Early Doors

Wenger’s earned the right to have a poor season

The 'In Arsene We Trust' banner has become part of the furniture at the Emirates but it is certainly getting harder for some Arsenal fans to continue subscribing to its message.

Saturday's toothless 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea was met with predictable boos from the home fans as Arsenal slumped to 10th in the table - below the likes of Stoke, West Ham, West Brom and their visitors from Wales.

Football fans often have an inflated opinion about how big their club is, and where their rightful place in the table should be; but even those who have no love for the Gunners must accept that seeing Arsenal in such a lowly position after 15 games is alarming and surprising.

However, there is a reason why we expect better from Arsenal; a reason why we think they should be challenging for the title; a reason why a seven-year trophy-less run seems like such a drought.

And that reason is Arsene Wenger.

In many ways Wenger has been a victim of his own success. In his 16 seasons at Arsenal, the Frenchman has managed to steer his team to a top four finish in every single season.

This is a truly remarkable stat that needs to be properly digested and appreciated. Arsenal were not exactly an all-conquering powerhouse when he took over. Just 16 months before he was installed in the job, Arsenal finished 12th in the Premier League.

They may not have won any trophies in recent seasons, but only one team can win any given competition, nouveau-riche clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City have made things tougher again, and yet despite new rivals, player departures, and other challenges, Arsenal have always managed to crack that top four under Wenger.

Recent years haven't been as inspiring as the glory days of the 'Invincibles' and you could even call the last couple of seasons 'disappointing' but it would be going too far to label them as 'bad seasons'.

Tenth place certainly IS NOT good enough for Arsenal, but there is still plenty of football to be played and a transfer window to come.

But what if Arsenal don't turn it around? What if they finish, say seventh in the league and don't win a trophy, what if they…shock, horror…have a BAD season?

Does that mean it is over for Wenger? Time for a change and a fresh face in the dugout?

Maybe it will, but it shouldn't. Wenger hasn't just won trophies at Arsenal, he's changed the culture; Arsenal have always been a big club but there is no doubt that Wenger raised the bar when it came to consistently challenging for honours.

For most of their history, Arsenal fans always hoped they'd have a team that could challenge for the title; under Wenger they expect it.

There is no doubt Wenger has made mistakes. The ratio of big name arrivals to departures at the club is perhaps the most-cited failing of Wenger's; but to be fair, very few players that left Arsenal then managed to increase their values at their new clubs.

Also, while the idea of splashing out huge money on say, a new striker, is a salivating prospect for most fans, there is no guarantee you will get the right man. For every Sergio Aguero or Wayne Rooney, there is an expensive mistake like Fernando Torres, Roque Santa Cruz, Andy Carroll or even, let us not forget, the 'fox in the box' himself Francis Jeffers.

It is easy to say a new player or manager is the answer to a specific problem, but less easy to come up with a realistic name who could come in.

If Wenger's reign did come to an end, who would even come into consideration to replace him?

Unless you are talking about unrealistic options such as Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho, you are not going to get a manager who has a even a remotely comparable Premier League pedigree to Wenger.

A Champions League-less Arsenal could expect to have similar options that Liverpool had this summer in any managerial hunt, maybe with the additional option of someone like David Moyes, but the fact that the Everton boss would be one of the more appealing candidates is telling too. Everton have had the odd bad season under Moyes' tenure, but the club has always been patient with him - they know they have a top manager, and always give him time to turn things around.

You suspect Arsenal will do the same, and despite some understandable frustration from the fans, this is the right course of action.

If Wenger did leave Arsenal tomorrow, huge clubs from across Europe would be queuing around the block to bring him in, and that should tell you everything you need to know.

Arsenal have a great manager, and great managers are hard to come by.

Certain sections of the Emirates faithful may be losing some trust in Arsene, but they shouldn't be. Wenger's earned the right to have one bad season.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "When I was asked the other day, maybe it was a misunderstanding or maybe my English was not good enough, but the situation I know is they are finishing their contracts (when the season ends). Past that I do not know. I know Frank (Lampard) is happy here and he is a player that is part of the leadership, he is one of the important players, but I do not know about his future. So I cannot say yes or no, he will stay or he will leave, in January or even at the end of the season. At this moment I do not know." - Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez attempts to clarify remarks he made last month about the futures of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole - and yet only succeeds in muddying the water further.

FOREIGN VIEW: One Arsenal player did star at the weekend; unfortunately, though, not for the Gunners. Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell curled a spectacular shot into the top corner to earn Real Betis a 3-2 victory at Deportivo La Coruna that moved them up to fourth in La Liga. Campbell, who is on loan from Arsenal, cut in off the right flank to finish with style in the 77th minute after struggling Deportivo had battled back to level at 2-2 in the second half.

COMING UP: Jan Molby will be along to give his thoughts on the weekend action, and then this evening we have live text commentary as Newcastle United look to get their stuttering season back on track with a home win over Wigan. UK web users can also now enjoy video highlights of all of this weekend's Premier League matches.