Plane & Simple: Arsenal will go into freefall without Champions League football

Arsene Wenger Alexis Sanchez Arsenal
The Gunners dominated possession at the Hawthorns but only mustered two shots on target - a summary of the team they've become under Wenger


One would have been forgiven for thinking that the Duxford Air Show was taking place above The Hawthorns at Saturday lunchtime, as two planes buzzed around overhead.

A trip to West Brom wouldn’t have been the game under-fire Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger would have wanted after such a poor run of results of late, given his poor record against Tony Pulis. It was made even more uncomfortable for the Frenchman when a plane flew over the stadium shortly before kick-off displaying a banner which said ‘No new contract #WengerOut’. 

Dawson double means more woe on Wenger

Wenger certainly wouldn’t have spotted it as it was the opposite side of the ground to him but those on social media were quick to distribute the images of protest which have been commonplace around the club in recent months. Demonstrations and marches were one thing, though; hiring a plane to make such a public call for a long-time servant to lose his job was surely disrespectful?

Such scenes haven’t been witnessed since a group of Manchester United fans resorted to the same stunt to push David Moyes out of the exit door at Old Trafford - although, on that occasion, it ultimately worked.

HD Wenger Out Banner Arsenal

A second banner brought with it a different message, emphasising the divide within the Arsenal fanbase right now. ‘In Wenger We Trust #respectaw,' it read. Whether you’re supportive of the Gunners boss or feel his 20-year tenure should come to an end this summer, the difference in opinion continues to cause conflict among the fans and shows no sign of coming to an end.

Unfortunately for the latter contingent, their support of Wenger would have fallen on deaf ears when West Brom scored a second and third goal in the second half to render Alexis Sanchez’s well-taken equaliser purely academic.

Arsenal fans stage plane protest

Before that, the lack of marking and awareness for Craig Dawson's opener was bizarre. Wenger lauded Pulis on the organisation of his side before the game and should have been fully prepared of the threat the Baggies pose on set pieces - since Pulis took over, the Baggies have scored a higher proportion of goals from set-pieces (47.8% - 43/90) than any other team in the Premier League.

Arsenal West Brom Petr Cech

Meanwhile, Hal-Robson Kanu’s goal on 55 minutes came from an abomination of errors and showed that Arsenal’s defensive circus hasn’t change since their 10-2 Bayern demolition.

"You don't know what you're doing!" sung the away fans as Alexis Sanchez was substituted for Alex Iwobi towards the end of the game. The change was almost certainly due to an injury but the supporters had clearly seen enough - and it's to understand why.

With each passing week, things just get more and embarrassing for Arsenal, on and off the pitch, with their chances of securing a top-four spot now at serious risk after four defeats in their last five games - the worst run of Wenger's tenure. Indeed, the Gunners are now set to be overtaken by sixth-placed Manchester United, who are just one point behind with a game in hand.

Wenger stated afterwards that he has taken a decision on his future. "I know what I will do," he said. "You will know soon." Well, the sooner he goes public, the better, because, right now, his side are spiralling out of control - and likely out of contention for a place in next season's Champions League.

Henry tears into Arsenal defending

The ramifications of such a scenario would be devastating for Arsenal. Firstly, they would have no chance of holding onto their one world-class performer, Alex Sanchez, who, at 28 and the peak of his powers, would have no interest in spending a year outside Europe's premier competition - no matter how much money the Gunners offer the Chilean.

Secondly, Arsenal would find it impossible to attract players of a similar stature to north London. Although the powers that be at the Emirates would never admit it, they are not as big a draw as Manchester United, who, despite their lack of Champions League football this season, were still able to attract big names to Old Trafford due to their wealth and lofty standing within the game.

If they were lose their seat at Europe's top table, Arsenal would find it extremely difficult to get it back.

Wenger deserves better than to be subjected to such cheap gimmicks to persuade him to leave his position but the fact of the matter is that he will be left with no choice but to step down should he fail to secure a top-four finish.

Without Champions League football, he would be left as defenceless as his side proved to be on a strange day at the Hawthorns.