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Wenger IN or OUT? If Arsenal fans can't decide what they want, how can they expect the board to?


GOALCOMMENT  

'Time for Change' was the pre-match theme at Emirates Stadium as Arsenal took on Norwich City in a stale-looking encounter on paper. The Gunners still have something to play for in their final two league games of the season, but not the trophy they sought after when the season begun in August 2015.

Murmurings of discontent became apparent days before the match kicked off as fan groups including 'RedAction' and the 'Black Scarf Movement' joined together in a protest favouring 'change' – whether it be the manager or in the boardroom. As 12 minutes hit the clock in north London, tricklets of fans in their hundreds proudly stood up and showed their placards in the direction of manager Arsene Wenger.

Those supporters were immediately drowned out by thousands of Arsenal fans who began to chant 'we love you Arsenal' and more surprisingly 'there's only one Arsene Wenger'. The clear divide between the manager and the fanbase was emphasised in his pre-match press conference when he described those planning to protest as "only a few people with an agenda". And perhaps he was right.



The riposte from those Arsenal fans summed up the way things have gone for the club on the pitch this season; unstable, indecisive and lethargic. None of Arsenal's seven shots in the first half were on target and the Gunners were continuously reduced to efforts from outside the box by a defensively solid Canaries backline. Boos rang out at half-time as the players trudged back down the tunnel to reflect on what was an underwhelming performance.

The strange atmosphere at the Emirates would have threatened to boil over if Norwich had clinical strikers capable of burying the chances given to them. Cameron Jerome was guilty of a near miss before Wenger made the first tactical substitution of the match on 56 minutes. Previously criticised for his reluctance to make changes when they are duly needed, the Frenchman brought on Danny Welbeck to play on the left-hand side.

Again, a frustrated home support booed the decision to take off the hard-working Alex Iwobi, when Giroud’s  performance had been less than impressive beforehand. It’s now 15 games and counting since he last scored a goal in the Premier League – reinforcing the belief among many that Arsenal need to buy an out-and-out goalscorer this summer. However, Welbeck’s introduction proved to be the correct one as he gave the Gunners the lead just three minutes later, ironically turning in Giroud’s knock down to bring a momentary air of relief to the fractious home support.


GOALFULL STORY | Arsenal fans in Wenger protest

Mesut Ozil signaled to the crowd to make more noise in the stadium and the fans obliged, albeit temporarily as Arsenal struggled to fashion anything clear-cut. While the protests weren’t in unison, the sighs of frustration certainly were. Arsenal’s lax midfield started to give the ball away, only Mohamed Elneny has looked assured in possession over the past five games. The Egyptian’s passing accuracy, which hit 94.2% against the Canaries, seems to increase with each match and he has been one of the bright sparks of an otherwise drab campaign.

Perhaps too much credence was given to the planned protests as on the 78th minute hardly any of the placards and signs were on display as promised. The hundreds that were dotted across the ground in the first half had suddenly disappeared, most likely due to the fact that Arsenal were on the verge of claiming a hard-earned three points.

Social media has become an integral part of society, in particular sport, and football fans who previously would give their opinions on the game down the pub are now being given a platform to have their views seen by thousands. This particular 'protest' threatened to overshadow another unconvincing home win, but instead the focus will be on the divisions between the fans instead of the manager. 'Wenger in', 'Wenger out', boos, cheers and sighs of frustration - if the fans can't decide what they want then how can they expect the board to make a decision on the future of the club’s longest-serving, most successful manager in their history?

Arsenal are planning for a 20th summer with Wenger at the helm and the mixed reception among supporters has only strengthened the manager's position. Some have criticised his 'outdated tactics', others have lambasted his failure to sign an outfield player in the summer. From 'Arsene who?' to 'Arsene out', whatever happens now you can be sure that the Frenchman will see out his contract at the club unless he decides to leave on his own accord.