Arsenal may have lost to Bayern Munich at home early Wednesday morning if you are in India, but the dust will definitely take time to settle on recent results.
Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic have surely made Arsenal‘s chances of progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League rather small, but Lukas Podolski’s strike against his former club makes the sliver of hope the Londoners have slightly bigger.
The Gunners exited the FA Cup rather unceremoniously after losing at home to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup, despite dominating large portions of the game. But the Championship promotion contenders made the hosts pay when Colin Kazim-Richards pounced on one of the few chances the Lancashire side created.
In light of these events, it is only natural that fans of the Red and White will feel heartbroken. Emotions that come to the fore in the wake of a defeat are bound to be tumultuous, as rage alternates with sorrow, hope crosses paths with despair.
‘Wenger Out,’ scream several Facebook groups centred around the discussion of the Emirates Stadium side. ‘We want Arsenal FC, not Arsene FC’ is present on many feeds in Twitter.
The experts will be asked the same questions. Some will say he has run his course, others will wonder why he protects the board. Some pundits sitting in studios will feel sorry for Arsene Wenger but will ultimately say the reigns have to be given to someone else, while those standing in the stadium with headphones framing their heads will convey the emotions of the fans. Piers Morgan will rant, Ian Wright will rave.
But those loyal to Arsenal, those who have pulled on the Red and White in the past and those who know Arsene Wenger intimately will stand up for him.
Players and commentators alike, the ones who know what they are talking about will back Wenger to the hilt.
Why is it, that after eight years of no tangible glory, Arsene Wenger is being supported, at a time when casualty lists which contain the names of football managers grow ever longer?
It’s because they not only believe in his vision, but believe in his promise to deliver on that vision, if he is given enough time to do so. His vision to make Arsenal an independent powerhouse of modern day football, one that will one day be held in the highest esteem.
In doing so, he will obviously immortalise his name in the history of the club, if he has not already done so, but whether his name does enter the annals of history or not will be of little consequence to him.
“There is a success culture at this club,” said Wenger during the halcyon days of the Invincibles. It is this success culture that he is trying to make achievable on a constant basis while keeping in touch with the modern game.
Yes, Wenger is very much in touch with the modern game. What he is doing now is taking Arsenal to the next level. That does not, however, happen overnight. What he is doing is similar to what Sir Alex Ferguson did in his first five years at Manchester United, where he revolutionised the club from within. Those five years did not yield any silverware, but the Board of Directors at Old Trafford knew exactly what Sir Alex had in mind and that is the reason United are England’s most successful club today and one of the best in the world.
It is the same trust that Arsenal’s Board see in their manager. Their faith in ‘The Professor’ is unshakeable. But that of some fans can be quite volatile, which is one of the reasons they backed their manager in public. The BBC’s David Ornstein reports:
“Any decision over Wenger’s future rests with the Frenchman himself – he is under contract until 2014 and Arsenal would be prepared to offer him a new deal if he wants to extend a reign that began in 1996.
“There will be no out-of-the-ordinary show of support at the board meeting because the support is already there – Wenger and the board are united and agreed on what they are trying to achieve and what needs to be done to get there.
“They recognise the shortcomings of the team and understand the concern of Arsenal supporters, but the club are adamant they are putting the structures in place to compete with Europe’s biggest teams in the near future.”
Yes, the near future: a cause Arsene Wenger himself is committed to. He knew the immediate consequences moving to the Emirates would bring, but he stuck with the team because he was determined to see out his vision right to the very end. Not once in his time with the Gunners did he ever think of quitting:
“Never, not one second. I have a contract until the end of 2014 and at the moment we are on a short-term plan. I have been here for a long time and have to consider what I want to do. That will be decided in 2014, not before.”
The short-term plan Wenger speaks of is achieving qualification for the Champions League by the end of the season. Arsenal are currently fifth and face fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on the 3 March: a game that will be made even more intense because of its pivotal nature in deciding who will play among Europe’s elite next season.
His players believe in him: just ask Thomas Vermaelen:
“Everyone in football looks too short term. They don’t look at the long term and he’s done a lot for this club. He is the right man for this club and we are all behind him.”
But it’s not just the club captain who feels that way. Theo Walcott, who has been one of Arsenal’s best players this season also agrees with the Belgian. He said:
“We’ve got the best man in the job to get our heads back to where they should be. I’ve played a lot of games in the Champions League and I know how things go. We need to react in a positive way straight away. We can’t be down in the dumps in training. Everybody needs to be alive and alert, recover well.”
As does the latest scion of the Arsenal Youth Academy, Jack Wilshere:
“The boss has been here for 16 years and he’s been doing a great job so you can’t question him. A manager can put us on the pitch and motivate us but we have to do it when we’re on the pitch. But we’re starting badly and getting punished for it.”
What the club needs right now is backing from their fans as they try to negotiate this tumultuous time. It is the fans that motivate the players – who are only human – towards getting the best results.
So to quote Thomas Vermaelen, “The fans must not forget that we need them…
“…because they belong to the team and to the club”