Wenger must go! Why this Arsenal fan has decided enough is enough after Capital One Cup calamity at Bradford
09:43 GMT, 12 December 2012
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New low: Arsene Wenger watched his Arsenal side crash out of the League Cup at Bradford
Forget their current form, injuries or any other extenuating circumstances, it was a shameful night for all involved.
The League Cup quarter-final result will go down in history, the lead in those 'It's happened before' newspaper items many years from now.
'Valley of despair', one headline screamed. Valley of the damned, I'd prefer. It was the final straw.
I've known about the faults for several seasons but it took something genuinely embarrassing to finally admit as much.
For almost every other shortcoming of the last eight years, excuses have been made, but Tuesday night was inexcusable.
Unhappy hunting ground: Wenger had a night to forget at the home of the League Two outfit
For a team like that to put on a performance so lacking in every ingredient essential to competitive sport, blame falls at the door of one man; the man who prepared them.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. A man, a revolutionary so woven into the fabric of one of world football's most prestigious clubs, who has surpassed the achievements of all those who came before him in 126 years of glorious history. A man whose name should replace that of 'Emirates' on the stadium his genius helped build. He deserves better than this.
But while Wenger has earned the right to depart on his terms, the longer the 63-year-old refuses to walk, if only from the dugout to the boardroom, the less attractive the proposition he hands over becomes.
Arsenal is not a hard sell to prospective employees – more than a century of success has seen to that.
They should be looking no further than the very top drawer for their next manager. Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will expect an approach, and fans should have every reason to assume a name of that calibre will come in.
Paying the penalty: Arsenal's big names had to come to terms with their Capital One Cup defeat at Bradford
Wenger himself has done his part to prepare for the smoothest of transitions. But in this money-no-object-era, principles and integrity can only get you so far, and all his fine work of the last 16 years is in danger of being undone.
How would Klopp or Guardiola feel about home games in front of a three-quarter full stadium compared with near 100,000 at the Nou Camp or the infamous south stand at the Westfalenstadion
Would either be enthralled at the prospect of spending time picking up the pieces of shattered confidence strewn across London Colney, or working with players slavishly devoted to a previous manager rather than the club The answer, of course, is no.
These are worrying times at Arsenal brought on by the fact Wenger's lost his mojo. He's lost it in the transfer market, on the training ground and even in public.
Reflecting on the shootout defeat at the Coral Windows Stadium, he said he couldn't fault his team and then walked out of the broadcast interview.
Well I can pick plenty of holes. So, too, can those who travelled to support the spiritless, disinterested, shoddy excuse for a team – an almost full-strength one, no less – put out by a manger clearly desperate to win the competition this year.
Dud: Gervinho summed up Arsenal's night with a shocking miss in front of goal
And herein lies a problem. No-one has ever been held accountable for their mistakes under Wenger. In his admittedly admirable approach, he's not so much the first line of defence, but the only one, the bodyguard, the father figure for those who let him down with such worrying frequency.
With no fear of repercussions for a poor day at the office, standards inevitably slip. If your position isn't under threat – something accentuated by the dearth of quality throughout the rest of the squad – why raise your game
In the transfer window, the myth that Wenger doesn't spend exists because he sells his most valuable assets at a high price. In fact he merely replaces the departed with several significantly inferior others.
What is true is that he no longer spends wisely; you can get two Javier Hernandez's for one Gervinho, for example.
Wenger used to know where to find a deal, now all he seems to find are duds. And no longer do I believe he can turn it around.
Don't look now: Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen missed the final penalty
On the rare occasions his team does click, it can barely hold a flame to the Invincibles team. The difference is as stark as the speed of the decline, lacking the flair and thrill, and the steal and bloody-mindedness of the 2004 Wenger vintage.
Neither does he. The smile, the suave soundbites, the touchlines jigs, even the technical area temper tantrums, they're all gone, beaten out of him by the initial burden of the Emirates Stadium move and then the Russian roubles and Arab oil money injected into the Premier League.
There is no shame having been beaten in this distorted landscape, when plenty of others would simply have walked away at the first time of asking. That isn't his style, and we're forever grateful for that, as we are for his unwavering commitment to our cause. But it is that blinkered obsession with 'the right way' that could now cost us all dear.
Sorry, Arsene, it's for the best.