After over two decades at the helm, Arsène Wenger is under intense pressure, with some pundits predicting that his time at Arsenal could be coming to an end. That astonishing run of consecutive top-four finishes couldn’t last forever, and after ending up fifth last season, it once again seems likely that the Gunners will finish up outside the Champions League places. That dip in league performance appears to have been enough to stir the club to action, and there have been some important behind-the-scenes changes at the Emirates.
However, predictions of Wenger’s departure are premature. Although the Premier League title has proven to be out of their reach in recent seasons, Arsenal have continued to pick up silverware, including three FA Cups in four seasons – a remarkable achievement given the volatility of the Cup draw and the need to prioritise the league.
Although there is no doubt that the Premier League performances in the last two seasons have been a disappointment, Wenger remains one of Europe’s top coaches, and with over a year to run on his contract, it makes no sense to dispense with his services at the end of this season. A man who transformed Arsenal into one of the most exciting and dynamic clubs on the continent should be afforded the respect of seeing out his contract at least.
There are encouraging signs. The arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January, and the departure of Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sánchez, along with a handful of fringe players, has refreshed the squad and given the team more attacking options. Aubameyang is one of Europe’s most lethal strikers, while Mkhitaryan has already started to make an impact, taking some of the playmaking pressure off Mesut Özil.
A stunning victory over Milan at the San Siro in the Europa League was followed by a commanding home win over Watford, illustrating the potential in the Arsenal squad. What can Wenger do to ensure next season that the Gunners are considered one of the Premier League favourites with punters who place their bets on Stakers.com?
The first thing that we can expect is more transfer business in the summer, and Wenger will need to listen to Arsenal’s new head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat. He is responsible for the Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan deals, and his eye for talent makes him one of the best judges of players in Europe. Top of the list will be a goalkeeper to replace the ailing Petr Čech, a tough defensive midfielder in the mould of N’Golo Kanté, and perhaps a wide attacker.
Wenger could also make some tactical adjustments, perhaps by using Jack Wilshire as a deep-lying playmaker rather than a converted number 10, giving Granit Xhaka more of a box-to-box midfielder role and developing a Plan B against sides that want to try to bully Arsenal physically. More consistent team selection and less rotation, particularly of the defence, would enable the first-choice players to establish form and confidence.
With money to spend and plenty of talent to work with, Wenger is still the man to guide Arsenal forwards, and he can return them to the top four next season.