They may yet finish the campaign empty-handed, but this has turned out to be a momentous season for Arsenal. Though he had seemed untouchable for most of his two decades at the club, Arsène Wenger has finally decided that the time is right to move on. While there may be many Gunners fans who regret some of the vitriol that has been aimed at the legendary Frenchman, few could argue that the club hasn’t been heading the wrong way.
For most of this season, the Gunners have once again flattered to deceive. A string of disappointing away performances ended their Premier League challenge before the winter, and they are heading for a second consecutive finish outside the top four, while a poor effort in the Carabao Cup Final saw them miss out on another piece of silverware.
However, one of the poignant ironies of Wenger’s announcement is that things had started to pick up in recent weeks. The starting point was the surprising victory in Milan in the Europa League Round of 16, which set the Gunners up for a knockout run that has taken them to the semi-finals. In fact, fans who want to place a wager with Stakers.com will find Arsenal are ranked as second favorites to win the Europa League.
Arsenal’s league form had also shown some signs of improvement, with efficient victories over Watford, Stoke, Southampton, and West Ham, though the away defeat at Newcastle was another reminder of the work that Wenger’s successor will have to do.
The identity of the next man to take over at the Emirates is not clear at this stage. Veteran top-level coaches such as Carlo Ancelotti have been floated as possible candidates, but Arsenal fans would be keener on someone capable of doing the job in the long term, particularly as the new man will be given the job of rebuilding the squad this summer.
A lot of money has already been spent, of course, but while the arrivals of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January have been a positive and an exciting indication of the kind of recruitment that we can expect from scouting guru Sven Mislintat, there are a number of holes to fill. An experienced central defender will be top of the list, along with a replacement for stalwart goalkeeper Petr Čech and a holding midfielder in the mold of N’Golo Kanté or Fernandinho, who can bring solidity to the center of the pitch.
The new manager may yet be able to plot a Champions League campaign. Getting past Atlético Madrid will be a tough task, of course, but if he can pull it off, Wenger will be looking forward to bowing out with a Europa League Final, which could lead to qualification for next year’s Champions League – an unexpected bonus, given the way this season has gone.
Whoever takes over at the Emirates faces a tough task, not only in replacing the legendary Wenger but also in rebuilding the squad. However, with an overhauled scouting and recruitment network in place and the likelihood of more new signings this summer, as well as the prospect of a European final, there is much for Arsenal fans to be excited about.