Arsene Wenger has complained that his club’s fans have been “brainwashed” by pundits and former players queuing up to lay into him as a result of a string of disastrous results.
Arsenal lost 10-2 on aggregate to crash out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage for the seventh year in a row, and they have fallen out of the top four in the league, where they currently sit 16 points behind leaders Chelsea.
Wenger has been savaged in the press of late thanks to defeats by Liverpool and Watford and two hammerings at the hands of Bayern.
Ian Wright called them “embarrassing”. He said: “We’re going through a period in our history which is the worst that I can ever remember. I think with everything that’s going on, in the dressing room, performances, you have to say it will take some monumental effort, some cataclysmic effort for Arsenal to turn it round in respect of the attitude of the players and the drive and determination. It seems like something is coming to an end.”
After the 3-1 loss to Liverpool that saw them pushed out of the top four, Martin Keown said: “I’m struggling to remember a more tepid Arsenal performance in the last 20 years under Arsene Wenger. There was a lack of spirit, of fire in their bellies. They just didn’t turn up in that first-half, gave themselves far too much to do.”
Paul Merson has warned Arsenal risk becoming an also-ran club, while Emmanuel Petit said: “There’s part of me that understands the fans’ frustration. It’s been years now that they have seen other teams win trophies, that the team gets weaker every year, always at about the same stage of the season. Don’t forget that it’s a group of supporters, it’s not all of them.”
The views have been echoed by newspaper columnists and pundits alike, and fans have begun to protest. They do not want to see Wenger given another contract when his current deal ends in the summer, crying out for a change and a fresh approach after 13 years without a league title.
But Wenger is digging his heels in. He is reported to have a two-year deal on the table, says he will be managing next season and would prefer to do it at Arsenal. He says the sheer volume of information available to fans online, in print and via various social media channels has “brainwashed” them.
Fans are bombarded with opinions on what should be done differently at the club they support. We live in a digital age and it is hard to avoid it. Wenger has to deal with it.
The best way to rebut it is on the training ground and in the dressing room, drilling his players to turn around their under-achievement. He has a couple of months to try to display some signs of progress. If he finishes in the top four and wins the FA Cup for the third time in four years, it might just buy him another two-year deal.
Even then, it might not be enough: fans are sick and tired of finishing fourth to qualify for the Champions League, only to get annihilated year in, year out in the last 16. But it would be a start.
A trophy always lightens the mood. But it won’t be easy and the bookmakers are not overly optimistic.
Review Bet365 football odds before predicting whether Wenger can pull it off and you will see that the Gunners are third favourites out of four remaining teams to win the FA Cup, and fifth favourites to finish in the top four.
Those odds don’t look good. If he can defy them, and have a strong summer in the transfer market, he might be able to win over fans, pundits and former players alike, but it is a very big if and fan opinion still seems to be well against him, brainwashed or not.