This is not a piece calling for Arsene Wenger’s head. That would be easy to do, after all plenty of people seem to want that, but the Frenchman deserves respect. He, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, received a lot of that from the Arsenal faithful in the so-called ‘protests’ at the weekend.
Upon the rising of a few placards at the Emirates and calls for the manager to leave, many Gunners turned upon those keen to see the departure of a man who has changed their football club and the Premier League for the better. People turned and chanted vociferously in support of the manager, some knocking the cards from protestor’s hands, others simply showing the boss he had their backing. Or where they?
Just because chants of ‘Arsene we love you’ and one ‘Arsene Wenger’ rung around the north London ground in the 12th minute, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the fan base are content with the current state of the football club.
There is a definite undercurrent of displeasure at the failures of this season, just because people don’t feel the need to vent their anger towards the dugout doesn’t mean they are happy with what is going on in it. Many fans have too much respect for the boss to make such a showing of discontent. He certainly doesn’t deserve the public outpourings of aggression and hatred that have been seen in some quarters.
However, the biggest and most telling form of protest is to stay away, and that is what swathes of supporters did at the weekend. It is a blatant and very obvious form of highlighting a disconnect with what is going on on the football pitch, and for Arsenal followers it is probably the only way to get through to both the manager and the board.
Does Wenger deserve one more season? In my opinion, probably not, it is time for a change but it must be one that is brought about by the man himself and those above at boardroom level. It seems, unless tens of thousands of supporters vote with their feet, the club will remain in an awkward relationship that neither party wishes to end.
This almost nicey, nicey nature at Arsenal has flourished over the years because of the way Wenger plays for football. He revolutionised the English game with the use of technology and a more expressive style of play but if Arsenal are ever to be great again, they need a kick up the arse.
If and when Wenger does go the appointment of a new manager is pivotal. Manchester United have shown that getting it wrong can have a damaging effect, while a lack of uniformity on who is good enough to replace Wenger is another issue that has left supporters a little confused as to what they want to happen at their football club.
Mostly, fans want to win. To do that, Arsenal must almost undergo an overhaul of their principles when Wenger leaves. The man to do that simply has to be Diego Simeone.
The Atletico coach is about as far from the current manager as you can possibly find. He is aggressive, snide, brash and operates on the edge of what is legal. One thing for sure is you certainly won’t find him dithering over his coat zip on the touchline.
Simeone brings with him an aura that can almost be categorised as fear. He commands respect and he does so by getting results on the pitch, no matter what. Whether that means throwing balls on the pitch, winding up the opposing bench or making a general nuisance of himself in any which way he or his team can.
Look, his appointment would bring with it a total change in style an atmosphere, that is true and it may even take him a season to implement it, but it would certainly be worth the wait. He’d bring trophies, something the Gunners long for.
The Argentine would make his team difficult to beat, something Arsenal haven’t been for years, he’d make the Emirates a fortress, even intimidating (honesty, that is possible) and he would make Arsenal just the right side of nasty.
While there would be the obvious change in style, there are some key factors that already exist at the club which would allow him to thrive.
Firstly, Arsenal are famed for their lack of spending. They are determined to ensure that the profit sheet shines, more than the players on the pitch at times, but with someone like Simeone they could have both.
In the last three years Atletico have made 104 transfer deals and have made an impressive €22m in profit. That period has also brought five trophies, a breaking of the Real Madrid/Barcelona duopoly, two Champions League finals and the chance to win the league and the Champions League this season. This makes perfect business sense.
There may be the presumption that the appointment of the 46-year-old could lead to a mass turnover of players, and while there is a hell of a lot of deadwood that needs to be shifted there is plenty in that current crop that could thrive under a passionate and direct boss.
Ok, Theo Walcott would hardly be Diego’s favourite player but Alexis Sanchez is a man who fits the Simeone mould perfectly. One thing he commands is a high work-rate and there are players in that team that are not shy of the miles, Danny Welbeck is another you can see enjoying life under the former Lazio midfielder.
The emphasis is always on the team, and he will bring the players closer together, they will fight for each other. But he is also not afraid of allowing individuals to shine. Take a look at Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, Arda Turan, all superb players that he has nurtured and made better footballers. Mesut Ozil would be afforded the luxury of occasional let offs in his stamina if he produced the goods for those running around him.
The biggest factor in why Arsenal should already be doing all they can to make contacts with Simeone is that he is successful. The Gunners have simply not won enough of late. A 12 year wait for the league is far too much and in a season made for them to succeed, they have not been able to produce.
Simeone has one La Liga title, by the summer that could be two and domestically he also has a Copa del Rey in the bag. He would make Arsenal a force. That would not just be on home soil, it is his European achievements that should endear him even more to the Arsenal board and fans.
He arrived in his first season and guided Atletico to the Europa League crown, in 2013/14 he eliminated Barcelona and came within minutes of lifting the Champions League trophy, last term they narrowly lost to Real in the quarters and this season they have once again made the final, eliminating Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich with a performance that had Cholo Simeone written all over it.
Arsenal’s Champions League record of late shows they have been ousted at the round of 16 in SIX successive seasons.
Diego Simeone will manage in the Premier League eventually and he will win the title, he’s made for it. Arsenal have already missed the Guardiola boat by being too content with their current plight, they need to hop on the Simeone one before it sails off to Manchester or elsewhere.