The big question everyone is asking right now is whether it’s time for Arsene Wenger to call it a day? It’s a really difficult one to find an answer for.
One thing I always say is be careful what you wish for. It doesn’t always turn out for the best. Look at Manchester United for example, it wasn’t the same situation when Sir Alex left, but they got in Moyes and look how things turned out. Old Trafford hasn’t been the same since. United haven’t come close to challenging.
The issue with Arsenal is it has been a long time since they have won the league and what it seems like is that they are happy to simply finish in the top four and take Champions League football every season. It’s all well and good, but a club of their stature has to be competing on all fronts.
Wenger has done marvelous things during his time at Arsenal, overseeing and staying strong by the club during the building of the Emirates and helping the club through that transition. Now they’re out of that transition but nothing has really changed. This summer Arsenal signed just a goalkeeper, which they needed, but they needed much more than just Petr Cech – however good he is. They were the only side not to sign an outfield player which doesn’t look particularly great.
The thing with Arsenal is it all seems to go wrong at the same time every year. They seem to drop out of every cup competition and the league running from February through to March. And why? It just looks like they can’t handle the pressure. The pressure was on them from early this season and they haven’t delivered.
Struggling to cope with the pressure looks to be nailed down to a lack of leaders in the side. They’re all very quiet and timid. And I can tell you that didn’t used to be the case when I played against them. I used to have to go head to head with Patrick Vieira. Nicest guy in the world off the pitch, but when he crossed that white line, he was a different guy. No friends, just enemies. Wenger’s old sides were teams full of characters like Vieira, and that’s the biggest difference between now and then. Technically, they’ve got a brilliant squad. Players who can do amazing things on the pitch, but they all seem to lack that little bit of fight and spirit needed to go the distance.
Of late, the side’s confidence has looked drained. Where have the great individual performances been this season, bar Ozil and Cech? They’ve not been scoring enough goals and Sanchez looks to be properly suffering from second season syndrome.
Arsenal are in the worst possible shape to head to Spurs this weekend for an almost title-deciding North London Derby. They have two key players in Cech and Koscielny missing. Saturday is the final straw – if Arsenal don’t win on Saturday, that’s it.
If Arsenal don’t win the league this season, should Wenger go? Again, it’s down to being careful what you wish for. If he were to go, there has to be someone as good, if not better, to replace him. Guardiola would have been ideal – he’d have been ideal for every team – but particularly for Arsenal. Similar style of play and philosophies, he’d have fitted in nicely. With the possibility of it being Thierry Henry, you have to think would they risk giving such a pressurised role to a novice in management. Take United again for example, they’ve been reluctant to give it to Ryan Giggs. Arsenal should have the same hesitancy.
Having a glance over my predictions from last weekend, it was a very 50/50 set of predictions. But, as we know, the fun of the Premier League is that anything can happen and anyone can beat anyone. Here’s my predictions for this weekend’s fixtures:
SPURS V ARSENAL
Spurs have to be favourites here, especially when it’s at White Hart Lane. They’ve been the most consistent side in the league over recent games and are looking great lately. One issue for Spurs could be workload. They’ve got a real shot at winning the Europa League this year and Pochettino seems to be taking it seriously. Even with that, they look to have more energy and vigour than Arsenal. I’m going for a home win.
SOUTHAMPTON V SUNDERLAND
Southampton were in great form until last week and have since picked up a couple of sticky defeats to Chelsea and Bournemouth. Now, with no Austin and Forster making a couple mistakes after his great form, it seems to be turning a little for Koeman’s side. Sunderland on the other hand are looking stronger lately, with quite a bit of fight in them. Allardyce signed well in the transfer window with Khazri and Kone and they’re performing well. Can’t separate them, going for the draw.
CHELSEA V STOKE
Two teams in good form having won their last couple. Have to go with a Chelsea win, though. Now in the top half of the table and within a fighting shot for top four they’ll be keeping an eye on it. I think it’s too much for them, but you never know.
SWANSEA V NORWICH
Massive game for me, this one. Talking about Spurs and Arsenal at one end, this is huge at the other. In terms of form, I’m going to have to say Swansea. Norwich have been in really awful form lately, picking up little to no points and going into the game possibly without a toothless Brady doesn’t leave them on the best start. Everything that can go wrong for Norwich has. So a home win for Swansea.
MANCHESTER CITY V ASTON VILLA
City have lost three Premier League games on the spin… But, it’s Aston Villa. No one in their right mind would back Villa. For any game. Has to be city.
NEWCASTLE V BOURNEMOUTH
This is an interesting one for me because Bournemouth have picked up some good away form. Newcastle will be glad to be back at home, their away form has been horrible. McClaren was right when he said they’re a frustrating side, you never know which team is going to turn up. A draw here!
EVERTON V WEST HAM
This should be a cracking game. I’m hoping for a high scoring draw. 2-2 or something. Everton’s home form isn’t great but with Lukaku breaking the Everton Premier League record for goals in a season and their new investment boosting their chance of keeping good players, they will be ready to go. Bilic’s side on the other hand are playing terrific football. Antonio and Payet together are a delight to watch at the moment. Goals written all over it.
WATFORD V LEICESTER
I fancy a draw here. Leicester have plenty of goals in them, but they look like they might be burning out. Watford are struggling to score lately, even with Ighalo still playing tremendously. I don’t think he’ll get as many chances like he did against United and miss them all again. Watford played really well at Old Trafford. Draw for me.
CRYSTAL PALACE V LIVERPOOL
Liverpool have been infuriating this season. Much like when back in Germany, Klopp’s side play better against the big teams than the ones they should beat week-in, week-out. If Milner scores they won’t get beat, so there’s that! But, I fancy Liverpool to drop points here. Wickham has picked up some form and with that I’m going to go for a draw.
WEST BROM V MANCHESTER UNITED
Plenty of goals recently for Brom, but now without Brunt – which I’m gutted about with him missing the Euros too. United didn’t play great against Watford but all that luck that was going against them earlier in the season is now on their side. They’re coming strong at the right time. The supporters are enjoying Rashford and the young players coming in and sparking life into the side, so I’m going to back that and go for a United win.