Wenger’s tried every avenue but Arsenal need new direction

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  • Arsene Wenger.

    Boy, has Arsene Wenger tried. When he was derided for relying on foreign imports who subsequently left the club once they were approaching their peaks, he started investing in British talent like Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck.

    When he was vilified for not utilising Arsenal’s academy for nothing more than the odd League Cup appearance, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi were introduced into the first team.

    When he was demonised for his frugality in the transfer market, he broke the club transfer record to sign Mesut Ozil and spent further tens of millions of pounds on Alexis Sanchez.

    When the calls for an experienced and reliable goalkeeper grew to a din, in came Petr Cech on a free transfer; as pleas for a defensive midfielder intensified, Granit Xhaka was added; and that dominating centre-back partner for Laurent Koscielny dropped last summer with Shkodran Mustafi.

    Wenger changed his tried-and-trusted playing style, moving away from the pretty, pass-heavy architecture of previous sides, to a more transitional and direct approach. He even got rid of that quilted coat.

    And yet, here we are, once again – it’s February and Arsenal are too far off the top of the Premier League to contend for the title, on the brink of elimination from the Champions League and only have the FA Cup as compensation.

    Wenger has attempted to evolve but it seems the more he’s softened his ethical stance, the harder it’s got for him to succeed.

    A continual accusation is they are a team lacking leadership but Wenger has bought captains – David Ospina, Mustafi, Xhaka, Sanchez and Cech have all performed the role at previous clubs and their national teams – however, still Arsenal play with such passivity.

    The 5-1 shellacking in Munich on Wednesday didn’t necessarily have an end-of-days feel about it because we seem to have been here so many times before.

    But whereas that could be offset by the need for the missing piece of the puzzle, or falling back towards the sanctuary of “In Arsene We Trust”, all the cards have been played.

    And as fans have remarked, “Wenger Out” chants were heard around the Allianz Arena but, for once, there was no opposition.

    For the first time in his Arsenal career, Wenger is a manager without a coherent plan or identity. As sad as that is to reconcile with, assuming (and it probably now goes beyond assumption) Wenger is leaving, the Arsenal board must ensure a succession plan is put in place that does not mimic that of Manchester United in 2013.

    Wenger cannot be allowed choose his heir, but at the same time they need a manager similarly strong-willed to cope with the sheer magnitude of the job at hand but once who can completely disconnect with the past.

    Arsenal need a coach to build a club and team from top to bottom: a Simeone, a Tuchel, a Jardim, a Schmidt; managers of character and principle but also who can energise and enthuse.

    The club needs a fresh pair of eyes because Wenger has exhausted every possibility and, for all his faults in what appears the latter stage of his career in north London, you can’t say he didn’t try.