By Rob Stewart
Arsene Wenger refused to confirm that he would still be Arsenal manager at the start of next season in the wake of their FA Cup exit and the way things are going Gunners fans should be hoping he is gone in the summer and someone of Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola’s calibre takes over.
The Frenchman abruptly ended his post-match media conference at the Stadium of Light when he was asked to offer assurances to supporters about his own future but the pitiful way his team surrendered on Wearside was compelling evidence that his time at Arsenal should be brought to an end.
Sunderland fans rejoiced in Wenger’s misery with plenty of noisy renditions of the old “You’re Getting Sacked in the Morning” ditty and that was to be expected because there is nothing like kicking a man when he’s down.
What was surprising is that the response from the 4,000 travelling Arsenal was so mute. Maybe it was because they were so deflated by what they saw or maybe it was because they have stopped trusting Wenger but their chant of “There’s Only One Arsene Wenger” was so half-hearted it was probably a combination of the two.
"Wenger has clearly lost his touch judging by the pathetic endeavours of his players against a battling Sunderland side"
It was such a spineless effort by his players that few could argue against Roy Keane’s assertion that this was the worst Arsenal side that he had ever clapped eyes on and now something needs to be done to arrest the decline of a club who have not won a trophy since the FA Cup final in 2005.
Wenger has been Arsenal manager since 1996 and he will go down in history as one of the best managers the club has ever had and one of the best the Premier League has ever seen but he has clearly lost his touch judging by the pathetic endeavours of his players against a battling Sunderland side.
There was a time when he could do no wrong in the transfer market as invigorated the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires but now he just seems to be throwing good money after bad and that augurs badly for the future at the Emirates.
He has put a team together that will struggle to maintain their place in the top four of the Premier League which means there will be no Champions League football at the Emirates next season with elimination at the hands of AC Milan this time around all but certain.
Arsenal play Tottenham next Saturday and they will, if recent performances are anything to go by, pile on the agony for their arch-rivals in a game that will put the Gunners decline firmly into perspective.
Having been such a distinguished servant, Wenger should be allowed to see the season out but his paymasters will need to grasp the nettle and face reality because they need a new man at the helm if they are going to be a force in English football again.
Arsenal are going backwards. Wenger might play down suggestions that the club is in crisis but the evidence served up this week suggests they are and but for a lack of suitable replacements at this time of the year, the Frenchman will be given the chance to secure a top-four place.
The club’s success in the early days was down to having a strong back four but now there is no case for the defence whatsoever.
"Guardiola would fit the bill as a replacement for Wenger and that would mean evolution rather than revolution"
And they used to have a combination of silk and steel in midfield when Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit were calling the shots but now they just look weak in the centre of the pitch.
Plus, if Robin van Persie is not at his magical best, up front they lack punch which is what happens when you rely too heavily on one player, especially when he will be heading off in the near future.
Getting played off the park by AC Milan is one thing but the heartless way they were bullied by Sunderland would have been unpalatable to the loyal supporters who trekked up the A1.
Arsenal will be there for the taking for every other workmanlike Premier League club and while Wenger may scoff, that has the makings of a crisis at a club which seems destined to fall away from the Premier League’s elite unless there is a major shake-up.
Guardiola would fit the bill as a replacement for Wenger and that would mean evolution rather than revolution at the Emirates.
Wenger will probably not have the sense to fall on his sword and leave the club with his head held high and his dignity intact but he just has to go for the good of the club before it is too late.