fixtures. At least progress was made on addressing the cost of travel to Middlesbrough:
Fans campaigning does make a difference: £10 travel and £20 ticket for Boro away. Thanks to Arsenal, FSF & Virgin for their response
— AST (@AST_arsenal) April 6, 2017
Arsène meets the press later to talk about Monday’s game and deflect questions about his future. You know, the straight bat about you’ll be told when the time is right, etc. Interestingly, this morning sets out quite clearly that it is not so clear cut.
The board’s paper of choice, The Mirroran Ivan vs Arsène showdown, claims this summer is set for . While you would expect the manager to win such a confrontation, today’s articles are aimed at painting him as the barrier to revitalising the club.
It’s no surprise that these stories appeared. Ivan’s comments at the weekend sparked a difference of opinion between the pair which Wenger chose to play out in public. When asked about being a “catalyst for change” after the Manchester City match, he took the unusual step of openly questioning what that meant.
There was no straight bat, telling his interrogator to wait for the right moment for the announcement, Arsène simply answered that he didn’t have a clue what Ivan was wittering on about.
It was Wenger’s ‘Maggie moment’: this Frenchman’s not for turning. If change is to come, it will not be on the board’s terms; it will be Arsène’s. Apparently, there are some “final details” to be worked out on his new contract before he renews. One of them is presumably that Ivan’s public utterances must be cleared with the manager beforehand.
You’ve Gettin’ To Him
It’s all unseemly and unnecessary. The board allowed the manager to dictate the situation to this point. Instead of giving him a deadline to sign the deal, they allowed it to drift. The club is in disarray on and off the pitch. The win over West Ham was welcome but does it signal the change in fortunes needed to climb into the top four.
We’re still reliant on Liverpool blowing up to remain in the Champions League. Back to the ‘good old days’ of clawing into the elite.
The situation with Alexis continues. Arsène doesn’t understand why anyone is worried since the player has 18 months left on his contract. A look at this morning’s headlines says it all: the Chilean is ready to make a Bosman move to Chelsea. IF Wenger thinks he’s being criticised now, imagine the atmosphere if that happens. Van Persie all over: once is an accident…
Shambolic doesn’t describe the depths to which the situation would plummet.
It’s a salutary warning for Kroenke and the board. Assuming he renews, we’re in the same position two years down the line. Too much respect for the manager, too much fear; their impotence now is hardly likely to improve if changes don’t happen now.
Wenger’s blinkered view stops him seeing that Gazidis is actually trying to save him. Refusal to accept change will ultimately leave Arsène taking responsibility for everything. The board will become silent, reducing their press comments, with the manager isolated during troubled spells. That’s the ‘politics’ of the situation although Ivan’s frustration may see him walk.
That offers Kroenke the chance to shake things up, if he is so minded. I suspect the same mistake would be made as with Gazidis’ appointment. Wenger will have too much influence, to the point that the perception that we’re landed with another CEO who owes his job to the manager.
You’ve Been Gettin’ To Him
This plays out, how it plays out but it is apparent to everyone that unless Wenger decides to go, he is staying. According to the received wisdom in the press, Arsène won’t fall on his sword even if we miss out on his top four trophy.
Plans for the summer business are being made, pre-season already planned and preparations for next season beginning. Wenger’s footprint is over all of them, even the long-distance tours he detests.
Another two years of drifting, of malaise. Wenger’s chosen course is to evolve rather than go back to basics which this season has shown we need. The impact doesn’t bear thinking about if complete change doesn’t happen. The cycle of failure and excuses needs to broken but the Frenchman doesn’t seem capable of making that happen.