Knives out for Arsenal's 'dithering' boss Wenger
As French manager's team flounders his days look numbered, say critics
THE SHARKS are circling Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger after a summer of transfer disappointment followed by a disastrous opening day Premier League defeat by Aston Villa.
The Frenchman has never been under such pressure or scrutiny during his 17-year Gunners reign. In the wake of the 3-1 loss on Saturday even the influential Arsenal Supporters Trust joined the criticism, expressing their belief that it would be "inappropriate" to offer Wenger a new contract at the Emirates.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter argues that "cool-headed analysis should be introduced into the current frenzy over Wenger".
His record deserves respect. "He has earned the right for discussions about his future to be conducted with intelligence not pitch-forks," adds Winter. But the cold truth is that Wenger needs help. "It is sad but true: the man who built the Invincibles has become a ditherer."
The indecision means that Arsenal are now "a club stalled by such naivety in the transfer market that it has long become embarrassing," says Matt Dickinson of The Times.
He agrees with the supporters over Wenger's contract. He can no longer trade on the past. "Wenger must earn a new [contract]," warns Dickinson. "And Arsenal must start planning a future without him in case he cannot."
There is a sense of regret at the Daily Mail. "Everyone at Arsenal knows that Wenger – a thoroughly charming and decent guy – has failed to keep pace with the modern game," writes Neil Ashton.
Wenger has too much power at the Emirates, argues Ashton. He even claims that Wenger knew about a clause in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's contract that meant Arsenal had to pay Southampton every time he played more than 20 minutes of a match. As a result Wenger would only bring him off the bench after the 70-minute mark.
"This is no way to run a football club and most people know that there is room for improvement in every area at Arsenal," he adds.
Even Arsenal's famed scouting network appears to be imploding. In 2011 the Gunners paid around £11m for Lille midfielder Gervinho, and during the infamous 'trolly dash' as the transfer window closed they also picked up Mikel Arteta from Everton for around £10m.
That same summer Newcastle United bought Yohan Cabaye from Lille for less than £5m. Two years later, the Gunners have sold Gervinho for a £3m loss and former Lille team-mate Cabaye is being lined up to replace the injured Arteta, although he will now cost well over £12m.
"Normally this might be a time to summon a sense of perspective," says The Guardian's Dominic Fifield, but we've been here before and the calls for calm sound tired.
"This summer was supposed to be different," he laments. "The moment Arsenal accepted the way of the modern world and challenged to sign the biggest names on the market while those teams above them endured managerial upheaval."
But already "a summer of exasperation has choked this campaign in its infancy". ·