When Arsene Wenger signed a new contract at the end of May, it was met with a mixed reception. “Wenger Out” being last seasons primary slogan.
Sign at the Wrestlemania Pre Show pic.twitter.com/cFGded0voy
— Wenger Out Signs (@WengerOutSign) May 30, 2017
Although Arsenal finished the season by defeating league winners Chelsea to win the FA Cup, their 3rd FA Cup success in four seasons, they were still left with a bitter taste in their mouth. Finishing 5th behind meant Arsene had failed to lead Arsenal to Champions League football for the first time in his tenure, and with key players about to enter the final year of their contracts it almost seemed like the perfect time for Arsene to hand over the reins to a successor, but it was not to be. Arsene signed a two year deal, and has been given the opportunity to lead Arsenal back to Europe’s premier competition.
What is certain about last season was Wengers contract ordeal, it left a cloud of uncertainty over the club. Every press conference from January became an opportunity to press Arsene over what his decision would be, which led to unrest from the fans, which looked like it resonated with the players.
With a further two years confirmed in May, Arsenal managed to sign Alexandre Lacazette this summer, Arsene then battled to ensure that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil saw out the remainder of their contracts. To get back into the Champions League, and to once again compete at the top of his table, Arsene was insistent that he needed his best players to remain at the club, regardless of whether or not that meant they left on a free come the summer. The board stood by Arsene’s decision, even when Man City came calling with a reported transfer offer of £50million, they rebuffed the offers, Sanchez was to stay.
The board have afforded themselves two huge gambles. The financial loss of players which could be sold at a premium, and placing the clubs immediate future in who they believe is the right man for the job.
Twenty-one league games into the season and it’s starting to look like a gamble that may not pay off.
Sure, they are in the semi finals of the Carabao Cup, and have comfortably navigated their way through to the knockout stages of the Europa League, but their consistency in the league has been patchy, predominantly their away form.
Having only 3 wins away from home, and struggling to score goals. With 3 goals against Palace, and 5 against Everton, that leaves them having scored only 8 goals in 9 away games, they simply haven’t been good enough on the road.
Sanchez has largely been out of form, he has picked up 3 goals in December, he has mostly looked distracted throughout the campaign. It doesn’t come as a shock that his purple patch has arrived just as the January transfer re-opens, fully aware a move to Manchester City would ensure he receives a league winners medal come the end of the season, he would also the opportunity to make an impact on their Champions League campaign.
Ozil may be convinced to sign on for a new contract, but if rumours are to believed Ozil is financially motivated, and if they are to tie him down it is expected he would need to become one of the leagues top earners. There will be no end of parties willing to sign Ozil come the summer, with Manchester United and Barcelona both interested, he knows he can hold Arsenal to ransom for the wage he wants and if not then he can take a signing on fee elsewhere to go alongside his new contract.
Mark Lawrenson reveals what Mourinho once told him about Ozil:
“Jose Mourinho once said to me, when sometimes he would turn his back in training with Real Madrid he could always tell when Ozil struck the ball.
It made a different sound.” pic.twitter.com/pcArrD7Kyj
— Lets Talk Arsenal 🔴 ⚪️ (@ltarsenal) January 2, 2018
These two players have made January such a critical month for Arsenal. With the players potentially having their heads turned, also with Man Citys Gabriel Jesus picking up a long term injury over the Christmas period, it would not be a surprise should Man City table a bid for Sanchez this month, Arsene needs to ensure his players aren’t distracted.
Pep Guardiola says Man City will have “internal meetings” about a possible January move for Alexis Sanchez.
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 1, 2018
After the issues Arsenal faced last season with the uncertainty of Wenger, it seems strange that would go into the second half of this season under a similar cloud. He doesn’t appear to be preparing for a future without Ozil or Sanchez, and even Wilshere. Instead he’s spent the better part of the season trying to create a three pronged attack of Sanchez, Ozil, and Laczette, whereas Jack Wilshere, out of contract in the summer, has emerged as one of Arsenals more reliable midfielders, and is on his longest run of Premier League starts for Arsenal in over 3 seasons.
Ozil and Lacazette to bring more of the same in 2018 👏👏👏pic.twitter.com/gLZ7dN0Mgn
— WittyFutty⚽️ (@wittyfutty) January 2, 2018
It seems bizarre that he would spend this season creating a team, and a system, to play specific players who are more than likely leave come the summer. Come next season he would only have to start from scratch in what would undoubtedly be his final year as Arsenal manager.
As it stands they currently find themselves six points behind Liverpool with a game in hand, tomorrow evening against Chelsea, and if they were to drop points it may leave the board with a decision to make should an offer for Sanchez or Ozil be received.
Arsene has 17 games to ensure his gambles pay off.