Regular readers of this column will be well aware of my feelings on Arsene Wenger.
A great man, and the most successful Arsenal manager ever. But hopelessly and embarrassingly past his best.
After having built one of the best teams ever, and delivered three league titles to Highbury, Wenger has gone on to preside over an Arsenal regression that is dramatic and staggering, whichever way you choose to look at it.
For the last 10 years, Arsenal have spectacularly underachieved.
This was understandable during the first few years at the Emirates.
The club had a stadium to pay for, and their transfer activity reflected that.
But for a number of years now, there has been no restriction on spending, and yet the club are further and further away from the top of the table; finishing fifth and missing out on Champions League football in the season just gone.
Arsene Wenger on Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil’s contract situation.
— TheArseneView (@TheArseneView) 2 June 2017
So what have Arsenal done? They’ve given Wenger a new two-year deal.
In the words of owner Stan Kroenke:
“Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe.
It’s what the fans, players, staff, manager and board expect and we won’t rest until that is achieved.
“Arsène is the best person to help us make that happen. He has a fantastic track record and has our full backing.”
Is it just me, or is there a severe disconnect here?
Kroenke claims that he wants the club to win trophies, and specifically the Premier League.
He also claims that Wenger is the best manager to do that.
But Wenger has failed to deliver the Premier League for the last 13 years, and this year he failed to even qualify for Champions League football.
On what planet is he the best man for the job?
Or, to put it another way, what could Wenger possibly do differently now that’ll make all the difference?
Even if you’re an Arsenal fan, you’ve got to be looking at the other clubs competing for the Premier League and admitting that you’re miles behind them.
So how can Wenger bridge that gap?
It won’t be just by ‘managing better’, that’s for sure.
Alex Iwobi on Arsene Wenger: “I’m backing him to win the league title at Arsenal again. There won’t be a player who won’t fight for him.” pic.twitter.com/havBLwnucD
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) 6 June 2017
In a world where Man City will spend a couple of hundred million, Man United will do the same and Chelsea and Liverpool will spend big too, Arsenal will have to buy their way to the top table.
Trouble is, that all becomes very difficult without Champions League football.
The best players want to play in the Champions League, and whilst a top player might take a chance on a club that they think is highly likely to qualify next year, Arsenal probably isn’t that club.
The only other leverage Arsenal could offer is increased wages, but do Kroenke and Gazidis really want to get into a situation where they’re paying way over the odds, hoping that it’ll make the difference, all to keep Wenger in a job?
By awarding Wenger with a new two-year deal, they are almost certainly going to be doing it. It might work out, but it might not. My bet is that we’re still having this same conversation in two years time.