Your family dog is more than a mere pet.
Through the experiences and time you share, this furry bundle burrows its way into your heart. They become family.
Which makes the inevitable ending all the more difficult to endure.
That last trip to the veterinary surgeon in your car is steeped in pain and tears. The severing of the bond between you and your dog is painful and will leave scars.
Anything that has been in your life for a prolonged amount of time and has given you joy – the conclusion to such a heartwarming tale is always going to be scripted by what seems like a nefarious sort.
The above shares many similarities with Arsene Wenger and the season we have just played.
Facing many doubters before a ball had even been kicked, Wenger stuck to his tried and tested formula. For some, this tired approach had been unravelled by his rivals on countless occasions and it was a blatant sign that the Frenchman’s obstinacy would again be a hindrance to our ambitions.
Come December, and we were top of the Premiership.
The naysayers may have been silent at that point, but the aspersions they were casting were not without merit.
Wenger had indeed let the team down with some questionable decisions in the past, and his beligerence in the transfer market in years gone by had allowed our competitors to steal a march on us. This fine pedigree was showing signs of strain, and from January through until April, Wenger – aided ably by his players might I add – conspired to see the Gunners slide into mediocrity, and we were dipping more than a toe into the dark pools of awful and unexcusable. His hangdog expression and the team he created being sent packing with their metaphorical tails between their legs, only added to the analogy – this dog needed a show of mercy.
The team failed to function even on the most basic of plains. Five yard passes went astray. Players appeared to be unable to lift themselves out of this funk – or maybe even were unwilling to. Teams began to systematically target us, and the losses to Bayern Munich, West Brom, Watford, Liverpool and Crystal Palace, glared an obtrusive light into the inadequacies of the team.
Wenger then changed tack. For the first time since 1997, Arsene opted for three at the back, which gave our wing-backs free rein to bomb forward. A subtle shift in position for Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the flowering of a player we always knew we had but had rarely seen. Ozil relished the space out wide and the space to float. The system worked – but why had it not been used before now?
Again, it was used as a stick to beat Wenger with. This once fine canine was now consigned to the cupboard under the stairs, as we perceived it to be past its best.
Even the most staunch of Wenger fans could not deny that he was beginning to look like he was in the car boot, on the way to that ill-fated meeting with the vet. The long goodbye.
It wasn’t the formation change that really emboldened the critics though. It was Wenger’s reluctance to outline his future.
Ex-Arsenal pro’s who had always backed the manager, questioned this approach. Uncertainty has never been the best bedfellow for consistency and a clear mental approach. If players who had signed for our club thanks to Wenger could not predict if he would be there next season, then surely a departure en masse would be the future for our summer?
Wenger should have came out and let everyone know his intentions, and as weeks went by, even the upturn of our fortunes in the League was not enough to stave off the journalists. Every Press conference became a witch-hunt, with barbs aimed at the manager, of which he swatted away but not without becoming a little rattled.
This was all of his making though. If the experts, writers and Gooners were exasperated by this refusal to confirm or deny his future – just imagine what the players would be thinking?
Then, our iron grip on the Champions League places each year was pried away from us, by our own hands. Our poor showing was chief conspirator as Liverpool sneaked in ahead of us. Now, all of a sudden, the Top4 apparently meant everything to top clubs, as papers, radio shows et al feasted upon this latest Wenger failing.
It was akin to coming home and finding your old, faithful companion, solid to the end, had left a mess on your rug in the living room. His age had left him no choice, but it was fast becoming untenable. Soon would come the time when you would be forced to drive to the vets.
This FA Cup win however, has shown that there is life in the old dog yet.
Before I get lynched, may I add, that I still think that Wenger would be best suited for a glorious farewell. He has served the club in the right way and kept our traditions intact. He has also given us expectations of glory and a stepping stone into the next generation of football. Without him, Arsenal would not be where we are now, which is a top club who have the ability to compete for the biggest trophies.
His switch to 3-5-2 though, and his adapting of certain players into other roles, has reminded us that he still possesses traits and assets that mean he can still steer the Good Ship Arsenal to sunnier climes.
His masterminding of our 2-1 FA Cup win over Champions Chelsea was a big slap on the shoulder to all of us. Wenger had to make do without the majority of his defence, a 32yr old who had not started a game in 13 months, and his opponent which had blew everyone away in the Premiership.
Yet we absolutely blew them away, from the first to the last minute. He is still capable of producing a team that can duke it out at the top, but the question of whether he can maintain such excellence still resides over his head.
If, as we all expect, Wenger is given another contract – then there will be the inevitable sighs of derision. Another season of underwhelming repetition, and Wenger taking us further and further away from the big prizes.
Can he throw away his stance, his blinding faith in those who have let him down, and get the players we need to complete the Arsenal jigsaw?
Can he show the adaptability he has shown in the last third of our season?
Can he begin to break free from the shackles of beligerence as he sees the opportunity for a glorious farewell?
These quandaries still haunt him and they are there because of his own mistakes.
We can doubt him, and our season just passed warrants this. What we cannot do though, is question how much he adores the club and what he is still capable of.
A short term contract is probably on the cards, and we need to support the man whilst he is still at the helm. With backing and maybe a change in approach which he has begun to show, then we could surprise everyone.
This dog has shown that dreaded trip to the vet is not quite on the cards yet. There is life in the old dog yet.
That’s a brilliant blog, but I don’t think that Wenger deserves another contract. Having said that, on the assumption that with all the dithering going on, the club failed to secure his replacement, then of course he will have to stay. All AFC fans will hopefully get behind him, but the real problem is that if we go belly up once more, the hatred and bile will quickly come to the fore, and this is so unhealthy for the club and all connected with it. This toxicity that Wenger carries forward, is now the prime reason why the club should have made sure that they brought in a new coach imo.
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Absolutely spot on. I also think it’s his time, but I’ll back him whilst he’s here. You’re so right about the negativity. We’re always a dodgy spell away from anarchy.