What does Arsène Wenger need to do to deserve a new contract? Some would say it’s too late and he’s amply demonstrated that he can’t win the big prizes anymore, so whatever he does now is irrelevant: he must go anyway.
But I beg to differ. Although I’m often critical of the man, bear in mind that the point of football is to win trophies, so surely if he wins something he deserves to stay? Suppose Arsenal had won the League Cup or the FA Cup every year for the last ten: would Arsène still not deserve a contract renewal? If Arsenal won the League Cup or FA Cup every season, I’d personally be happy to give him another year until he stopped winning trophies. I’m not saying a club the size of Arsenal should be completely content with only ever winning the League Cup or FA Cup, but if they kept doing it I’d be ever-hopeful that the next season they might win the League or – who knows? – even the Champions League, which despite the name is still more of a cup competition than a league.
But perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Although Arsenal have won the FA Cup two out of the last three years, they’re not currently looking like taking a step further and winning the League or Champions League, despite technically still being in both as I write. Maybe next year. You may think Arsenal would have a much better chance of winning one of the big two if they had a new manager, and you may be right. But in the meantime Arsène is still here and if he wins something this year I’ll give him another shot.
I don’t really believe in ‘progress’ for football teams, the notion that there is a linear movement towards ultimate success and trophy-winning. The fact is that there are lots of variables in any football club, and performance and results are affected by them, as well as all the variables leading to the performance and results in all the other clubs in the division. So a team might go from the bottom half of the table to being champions the next season and back to the bottom half of the table again the year after. Or they might be champions, then finish tenth, then be champions again immediately afterwards, as Chelsea look likely to do. These are extreme examples of course, and at the opposite end of the scale Arsenal have been in the top four for 20 years and Man Utd under Fergie were in the top three for 21 years in a row. Arsenal have gone from fourth to third to second in the last three seasons, which you could argue is progress, but it’s not really, it’s just an illusion caused by variable form and fortunes of their rivals. Are they likely to go the next step to first this season? It doesn’t look like it.
So I’m happy to ignore ‘progress’, but I still believe if Arsenal won a domestic cup every season they’d be more likely to take the next step to the title, purely from the self-belief aspect, and the warm feelings of success the team would have.
Perhaps I’m digressing. The point was merely to say what I think Arsène needs to do to deserve at least another year. So just for the record, I think he deserves it if:
- Arsenal win the Champions League (don’t laugh)
- Arsenal win the Premier League (ditto)
- Arsenal win the FA Cup and finish in the top four of the Premier League
- Arsenal win the FA Cup and finish runners-up in the Champions League
- Arsenal finish runners-up in both the Premier League and Champions League
I have changed my mind a few times about the detail of some of these options – like if we win the FA Cup, does League position matter? – but they’re written down now, so I’ll stick with them.
I nagged my friend and well-known Arsène-worshipper Faisal (@fkhanage) to say what he thinks AW needs to do. His demands are slightly lower:
- win a trophy
- get to the FA Cup final
- get to at least semi-final of the FA Cup and semi-final of the CL, regardless of league position
- be runners-up in the league and within five points of first, regardless of any progress in the cups
Failure to do any of those four, and FK will reluctantly accept that Arsène Wenger does not deserve a new contract. Not that FK would go as far as wanting Arsène to leave, but he’d accept it was deserved.
Of course the other question is whether Arsène wants to stay. I’m going to assume he does.
And the other other question is where I think Arsenal will actually finish. So let’s go for:
- Champions League defeat to Bayern
- FA Cup losing finalists
- fifth in the League
Right, let’s sit back and see what happens.