Renewing my vows – and why Arsene has to go

I used to write about Arsenal here all the time. I loved it. I did it for free and I did it for pleasure. If you read during those days, I remain incredibly grateful.

You probably haven’t noticed, but over the past couple of years entries on this blog have tailed off to an eventual halt. While I’ve continued writing, podcasting and vlogging elsewhere, I’ve found it difficult to find the time and energy to update this site. This, after all, was always a labour of love—and the sad truth is that much of the love has gone.

In many ways, this blog is a shrine to Wenger’s Arsenal. It was his teams that made he fall so hard for the game that I dedicated a significant portion of my life to writing about it. I’m now lucky enough to do that professionally. I cover Arsenal for a variety of sites, and I recognise it’s an incredible privilege. After years of graft, my work was my hobby. But over the past couple of seasons, it has begun to feel very much like work again.

The reason I’ve returned here is because when you’re writing for other people, you usually have to have a measure of objectivity. You have to be professional. This is not a professional piece—it’s a deeply person one.

Here’s the thing: I need Arsenal to change. I need a new story to get my teeth into. Part of the reason I haven’t been writing here is because I know you’ve read it all before. It’s increasingly difficult to find new and entertaining ways to say “we looked quite good then we absolutely fucked it”.

Arsenal hark on about stability, but continuity can prove the enemy of optimism. Turbulence brings about the possibility of change, and Arsenal fans are surely ready to welcome that now. I know I am – I’m fully aware that it might get worse before it gets better. Bring it on. I feel like I’ve watched 1000 episodes of Friends back to back and now you’re gong to randomly change the channel. Yes, we might land on Made in Chelsea, but at least it’s different. And we might get Planet Earth. We don’t know. Just change the fucking channel. What is elite sport about if not taking risks?

I’m beating around the bush, because I’m not sure I’ve ever said it in such plain terms, but Arsene Wenger has to go. It’s horrible to say because I’m such a huge admirer of his. Trust me, when you’ve sat opposite him in a press conference, it’s difficult to square this brilliant, erudite man with some of the vitriol and abuse he receives from his harshest critics. He isn’t ‘comical Arsene’, he isn’t a joke — he’s an incredible manager and thinker who has clung on too long.

Make no mistake, we’re in a real mess now. When Wenger signed his new contract in 2014, many assumed it would be his last. However, it feels like almost no plans have been to put in place to deal with the eventual succession. The board are paralysed, and players unwilling to commit. As a club, we are sleepwalking towards a nightmare of a summer.

Well, I feel wide awake now. It’s sad but satisfying to have some clarity. Arsenal need a new man to break this cycle of perpetual disappointment. I’m invigorated by the prospect of something different.

So I’ve come out of retirement to say that I hope Arsene Wenger will soon enter his. Or go to another club—genuinely, it would make me really happy to see him succeed elsewhere. I would love to see him complete his CV and win the Champions League. I hoped for a long time he’d do that with Arsenal, but I now recognise that isn’t going to happen.

I still think he’s capable. There are clubs and leagues where Wenger could still be a success, but unfortunately Arsenal and 2017’s Premier League are no longer one.

It’s almost impossible to break down where it all went wrong, but the simplest answer is that it never really went wrong—it went stale. Top level sport is about pressure and accountability, and those things have been uniquely absent at Arsenal. The manager has never been under real threat, and that comfy atmosphere has seeped into the playing squad. There has been pressure from the fans, sure—but never in the history of the club have the fans held less sway. There are tactical issues of course, but the fundamental problem is a lack of ambition and aggression. The owner and the board play a huge part in that too, and I hope some of the anger at Arsene is redirected at the entirely deserving Kroenke & Co.

Earlier this week, Wenger spoke of himself as a ‘masochist’. He’s entitled to his kinks, but as an Arsenal fan I no longer want to subject myself to this. Any algedonic pleasure has long since worn off.

I do love Arsene, but I love Arsenal more. For that relationship to work out, I need something to give. Change the manager, and maybe we can have a fresh start. Start again. Renew our vows. Maybe I’ll even blog here more often.

I’d love Arsenal to be fun again. I’d settle for it being interesting. Give me something different, Arsenal. Give me a reason to believe.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.

20 Comments

  1. Andy   •  

    For me, I found clarity after our title bid last year failed. Every other team faltered and we didn’t capitalise…despite having the so-called advantage of continuity. For Arsene to keep his job, he should’ve won it last year and should’ve had us in contention this year. I think you point you make about how it never ‘went wrong’ but instead went stale is exactly right – it’s like that relationship that doesn’t satisfy you but you are too dependant on it to break from.

    It’s strange, because despite having made my mind up last summer, I still felt the same annual optimism at the start of the season and I think ultimately that’s the reason he stays on every year – he feels it too. Since then, we’ve seldom put a coherent performance together and have scraped the majority of our results…..missing the Top 4 behind Spurs is a terrifying but realistic situation (we fluked 2nd last year, so the latter part has been coming) but may be the catalyst that Arsene needs.

    For me, the best case scenario is to win the FA Cup, regardless of what happens in the league. I think Arsene would have enough sense to get out on that relative high – anything else and I suspect he may want to stay on in the name of ‘unfinished business’.

  2. Tubes   •  

    I used to pass hours away in the office on this site with the old crowd. Had quite a few laughs!!

  3. Ausernal   •  

    That pool game seems to have made up a lot of people’s minds. The other thing is we finally had what most people would call a good transfer window, but we’re still in the same place as usual – scrapping for top four, losing big matches…

  4. RG   •  

    Sorry to say but you basically summed up my feelings there. The really sad part is that I actually believe that Wenger still is a good manager, but he needs a new environment. Intelligence and brilliance is always dependent on getting an environment to thrive in and clearly Wenger isn’t able to tweak what he invented. Could he go somewhere else and tweak what that to greatness? quite possible but clearly it’s not happening here.

    Looking back at the past two-three seasons I think it’s clear that he has tried to make this team take a step up. It’s been visible in how we have had two approaches to matches, counter-attack or dominate. I also believe that has made us worse. We need a shake up. With Wenger our possible end positions are 2-5 with another manager it’s more like 1-12, most likely 5-12. But hey, we could win it. Yes, a change of manager will almost certainly mean things get worse (which is why I for years was opposing the idea) but I have noticed that I don’t have any hope left of anything getting better without a change.

    On another note I feel the Premier League is in a worse state than ever. Everything should be great, the best managers are there and some of the most exciting players are there but the refereeing, oh the refereeing. It’s absolutely killing it for me. And I’m specifically not talking about the Arsenal matches now. I have noticed myself avoiding watching games because I more or less expect the refereeing to be like a lottery. A poor referee can be a great thing if it is a rare occurrence, against your team and you´re winning anyway. But when it feels like the norm it’s bad, very bad. Also this spreading out of the games is awful. Everyone playing at the same time made it more exciting and while it wasn’t possible to watch the same amount of games as today the fact that everyone played at the same time meant I had a better overview of what happened in the whole table, as opposed to only the top.

    All in all Arsenal used to be fun, football used to be fun, please make it fun again.

  5. Wrinkly Voyeur   •  

    well….errrrrr……overall…errrrr…..James……errrrrr…..do you still leetle beet belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve? errrrr……why do you look at me?

    pfffmmmwaaahahahahahahaha

  6. Kelly Ann   •  

    Summed up our feelings very tastefully. Very moving.

  7. Andrew Paxman   •  

    Very well said. My sentiments too. Today’s second 5-1 drubbing has to mean something. The honourable thing would be for AW to decide on a summer departure now, giving the club time to find a replacement, and then to commit to keeping AFC in the CL places and earning a final FA Cup victory. That for me would be the best-case scenario.

  8. Wrinkly Voyeur   •  

    well….errrrr…..overall I belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve even arsene’s bowel movements are top top qualiteeee….errrrrrrr……as well I belieeeeeeeeeeeeve arsene knows things about his bowels that you don’t know…..errrrrrrrr……..look..errrr….if you leetle beet sniff one of arsene’s top top qualiteee bowel movements you will show great spiwit and mental strengz, big commitment and big desire…..errrrr….why do you look at me?

    pffffmwwaaahahahahahaha

  9. Kampala gooner   •  

    What you have just put down James is what most of us have been feeling and to be honest there is something about Arsene that even after such Revelations or assertions a feeling might still go through you of may be he still can. Just like coming home to your drunken dad for you to take off his shoes and cover him because despite his state you still love and respect him. After years of not that many outstanding players in the Arsenal squard I had my 2016 Arsenal jersey printed with Arsene. I have loved and I will still love but Arenes stay at Arsenal must come to and end. And this is the first time those words have come out mouth. One love one Arsenal.

  10. Lucas   •  

    Things changed a bit right now. We all expected something different. I believe that it’s gonna be again good times for all of Arsenal supporters. I would love to change a manager in our club. But think again. Who can replace him? Let him go just to make change is not a good ideal. Without good replacement in my opinion it’s gonna be bad move. After world cup 2018 some managers should be available. We can give Arsene one more chance. He deserve it. If things are not gonna to be better, then we have to be ready to make a big change.

  11. Bob   •  

    My sentiments exactly. Wanting much needed change is apparently the same as being ungrateful. I AM grateful for the Wenger era, but all good things must come to an end and we are stagnating under this refusal for change.

  12. Wrinkly Voyeur   •  

    well…errrr….overall James I belieeeeeeeeeeeve what is important is that the next level is the next level…..errrrrrr……as well I belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeve we show great spiwit and desire and qualiteeeee….errrrrr…..why do you look at me?

    pffffmwwaaaahahahahahahaha

  13. Kevon Robinson   •  

    I appreciate to read the blog lighting upon Wenger’s Arsenal, one of the strong teams in Premier League…. thanks for sharing!!!

  14. Mavrick   •  

    In the end, reporting spam sites is useless. And now another aloe vera site out of China, who didn't even appear before, has rocketed above mine in two days (LOTS of chinese languages spam links). What's the point? The rating should be simple – forget back links and focus on how long the website has been online (per domain rettngraiios) and content value.

  15. kibagendi   •  

    it was nice reading about arsenal, the team we love, but something has to be done or arsenal will lose touch with the fans. food for thought Wenger.

  16. FootyStats   •  

    I 100% agree that he should go. I personally think if he does not start well this season then he is 100% out.

  17. Kampala gooner   •  

    Haven’t been here in while thought would pop in and see if that lady you will be marrying soon could have gotten your juices flowing gain and you were at it again. Common on James snap out of it. This is our Arsenal, if nothing else at least it should have prepared you for marriage. Remember for better or worse. There are very few places we go to to read some good staff about Arsenal. Better pull your shit together. Otherwise happy D Day.

  18. doctors   •  

    Enjoy able post “) I really enjoy all the content

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