On Arsène Wenger, everything is divided, even the news. Just as Bild was reporting there has been contact between representatives of Arsenal and the Borussia Dortmund coach, Thomas Tuchel – no great shock given recent uncertainty but an indication the board is perhaps not quite so supine as it can at times seem – so it was emerging the decision Wenger trailed after Saturday’s defeat by West Bromwich Albion is that he wishes to stay. The handful of people in Britain qualified to fly planes dragging banners must be delighted.
That the protests of a few dozen diehards insisting he is “killing our club” have received so much attention is symptomatic of a culture that favours those who shout loudest, however extreme, illogical or distasteful their opinions. This, perhaps, is the curse of the social media age: the liberal sentiment that all views must be heard conspires with clickbait sensationalism to repackage the rule of the mob as the wisdom of crowds.
But that is an argument about the argument rather than an argument itself. Should Wenger go? The fear his departure could plunge Arsenal into the same sort of fretting that continues to undermine Manchester United three and a half seasons after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson is real enough, particularly for Arsenal shareholders, who have become used to the income generated by habitual qualification for the Champions League – even if, 13 years after their last league title, there seems ostensibly less to lose.
And there is a chance Wenger’s conservatism pays off. The move to the new stadium necessitated careful husbandry but it goes beyond that. Wenger’s unwillingness to spend beyond what he perceives as the market rate for players has been a great source of frustration for fans but his scepticism about the boom in broadcast rights may end up being justified.
Major surgery is necessary, whether it is Wenger in charge or somebody else – and it may even be that it is a sense he cannot hand over the club when they are in such a mess that has persuaded him to stay on. Acknowledging the salary would be a draw, who among the realistic candidates would want the job?
Eddie Howe, as the leading English candidate, may fancy the step up but, given how badly his one previous stint away from Bournemouth went and his lack of big-club experience, he would be a major gamble.Something similar might be said of RB Leipzig’s Ralph Hasenhüttl or Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann – both bold choices and exciting managers but with a limited body of work at a high level. Would an exhausted Luis Enrique really want to get straight back on the treadmill, especially at a club that needs so much work? Would Leonardo Jardim want to leave an exciting Monaco at this stage?