ARSENE WENGER will go down in history as the greatest manager of, for me, the greatest club.
He’s the man responsible for many of the finest days of my footballing life, first as a player and then as a fan.
Which makes what I am about to say so painful it almost causes physical hurt.
But after what I rate the worst display any Arsenal team has ever dished up, the conclusion is obvious.
Judging by the way he was twiddling his thumbs on the bench as they got thumped 4-0 by Liverpool, helpless to find an answer, I think even Arsene realises it, too.
In my book, the team have stopped playing for him. Stopped fighting for the cause.
Stopped showing any pride in the shirt — or, most cutting of all — any hurt at the performance.
That is why I believe the Arsenal board — and let’s face it, they’ve hardly covered themselves in glory — have a truly massive choice to make.
They must sit down and decide what happens next. Namely, whether the manager stays or goes.
We’ve all got our views on what we’re seeing unfold in front of us — ex-players, fans and neutrals.
But it isn’t for the likes of me, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown or whoever to give out soundbites to the fans and cop the flak from all those keyboard warriors and forum flooders.
It’s a matter for the Emirates board to handle. And something they must not shirk either.
What is equally unavoidable is the fact that Arsenal’s dismal, disgusting, disgraceful humiliation at Liverpool means something needs doing now.
I’ve never hidden what Arsene means to me — and no one has praised him or the team more when they’ve deserved it.
But, equally, I have been as critical as anyone when the need arises.
And after watching that fiasco at Anfield, that need is now.
Yes, blame the players. The vast majority were an embarrassment. Worst of all, they didn’t give the impression they were hurting anything like those fans in the stands, either.
Don’t give me all that rubbish about throwing your hands in the air or staring at your feet in frustration.
I’m not buying that, any more than the social media apologies and promises to put it right next time. We’ve heard them too often in the past.
If you really care, the only place to prove it is on the pitch — not by trying to placate people with your PR team.
And you’ve hardly grabbed that chance with both hands.
So point the finger at the men who shamed the shirt, by all means. But there’s only one man who has created the whole situation — the manager.
Why, for instance, did he have them playing a system they’ve clearly neither mastered or are convinced by?
Why did he have club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette sitting on the bench against a defence which is anything but a footballing iron curtain?
Why did he have two marauding wing-backs, leaving the centre-backs isolated against Sadio Mane and Co?
Why didn’t he play Sead Kolasinac, when Arsenal were so weak down the left, or a proven central defender like Shkodran Mustafi, instead of leaving both on the bench?
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How did he let Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil enter the last year of their contract with their futures still so uncertain?
We’re in the last week of the transfer window and Arsenal have players who refuse to sign new deals, players who don’t want to be there, still a lack of leaders, still a lack of numbers.
Everything about what’s happening in the dressing room — the players’ attitudes, the tactics, the team selection, the system — is down to Arsene.
Arsenal were lucky to beat Leicester 4-3 in their opener, then wasted all that possession and lost 1-0 at Stoke.
And at Liverpool, to be honest, they were lucky to get away with four.
If it had been six or seven they couldn’t really have complained.
Wenger said it had been a mistake to let his own contract situation drag on last season. He admitted it could have had a destabilising effect.
From the look of things, it still is. And, it’s horrible to admit, but you really can’t see how it will get better.
When a manager goes into the boardroom like this, how can he possibly justify his position after Sunday’s performance at Anfield? There really is SO much that is wrong.
Every single time Arsenal have to step up in a big game, every time they have to show solidarity, they fail spectacularly.
Then the boss will come out and have some form of excuse for the players, they’ll win a couple of matches and we’re back to square one.
We’re three games in and already seem to be at crisis point.
What is desperately needed now is a show of strength — and that has to start in the boardroom.
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