Not too long ago, a trip to Arsenal would have struck fear into even the most decorated and celebrated of European giants…teams like Bayern Munich.
But the German side’s dominance in their 3-1 Champions League success at the Emirates represented a damning indictment of just how far Arsenal have fallen in the past eight years.
And what now seems to be plaguing a number of Gunners fans’ minds, is the notion that the man who brought unprecedented success to the club earlier in his reign, Arsene Wenger, has achieved all he can in North London.
This is the same Arsene Wenger who steered Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in the first nine seasons of his 16-year tenure to date.
The same man who built a side billed as ‘invincible,’ after becoming the first ever team to go a full Premier League campaign unbeaten.
And the same man who prior to the club’s crucial last 16 encounter with Bayern, declared in jest that he wished to see his side lose, in order to please blood-baying journalists.
Wenger’s anger at this press conference stemmed from a story he claimed to have no substance, that he was on the verge of signing a new two-year contract with the club.
Perhaps what irritated Wenger most was that he wished for the story to be true.
Because most recently, ‘The Professor’ has become more a figure of derision to football supporters around the globe, rather than the idol he once was.
When the spine of your side once consisted of Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, the persistent first-team selections of Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho are unlikely to appease frustrated Gunners fans.
Fans who are still charged more money than any others to watch their team, whilst Wenger collects £7.5m per year.
That salary dwarfs that of Sir Alex Ferguson, who has brought eight trophies in as many seasons to Manchester United during Arsenal’s silverware drought.
The persistent sales of Arsenal’s most reliable performers, meanwhile, for which Wenger is not solely culpable, does not aid his plight for fans to believe he is still the man to carry them forward.
Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Robin Van Persie have all been allowed to leave in recent years, with Wenger seemingly too stubborn to sign high-profile replacements.
Instead, he so often reverts to the method of signing little-known talent for cut-price fees, and attempting to turn them into top-class players.
As Alex Song was arguably the last signing he successfully achieved this with back in 2006, Wenger’s transfer policy is of alarming concern.
Only a Champions League success at 300/1 would see Arsenal halt their trophyless streak before the eight-year mark, and so a top-four finish must again become a priority.
That simply won’t be good enough for a large number of supporters though, who don’t buy Wenger’s philosophy that achieving Champions League qualification is as good as winning a trophy.
And as growing unrest encapsulates the Emirates, perhaps it would be best for Wenger to call time on his Arsenal reign, before completely souring relations with the club he once made great.
He is 6/4 to be gone before the season’s end, but Ladbrokes expect him to remain in charge for some time yet, with the Frenchman 1/2 to lead the Gunners out in their first game next term.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.