I can remember vividly a particular scene in the movie the Dark Knight Rises when Bane and Bruce Wayne were having a conversation about Gotham City after Bruce Wayne had been captured and taken to an underground prison. A part of their lengthy dialogue is particularly fascinating:
…There’s a reason why this prison is the worst hell on earth… Hope. Every man who has rotted here over the centuries has looked up to the light and imagined climbing to freedom. So easy… So simple… And like shipwrecked men turning to sea water from uncontrollable thirst, many have died trying. I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope…
The spotlight is firmly on Arsene Wenger and Arsenal at the moment, with a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of both himself and the club. Everybody seems to have an opinion on this subject, with the general consensus being that his time is up.
I have huge respect and high regard for the man, someone I consider to be an extraordinary manager and a very intelligent person. It’s very clear that he is highly regarded within the game. In a way he is a victim of the high standards he has set for both himself and Arsenal.
However, the recurring theme has been that despite being seemingly close to greatness, the team has always fallen short, for one reason or the other. Success always seems so near yet so far, and this is what makes the frustration so great: great expectations which are never fulfilled; a hope that causes despair.
The situation has gotten worse this season. It’s been quite painful to watch this great man and his team struggle. It’s just like watching a loved one die a slow and painful death. All you want to do is find a way to put them out of their misery. The lifeless performances of late have just served to remove any hope that may be left, tearing at his legacy bit by bit, leaving only despair.
Elite competition is all about pressure and accountability. It’s a vital ingredient in sports, and the board, by creating an atmosphere of complacency, one where the balance sheet is more important than winning titles, has inadvertently placed Wenger at a disadvantage against highly motivated competition, for whom winning is not an option but THE option.
Wenger has also been severely let down by his players, many of whom have not repaid the faith and loyalty he has shown to them, both to his and the club’s detriment. Many have proven to either not meet the standard, or when they have made the grade, be quick to abandon ship at the earliest opportunity, doing him a great disservice.
Finally, Arsene has been let down by the man in the mirror. He is the supreme idealist and optimist, and sometimes it appears that these traits, though admirable, many times cloud his judgment. He is guilty of sometimes being too selfless, too rigid or deeply entrenched in his ideals.
There is no doubt that he loves the club. The fact that he’s not signed the new contract waiting for him is testament to the fact that he cares. Nobody puts that much into building something to only watch it crash and burn. Another thing to put in mind is be careful what you wish for. In truth, there are actually few alternatives to Wenger.
The International break has given everyone a little breathing space, before the pressure builds up to a crescendo when premier league action resumes. There is no denying that change is needed at Arsenal, and this change has to be in the best interests of the club.
What remains to be seen is whether or not Wenger is going to be part of that change; whether he is just an ancient relic or the face of the future; and whether he is still capable of winning on the big stage.