by Dillon Meehan
In the fall of 1996 Arsenal dismissed their manager Bruce Rioch after a series of disputes with board members. Following his departure the board decided to bring in Arsène Wenger, a figure who was relatively unknown by the English media.
It was a rough start, he came in with a focus on sports science and nutrition. Before his tenure, it was standard procedure for players to often drink in the locker room and go out on their off days. Yet Wenger changed all of that. He banned his players from drinking and junk food, he encouraged them to avoid red meat and replace it with chicken. Apart from diet, he had his players injected with vitamins and use Creatine to recover from games and training.
A year later, he became the first foreign-born manager in the English Premier League to win the “double,” by capturing both Premier League title and the F.A. Cup.
Four seasons later, in 2002 he would repeat history by leading Arsenal to another double. But he wasn’t done; in 2004 Arsenal became the first team since Preston North End 115 years prior to go undefeated throughout an entire season, and the first to do so in a 38-game season.
He had revolutionized the game in eight years; but he had also plateaued.
In 2006 the club finished fourth in the Premier League, a first for Wenger. On top of that, the club blew a lead late in the second half against Barcelona in the Champions League final. At the start of the summer, the club built a new stadium which was supposed to cement Arsenal as one of premier destinations for the top players in the sport, but in reality it was the opposite.
The owner and board elected to choose prioritize financial success over improving the team. Instead of bringing in players, they began to lose some of their best. It started with Sol Campbell, Lauren and Rober Pirès in 2006. A year later Thierry Henry, the clubs best player, left for Barcelona.
That was only the beginning, in 2009 the club started a trend of sending their best players to Manchester City, first with both Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure in July 2009. Two years later the club sold another two as Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri both left.
The following year in 2012, Robin Van Persie would also leave for Manchester, this time going to United.
Over the past decade, Arsenal have become a shadow of the club they once were around the turn of the century. The club has now lost in Champions League Round of 16 in seven straight seasons. They have repeatedly blown chances to win the Premier League title. The only silverware they have to show are two F.A. Cup titles in 2014 and 2015. But that competition is essentially worthless now, with the majority of clubs using their B-teams to compete in it.
This season has been particularly awful for Wenger and his squad. Earlier in the month, they suffered an embarrassing lost 10-2 on aggregate against Bayern Munich. While fans thought it couldn’t get worse Arsenal managed another embarrassing 3-1 against West Brom.
The former perennial title contenders now sit in sixth place tied with Everton. With Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United all looking to have rebounded from their slow starts it is unlikely that Arsenal will even be able to contend for a Champions League spot, and even worse, finish below their London rivals Tottenham for the first time since the inception of the Premier League.
Arsène Wenger has a choice; either tarnish his legacy as one of the games greatest coaches, or resign. If he stays he will likely see the clubs two best platers Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil leave this summer, further plummeting his squad.
If he reigns he can either take a spot as the club’s Sporting Director, or take a job elsewhere. Following PSG’s embarrassing defeat to Barcelona and their performance in Ligue 1, there is a chance that Unai Emery could be fired or resigned. This would open the door for Wenger to finish his career in an easier league with a much better squad.