Sunday 20 August 2017 / 10:19 AM

The Perfect Way To Say Goodbye … Or Not?

Arsenal beat Hull City 3-2 after extra time on Saturday to cement their first piece of silverware since 2005.

 

It was a nervy game, and one of the most pleasing things for Gunners fans will no doubt be the way that Wenger’s side responded after going two goals down inside the first 10 minutes.

When Hull broke the deadlock through James Chester and then doubled their lead only four minutes later via Curtis Davies, it seemed almost inevitable that Arsenal’s wait for a trophy would be elongated for at least another year. In the past, this Wenger side have crumbled when it comes to the crunch, but on Saturday afternoon they were patient, fiery and resilient.

The question now is: what happens next?

There has been all sorts of speculation about Arsene Wenger’s future, with the Frenchman still having not put pen to paper on a new deal at the Emirates. In the post-match jubilation the Arsenal boss seemed to indicate that he would be staying in North London, and that may be what happens. But would that really be the right course of action? Here are the two points of view:

Wenger should go

Having overseen the transitional period that saw Arsenal move from Highbury into their new all-singing, all-dancing stadium, Wenger is now at a crossroads. On the one hand, winning an FA Cup after so many fallow years would be the perfect way to say goodbye to a club that he has shaped in his own image for so many years. If Wenger were to leave his post at this juncture he would still be in a position to be involved at the club in some sort of advisory role, and he would leave his post with goodwill ringing in his ears after a triumphant day out at Wembley. Quite honestly, Saturday’s celebrations do appear to be the perfect way for the Frenchman to say goodbye.

The reality is that despite their storming start to the season that has just finished, Arsenal are still a few players short of a genuine title challenge, and even if they were to strengthen significantly this summer, they will still be competing with the financial might of Man City, Chelsea and a wounded Man United. Delivering silverware more prestigious than the FA Cup may prove problematic for Arsenal in the next few years, and the blunt facts of the matter are that they will still be fourth favourites to win the league (at best) when the season kicks off afresh in August.

The question really is whether Wenger has the energy to continue that battle. The Frenchman is 64, and whilst that is not ancient in football management terms, it is old enough to consider calling it a day.

Wenger should stay

The flipside of the argument just proposed is that Arsenal are entering a new and potentially exciting era, and that the FA Cup could be just the start.

When Mesut Ozil arrived last September for £42.5 million, Arsenal’s potential changed drastically. No longer did the Gunners have to scrimp and save, they were now in a position to compete with the big boys. Okay, so no other big names have yet followed Ozil through the door, but it seems logical to assume that as far as finances go, there’s more where that came from.

If Arsenal were to add two or three world-class players this summer, there is a strong argument that says they will be in a fantastic position to push for the title next season. Sure, Chelsea and City will spend this summer (although FFP could potentially shackle the latter to a certain extent), and United will do the same. But it is a fair enough point of view to say Arsenal would still be in with a shout.

The Gunners have done precisely what they needed to this season. They’ve ended their drought period and they have qualified for the Champions League. No longer are they under the immense pressure that they have been, and having beaten Everton to fourth, they are still in the privileged position of being able to attract players of Ozil’s ilk. If they are able to add a world-class striker and quality replacement for Sagna – as well as purchasing a more reliable player to play in Lukas Podolski’s stead – there is every chance that they could surprise a few people next season.

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this article indicates the difficulty of the decision that Wenger has to make. Was the FA Cup win the perfect way to say goodbye, or was it the start of something more exciting, more impressive and longer lasting? It is Wenger who has to make this call, and it’s a tough one.

(P.S. I don’t usually write P.S.s, but my friend Jack was desperate for me to mention how good Hull’s Tom Huddlestone is, so here goes: Tom Huddlestone is a great player, unlucky to be on the losing side.)

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About the author

Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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