United or bust for Arsenal Ė and Wenger

By Simon Rose

This drastic season just gets more drastic

Arsene Wenger can never have imagined needing to beat his arch nemesis Jose Mourinho just to retain a chance to qualify for the Champions League. Given the run-in for the clubs trying to finish in the top four, Arsenal need to beat Manchester United this weekend or we are extremely unlikely to make the cut. Given too that Wenger has never beaten a Mourinho side in a league game, itís a cruel twist of fate for him to need a victory now.

Beating United would be a tall task even if we were in good form, which of course we arenít. United have yet to become entirely convincing under Mourinho and he no longer has quite the aura of old, but they arrive with a new club record of 25 games unbeaten, so we face quite a task. On that basis they should be challenging for the title but instead United have become, unwillingly, the draw kings.

From 34 league games so far United have drawn 14. No other Premier League club has drawn more times than them. In visits to other top four contenders this season, United have drawn 0-0 at Manchester City and 0-0 at Liverpool. On the face of it, itís pretty obvious how Sundayís game will pan out: we will probably draw 0-0.

Ahead of facing Tottenham away we were six points behind third-placed Liverpool, with two games in hand. Catching them felt plausible, apart from the fact that we have mostly been in poor league form and recent wins over Middlesbrough and Leicester felt disturbingly fragile. United and City both drawing last weekend, against Swansea and Boro respectively, gave us scope to make hay on them both if we could win at White Hart Lane, but losing at Spurs and Liverpool then winning at Watford has left us exposed.

A brief look at the league table and the remaining matches for the top four contenders shows that only victory against United will do for Arsenal, as it is our best chance to pull close, but even that might be futile. The truth is that you canít see us doing well enough at Southampton or Stoke if we don't beat United - or possibly even if we do squeeze past them - as the run-ins for Liverpool and City look rammed full of points, lofting them both out of our reach.

Liverpool face Southampton at home, West Ham away and finish with Middlesbrough at home. City have a beautiful final set of matches, with Palace, Leicester and WBA at home, before Watford away. Both Liverpool and City could comfortably win the rest of their games. Given Chelsea and Spurs in the top two places, that would sew up the top four, leaving us and Utd floundering for the empty preference of fifth over sixth.

Momentum is the golden ingredient to a league campaign and this weekendís matches will set the tone for the final games to come. Strange things can happen and while you cannot see Liverpool or City slip up at home, both will have played before we face United. The only impetus I can see in our final league games is that players should want to perform in order to earn a starting place in the FA Cup Final against Chelsea. Without that, the performances in our remaining matches could become rancid, leading to protests reaching hysterical levels.

Is the board watching and listening? It should be. The most powerful protests yet would be inside the stadium, either with increasingly sparse attendances embarrassing the board to the watching millions on TV, or via loudly audible protests against the manager and/or the owner.

I have always said that if Wenger failed to finish in the top four that he would not stay at the club. We already know that we will finish below Tottenham and that is an annual minimum requirement missed. Beyond all the clamours and protests surrounding our club, failure to reach the Champions League too would be a crushing blow, to Wenger and Arsenal as a club. Finishing above Spurs for 21 years has been great fun but local pride and banter is little more than vanity in truth: no Champions League football is a massive financial hit. Would that make Stan Kroenke wake up and act?

On one hand, a season in the Europa League might strangely give us a refresher course in how to compete in Europe and win contests over two legs. That might improve us for how to be competitive in the long run and in the Champions League once/should we return to it, but it is the lack of Champions League football next season to attract top players which feels potentially the most uncomfortable outcome of this excruciating season. A new manager would have to overcome that barrier when improving the squad.

Antonio Conte has been a success at Chelsea without any European football this season but he is a top-class manager. He didn't buy big, he revolutionised Chelsea through coaching. Can we attract a similar coach? One who could excel and transform our squad, with or without top signings? Can our board successfully appoint such a coach? Will we try for a top European coach and join the three-year cycle brigade? Would one come? Would we opt for a young long-term development manager, like an Eddie Howe?

I think the board will be forced to act, because although many observers are sure that Wenger will sign a new contract, personally I still feel that finishing below Spurs and failing to qualify for next seasonís Champions League will see Wenger chose not to stay. Given how awful things have become, I canít see how heíd want to stay on. This summer is the natural time for Wenger to go, there is no need for a further contract. I just hope that we can manage a crazy wonderful ending at Wembley, by winning the FA Cup, rather than being humiliated to the world on such a powerful occasion.

3rd May 2017 08:30:30


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Bob Bayliss  8:35am 3rd May 2017

Wenger is already bust and the United game is an irrelevance. There are only two places at stake in the top four, and despite their inconsistency Liverpool and City have them in the bag given their points in hand and remaining fixtures. We may well beat a United team ravaged by injuries and with other priorities, but let's not build it up as significant in terms of our top-four prospects or Wenger's future. It is a non-event, which I hope will help as many as possible to devote their energy and attention to the protest both before and during the match. - Post No. 106914

peter wain  8:40am 3rd May 2017

not being in the champions league should be no problem for wenger. he has never bought top top quality players so not having cl football will not make any difference. what will make a difference is his ability to be decisive and act quickly. At most we will buy three players maybe a couple of free transfers but top top quality do not hold your breath. - Post No. 106915

markymark  8:59am 3rd May 2017

ANR - reporting Gazidis tried to resign- could be getting quite dramatic if true - Post No. 106916

Up For Grabs Now  9:16am 3rd May 2017

Given the choice in your article heading Simon, I would opt for bust, because this is what it clearly needs to even have a glimmer of hope that Wenger will be off. Were Arsenal somehow to get into the top 4 and miraculously beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final (More chances of me walking on the moon, than both of those things happening) you can bet Stanís bottom dollar he would not offer Wenger a two-year deal, but probably a five year one! I presume Simon now that you have sort of finally come over to the dark side (At least 5 years later than most of us) that you too will be hoping (Not that much hope will be needed!) that itís bust, to help rid the club of the curse of Wenger assuming your assumption are correct that he will walk (I have my severe doubts he will by the way, as his ego is simply too big, as after all he invented the club donít forget!!!!!!!!). - Post No. 106917

Exeter Gunner  10:05am 3rd May 2017

So a fraud whose top 4 finishes and reputation have been held together for year by huge bundles of luck is now poor old unlucky Arsene, in a 'cruel twist of fate' having to face the big bad bully Jose, just at a time he needs yet another of those easy matches to smooth his access to the Virtual Trophy that have been falling in his lap for years at this time of season. Good. I for one hope his luck has finally run out. - Post No. 106919

Yes its Ron  10:37am 3rd May 2017

Perhaps the most meaningless game against Man Utd that we ve had for 30 years. Wenger doesn't beat Mourinho anyway and rarely beats Utd in any event. I wouldnt back against Utd if Mourinho fielded his youth team and fringe players to be honest, such is Arsenals plight. - Post No. 106920

TonyEvans  12:47pm 3rd May 2017

Bust please - looking at the respective run-ins it's going to be bust anyway irrespective of what happens on Sunday. Wenger's luck has finally run out in the league, and with Chelsea waiting in the Cup final, rather than Hull this time, it looks like lady luck has finally deserted him completely. Not before time I might add. As for the players playing for a place in the Cup final team - why would they need to bother when Wenger picks his favorites anyway irrespective of how they perform! I would also suggest that performances have been rancid (bar the FA Cup semi final) for sometime now anyway. Wouldn't it be great if Wenger announced he was leaving before the Cup final, so we could all be sure winning the cup would not influence what happens with his contract - without that the massive doubt remains that a win in the final will save his bacon once again and I for one would rather lose in the final than risk that happening again. - Post No. 106923

peter wain  13:19pm 3rd May 2017

lets face it fourth place just covers the huge problems we have. the academy is a mess no decent young players being produced at all. the transfer policy a complete joke the tactics we use useless and the only answer is for kroenke to go take the board gazidis and wenger with him. - Post No. 106924

Roy  14:40pm 3rd May 2017

It's already bust Simon, the only question is how far we can fall before the spineless board and money obsessed owner take any kind of decisive action. Never has a game against Manure or a cup final meant less when placed against the grander scheme of things. Who would have thought that the actual games would become secondary to one of the worlds biggest clubs ? And we won't even be able to claim that title either soon, the way things are going. Two words sum it up for me right now : desperate and farcical. @NoNewContract #wengerout - Post No. 106925

Redshirtwhitesleeves  14:58pm 3rd May 2017

As if we will beat united anyway- everyone knows Maureen has had Wenger on toast for years and will continue to do so. Problem now is pochetino, klopp, koeman and any other manager with half a brain has also got Wengers number these days. It's not just us suffering fans that find Wenger so predictable, other teams are rubbing their hands in glee playing us these days as we are so soft and easy to beat. I will gladly see us take a beating in all remaining games including the cup final if that's what it takes to get this parasite out of our club - Post No. 106926

Rippy  15:20pm 3rd May 2017

its already a bust I am afraid. the stories coming out today about plan B transfers are designed to lessen the expectancy level. I have said all along Kroenke will balance the books. expect sales and salary reductions. only good thing to come out of it is his asset is losing value. lets hope he panics and sells up. a long shot but anything is better than him. - Post No. 106927

markymark  15:40pm 3rd May 2017

On a different note it's odd that Leek the Squeak, Jameeson, Colesey OAP, BBA and the Right Reverand Brian Badarse have never appeared on any other Arsenal site post their leaving the Gooner. Particularly as Untold would be a home from home. Perhaps some of these self labelled super supporters aren't quite as dedicated as they would imagine. Or just maybe we were right all along and the all encompassing love for Wengo is bigger than the club. Realising Wengo is a busted flush they have severed ties with our great club. - Post No. 106928

Yes its Ron  16:20pm 3rd May 2017

Tony - Strangely, i think an announcement that AW is quitting at the Seasons send would galvanise the team for the FAC Final. Three fold effect - desire to send him on his way on a high and players playing for futures or for the 'shop window' effect. Perhaps also, it would set other Coaches into limber up mode to apply for the job. PS Ive a sneaky feeling now that they already know who the incoming Coach is to be honest and that the Board have known for some time that AWs heading out. Im just not sure though if he going to stay for a while on a 'roll over' contract basis to ease said new guy in. We ll see but i do think things are unfolding and crystallising now. - Post No. 106929

mbg  16:35pm 3rd May 2017

Your messiah has been bust for years now but you and others just keep trying to blow him up and patch him up over and over and over again, thankfully the rubber tube you and your ilk blow into is to worn out now for any more blowing and just keeps deflating, it's done, finished, past it. Now the die hard AKB's like you realise that too, what a lot of us have known and realised for years, a lot of you half heartedly and don't really want to of course, because you'd all keep him in the blink of an eye, and that will be proved if he flukes something against man yoo or in the cup. We want wenger out we want wenger out. - Post No. 106930

mbg  17:27pm 3rd May 2017

Ron, good post, I hope your right, and yes if TOF did make the announcement I think it would galvanise the team hand indeed could very well hand us the cup, it would be a new lease of life for them a massive incentive a weight of their shoulders, but my only fear with all the support and celebrations whooping and high fiving and selfies TOF would imagine he's still wanted and suddenly change his mind, and like I've already said wengerite AKB's would be only to happy to comply and reverse the charges. wenger out. - Post No. 106931

jjetplane  17:56pm 3rd May 2017

Is there a trophy for beating United because Simon seems to think it is the most important game for errr 20 years or so. Win that and it's Wenger for life, a DVD, selfie gallery and specials on Giroud's scorpion goal and how Mesut destroyed Ludograts. What I really want to know following up from Simon's last er gospel extract is what happened to the Ollie and Perez plan B genius tactic? Will it happen next season assuming Wenger beats JM and causes the greatest upset in PL history and Wenger going out of the Europa before said Ludograts .... What an exciting club! - Post No. 106932

TonyEvans  19:24pm 3rd May 2017

Hi Ron - Couldn't agree more. Knowing this would be Wenger's last season before the cup final makes sense on every level. It would lift all the uncertainty at a stroke, be a massive boost to most supporters and, as you say, may even lift the players. Much as I hate Wenger now I wouldn't begrudge him bowing out with a record FA Cup win number 7 and what a great way to unite our fan base again. - Post No. 106933

mbg  20:30pm 3rd May 2017

jj, the thorn/thorns in Arsenals side that is rose (and other thorns like him) has been slabbering and bigging up games on and off here for years trying to make them look important in order to help his beloved weng look good, as if he has achieved something, brought us somewhere, to try and cover up his failings, well he has brought us somewhere alright and/only it's not to where rose tinted and his gang thought, and tried to tell us all it would be, and never will be, and their now realising and have realised it, and some begrudgingly admitting it, but if the weasel by some f*****g miracle comes out of this they'll be changing their minds as quick as a child in a sweetie shop. - Post No. 106935

markymark  20:52pm 3rd May 2017

Tony 'Goebbels' Attwood has just run an interesting piece on Lucien Favre of Nice more or less advocating him as he is the closest thing to Wenger. This is interesting in that Tony is obviously realising writing is on the wall. It also suggests a manager who we should be potentially wary of should he come into the spotlight . Let's have a defensively orientated Italian please. - Post No. 106936

Time for change  22:41pm 3rd May 2017

Arsenal couldn't attract top players without CL football? That's why Chelsea (Champions-elect) to get Kante despite not even being in Europe and Man U to get Ibrahimovic not being in CL. Get real. Wenger out now. - Post No. 106937

mbg  23:11pm 3rd May 2017

markymark, i'm surprised at that, you'd think they'd have found a home, but even with a new tag/name it wouldn't have taken very long to work out who they were with the bullshyte they talked, and those essays and that gobbledegook ? jesus H, maybe it/they weren't wanted on the other sites either or just fed up getting their arse smacked every day. Yes i'd imagine you're right they're what we thought they were all along pure wengerites through and through, wenger FC supporters and not Arsenal and it's way way to late to lose face now, they've made their bed so now they have to lie in it, where ever that might and will be. @no new contract, we want wenger out. - Post No. 106938

mbg  23:44pm 3rd May 2017

Time for change, yes rose is still wheeling that same bucket of crap around without CL we can't attract the top players blah blah that he was on here years ago and he's still at it (does his arms ever get tired) even now, we've been it for the last eleven twelve seasons now and what good has it done, how many top top players have we had, any decent ones we did manage to lure were either unwanted by other clubs or past it and any that weren't were ruined by wenger, a top top proper manager will attract proper top top players regardless of wenger and his wengerites precious CL, and the most important thing of all know how to manage them and coach them. We want wenger out. - Post No. 106939

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

23rd February 2018

It Is Actually Getting Worse

Online Ed: Arsenalís largely unmotivated players defeated at home