With Arsenal fourth in the table, 13 points behind league leaders Chelsea, and still raw from a 5-1 Champions League thumping at the hands of Bayern Munich, the season that started so auspiciously for the Gunners is not panning out as expected.
As a result, and as is routine, the job security of long-serving Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been called into doubt.
This is nothing new. Last month, Wenger said he was used to the criticism and hinted that maybe he would manage a different team next season. However, by Thursday, with the offer of a two-year extension with the club on the table, he had recommitted to Arsenal, the team he called “the club of my life.” Wenger said he can deal with the pain of failure because he’s a “specialist in masochism.” Per the Guardian:
“What I can say is, yes, it’s very demanding. It’s a sacrifice of your life. You have nothing else happening in your life. Basically, you get 90% aggravation and 10% top satisfaction and you have to give everything in your life for that. I always say to all the young people who want to go into this job: ‘Are you ready to sacrifice your life?’ It’s like a priest. You’re a football priest.”
I mean, that sounds pretty miserable, but he found a positive spin. From the Telegraph:
“I believe as well that this job allowed me to get to the next level as a human being; to develop my strengths in what makes a human being great. To get the best out of people. That is absolutely fantastic.
“You have disappointments – with people, with results. But it is as well a fantastic opportunity in life to go for what is really great in human beings; to get yourself to the next level always, to improve, to invent yourself, to push your limits further up and not to have an average life.”
Maybe Wenger has to say these things. The club’s board is, after all, thrilled about top-4 finishes and the Champions League money that comes with it. They don’t need trophies to keep the business running. So Wenger’s patronizing comments about “what is really great in human beings” (it’s what exactly?), “pushing your limits” (of losing?), and reinvention (how?), seem to be aimed at shoring up the support of club executives.
But what if his remarks are more than just lip service? This isn’t the first time he’s seemingly reveled in his club’s inability to win titles (they haven’t won the Premier League since 2004; they finished second to Leicester last year). A manager can’t be ok with losing.
Arsenal don’t need a manager who “specializes” in masochism, no matter how elegantly he can wax about his suffering; they need one who will push the board to spend more on star players, fight to keep developing talent, and, most importantly, not settle for good enough.