Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is a rare breed. Having spent the last 20 years in charge of Arsenal, he is the longest serving coach in European football.
Although there is already a two year contract extension offer on the table if he wants it, it is safe to say that majority of the club’s fans won’t shed tears if the 68-year-old French man calls it quits this season..
Surely, the ignominious 10-2 aggregate bashing in the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League is the clarion call needed to put a sword to the rope that ties Wenger to Arsenal.
There is a way to play when losing and Arsenal and their manager showed in those two games against Bayern that they have no idea what to do as the game spiralled away from them.
Rather than hanging into the game at 3-1, or closing it down at 4-1, they abandoned all control both times. In the first leg they lost their chance of getting back into the tie. In the second leg they lost their pride.
Teams reveal much about their character by the way that they lose and the way that this Arsenal team loses reflects very poorly on them. In both legs against Bayern Munich they suffered after losing Laurent Koscielny, as any team would after losing a defender of his quality and experience.
But both times it has been glaringly obvious how Shkodran Mustafi looks desperately lost without Koscielny alongside him. He has promise alongside Koscielny, punchy and assertive, but with any other partner he loses his bearings entirely, making a mockery of the fee, the best part of £30m, that Arsenal paid Valencia.
Just as damaging is the complete lack of any midfield shield, men who will protect the centre-backs, slow the game down and, if all else fails, get in the opposition’s way like sandbags preventing a flood. The game in Munich especially showed up the fact that the Francis Coquelin experiment has gone too far. Granit Xhaka is a talented player but is not a natural defender and he does not know how to tackle. Aaron Ramsey is a brilliant player on his day but is no defender either.
More pressing than either of these technical and tactical points is a simpler one. This is an Arsenal team that does not hate losing, and does not hate losing badly either. They lose in a way that no top side should do, and the longer these last days of Arsene Wenger drag on, the worse it is getting.
When United lost to City 6-1 over five years ago now, it was a freak result, and United recovered to come within inches of winning the 2011-12 Premier League title. Tuesday night’s loss at the Emirates was no freak. It is who Arsenal are now, as proven by the fact precisely the same game played out three weeks ago.
These are not the results of a healthy team, a balanced team or a happy team. They are a window into the desperate lack of control, direction and drive at the club, a failure of imagination that is going to see their most valuable man, Alexis Sanchez, leave this summer, no matter what anyone else does.
With Sanchez going, the reality is that Arsenal will get worse before they get better. But if they want to change direction and make sure that there are no more nights like this, no more defeats when the players lose their heads and embarrass themselves, Sanchez’s boss may have to follow him out of the door too.