The beautiful German word “Schadenfreude” has a dictionary definition of “the act of taking joy in somebody else’s pain or misfortune”. Arsenal this year have given me three courses of Schadenfreude but I get the feeling there will be a few more dishes to be served yet.
Watching the turmoil at the Emirates this year feels like a poorly written tragicomedy. Although the boom and bust cycle is nothing new for Arsenal, this year feels different; this year the peasants are revolting.
The embarrassing uncle Wenger
We’ve all been in this situation, a family party and there is always someone who has too much to drink and doesn’t want to leave. You start by dropping hints, “It’s getting a bit late”, “should I get you your coat” but uncle Wenger doesn’t get the hint.
A few more drinks and he’s reminiscing about years gone by telling you about how he used to be invincible, telling you: “I’ve been the boss for over 1,100 games, I demand respect.” But whilst you will always love and admire your uncle for the joy he has brought you, your mates are starting to laugh at him, he’s getting embarrassing and you wish he would call it a day and go home and take a long-deserved break.
The problems at Arsenal
During Arsenal’s home fixture against Manchester City, footage was released that showed Arsenal fans fighting with each other. Such are the tensions between the “Wenger In” and “Wenger Out” groups that many supporters left the match early to avoid potential trouble.
For neutral observers, Arsenal fans themselves have come in for a lot of criticism, a familiar tone in many football mailboxes is, what makes Arsenal fans so entitled and spoilt?
For many years, Arsenal’s attacking, gung-ho mentality made them a team to watch. Even supporters of rival clubs would acknowledge their free-flowing style was easy on the eye and few would begrudge them success if their own team was out of the competition. However, the behaviour of some of the Arsenal support is starting to turn the neutrals off.
On a personal level, I’m starting to dislike Arsenal because they keep destroying my acca bets. Three away games in a row, Arsenal were the only prediction that didn’t come through for me. But on a serious note, Wenger has brought some great moments (and trophies) to Arsenal. In his time at Arsenal he has a 57.24 percent win rate. This consists of 664 wins, 268 draws and 228 loses spanning over 1,160 games.
However, it is his remarkable record of qualifying for the Champions League in each of the last 20 years that Wenger will most likely be remembered for. In recent years, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City have missed out on Europe’s premier competition. Arsenal fans don’t know that pain but this year could be different with Arsenal sitting in sixth place, seven points behind Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand.
But there lies part of the Anti-Wenger argument; it’s no good qualifying year after year for a competition that you never really look like winning. For the last six years, Arsenal have failed to get past the round of 16.
If not Wenger then who?
One of the most common arguments seen regarding Arsenal is ‘be careful what you wish for’. Manchester United were in a similar situation as Arsenal when Sir Alex Ferguson left at the end of the 2012-13 season. Ferguson retired but he did so by winning the league title; what followed for United fans was three years of poor football and the ridicule of opposition fans claiming, ‘No Fergie, No Glory’.
In the unlikely event that Wenger doesn’t sign the new two-year contract offered to him, who could replace him? Here are our top three candidates.
Martinez plays a passing game, very much in the mould of Arsenal. He has previous experience in the Premier League with Swansea (1.74 points per game), Wigan (1.14 points per game), Everton (1.56 points per game) and Belgium (1.88 points per game). The Spaniard did struggle in his last season at Everton, so a deal seems unlikely with the Arsenal board likely to pick a serial winner.
Allegri is favourite with many online bookmakers to replace Wenger. This week, masterminded a 3-0 thumping of Barcelona to give his Juventus team a commanding lead in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie. At Juventus, he has an amazing points per game ratio of 2.27 in 154 matches (Arsene has 1.95 points per game). Allegri also had stints with AC Milan (1.81 points per game in 178 matches) and Cagliari (1.27 points per game in 73 matches). At only 49, Allegri could engage on a long-term rebuilding project at Arsenal, but would he want to leave Juventus?
Many will remember Cholo from his pantomime villain performance when David Beckham saw red for kicking out at him in the England versus Argentina game at the 1998 World Cup. However, since becoming a coach, he has seen his stock as a top coach rise each year. He has been at Atlético Madrid for over five years now and he has achieved a points per game ratio of 2.08. At Atleti he has won the Spanish Super Cup, the Spanish Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the Europa League and La Liga. This winning mentality, against the odds, could be a recipe for success at the Emirates.
Of course, all this talk is just that – talk. The chances are, Wenger will sign a new contract. The owners seem happy with this perpetual cycle of underachievement as long as the money rolls in. I don’t often have much sympathy with supporters of rival clubs but I must admit, even I am starting to feel a tiny bit sorry for the Gunners.