Arsenal facing major overhaul
AFTER a week in which two 0-3 defeats by Manchester City highlighted the gulf between Arsenal and the English Premier League champion-elect, Sunday’s loss at Brighton suggested even the Gunners’ membership of the “Big Six” is in question.
The focus is again on the future of manager Arsene Wenger, but whether he sees out the remaining year of his contract or steps down at the end of this campaign, it is clear the North London side needs a major overhaul.
Arsenal is closer to 7th-placed Burnley than it is to 5th-placed Chelsea.
Wenger’s side is 13 points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur, which occupies the 4th UEFA Champions League spot, and a yawning 33 points adrift of the runaway leader.
Worse than the statistics is the clear sense that Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United are improving, evolving into quality teams who can compete at the highest level in Europe and with the potential to give City a real challenge next season.
Arsenal, in contrast, is drifting, still with more quality than the likes of Burnley and Leicester City, but no longer with the aura of a team that is part of the elite group.
Those questioning Wenger’s suitability are no longer restricted to the hardcore of hostile Arsenal fans who have long campaigned for the Frenchman to leave the club where he won three EPL titles and seven FA Cups in his 21 years in charge.
Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness, now a pundit with Sky Sports, is one of those who believes the club need a change of helmsman.
“He is responsible for every single decision at Arsenal and he has to hold his hands up and I think it is time for another voice. I come from a generation where Arsenal were a very special football club and they have slipped a long way from that,” he said.
But whether chief executive Ivan Gazidis or American owner Stan Kroenke decide to pull the trigger or allow Wenger to see out the remaining 12 months of his contract, the same problem will confront them.
Can Arsenal, without an EPL title in 14 years, still attract the caliber of manager capable of bringing in top talent and transforming the team into one which can compete with Pep Guardiola’s City in the near future?
The bookmakers’ favorite for the job is Carlo Ancelotti, the former AC Milan, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich boss.