Whether some Arsenal fans like it or not, Arsene Wenger is here to stay for at least another two seasons. Despite another bittersweet Premier League campaign that saw the Gunners mount a brief challenge for the title before fading into the chasing pack, Wenger has kept his job and must now look towards the future.
Of course, the end of the 2016/2017 season wasn’t a complete disaster for Arsenal as an FA Cup win (against the odds) helped ease any trophy pangs. Naturally, a trophy of any description is great and there are some positives to be taken from the win. Indeed, Arsenal’s players showed they’re capable of striking hard and fast when the time comes and, moreover, they’re capable of battling back when the pressure is on.
Sanchez Strike Looks to have Been Bittersweet
Another positive was that Alexis Sanchez looked deadly as ever and his goal after 4 minutes as hugely impressive. However, this also leads us onto our first negative. Sanchez has, according to reports at the time of writing, all but left the Emirates Stadium in favour of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. The Chilean striker managed to notch up 30 goals across all competitions for Arsenal last season, which means there’s now a very large whole in the team’s attacking line.
Beyond the Sanchez saga, Wenger’s men were also the fortunate recipients of a sending off during the FA Cup final. When Victor Moses received a second yellow card for diving, Chelsea looked lost and Arsenal were able to capitalise and sneak the win. So yes, a trophy in the bank should certainly help Arsenal’s morale heading into next season, but it wasn’t exactly a performance which suggests they’ll be a force in the league.
Odds Don’t Favour Arsenal
In fact, we only have to look at the early Premier League betting lines to see that Wenger’s decision to stay hasn’t really inspired confidence. For example, if you click here and take a look through the latest football markets on Sun Bets, you’ll see that Arsenal are currently down in fifth place in the betting stakes. While Manchester City are sitting atop of the odds table at 2/1, Sun Bets’ team have rated Arsenal at 12/1.
Sure, the odds only ever tell half the story, but it’s certainly a clear sign that confidence in the team, moreover, Wenger is extremely low. Of course, every dark cloud can have a silver lining and Wenger’s could come in the form of Kylian Mbappe. The 18-year-old French hotshot is the talk of the footballing world at the moment and is currently being courted by all the major clubs. Now, there’s no telling where he’s going to go at this stage, but Wenger does have a way with young French players.
New Signings Will Only Go So Far
Indeed, if the Frenchman could sign the young talent, it could be like the second coming of Thierry Henry. OK, so Henry didn’t join Arsenal amid as much fanfare as Mbappe, but there is a sense that he could blossom under Wenger’s guidance and that could easily spark something of a revival. Aside from Mbappe, Wenger has been told he’s got £165 million to spend (and he needs to use it all) and that’s led to links with more French fancies.
Alexandre Lacazette is being touted as the perfect complement to Mbappe, while Djibril Sidibé could help recent signing Sead Kolasinac sure of Arsenal’s backline. Whether or not some, none or all of these signings come to fruition remains to be seen, but it’s certainly encouraging to see Wenger with his eyes on the transfer market. However, even with a host of new signings, there are still some doubts over Wenger’s ability to adapt his strategy to suit the modern game.
Old Dog Needs Some New Tricks
Charlie Nicholas has pointed out that Wenger’s decision to switch to a back three towards the end of the season was positive, but the change still took far too long to implement. This kind of resistance to change it what seems to have held Arsenal back over the last few seasons.
Not wanting to break the budget like other clubs or press the pace with a more attacking formation has meant Arsenal have struggled at crucial moments. This showed after the Christmas break when the Gunners went from second to fifth by the end of the season. After expending so much energy in the first half of the season, the players simply couldn’t hold on when it mattered and Wenger is partly to blame.
So, while there are clearly some positives on the horizon, it would seem a little bit too much of a stretch to say that Arsenal’s chances of success are looking good next season. Although new signings would certainly help, the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” will probably come back to haunt the Gunners as the season plays out. If Wenger can’t change, Arsenal won’t change and that, unfortunately, seems to be the sad truth.