Arsenal are staring down the familiar barrel of a sixth successive Champions League exit at the first knockout stage, but how can this pattern possibly be halted? The simple, but increasingly obvious solution is a change of manager.
Arsene Wenger gives his Arsenal team a five per cent chance of overturning a 2-0 Champions League deficit against reigning champs Barcelona at the Camp Nou in just under a month.
Many neutrals and fans alike would fail to share Wenger’s optimism about Arsenal’s prospects however, and although the Frenchman could bemoan the luck of the draw, he has to take the rap for the duration of this knockout-stage malaise.
Record speaks for itself
The increasing sense of déjà vu over the past five campaigns perfectly illustrates a manager who is fundamentally flawed when it comes to European competition.
Wenger’s record of reaching a solitary final, with the last true representation of his Invincibles in 2005/06, while only achieving one other last-four spot over 15 campaigns is simply too poor to ignore as the 16th nears its end.
The financial restraints placed upon Wenger’s transfer budget may have been a legitimate factor in the seasons surrounding stadium transition.
But ironically enough Arsenal’s best finishes outside of being runners-up (QF-SF-QF), arrived in the three seasons following their initial term at the Emirates Stadium.
Same old problems being pointed to
As the man himself pointed out in the wake of Arsenal’s latest major setback in the competition at the hands of Lionel Messi and company, ‘naivety’ was his side’s most costly shortcoming.
In terms of any European football, let alone at the very pinnacle, this is an unacceptable foible and one that has consistently stalked the Gunners throughout Wenger’s tenure in Europe.
A manager boasting the depth of experience the tactician does, should have irradiated this feature from his side, a long, long time ago.
There will be those who believe Arsenal may never have even had the chance to contest knockout ties with the likes of Barca, if it weren’t for their leader.
Never going to happen
There is some truth in there, but the reality is while Arsenal’s chances of pulling off one of the greatest Champions League comebacks are around 0-5%, the probability of them lifting the trophy under Wenger feel more like zero.
In a perfect, dignified ending to one of English football’s most impressive managerial dynasties, Arsenal’s seasoned boss will ride off into the sunset with one last Premier League medal to polish and even a third successive FA Cup for good measure.
However, if Arsenal really want a continental trophy befitting of their shiny stadium to adorn their equally snazzy trophy cabinet anytime soon, then Wenger’s exit must come this summer.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.