The 2016-17 campaign was not kind to Arsenal. And at times, it was far less kind to their manager, Arsène Wenger. But if Saturday’s thrilling FA Cup victory over the Premier League-winning Chelsea proves to be his finale, it’s not a bad way to go.
It’s just not good enough, and Wenger needs to realize that.
The big decision-makers need to realize that. To some extent, the players who play for him need to realize that. Winning the FA Cup is a genuinely nice moment, and more than likely one numerous clubs in England would gladly trade their current standing for. But that’s just it—Arsenal aren’t most other clubs. Or at least, they’re not supposed to be.
But here we are again, recounting a similar story. Arsenal had a less than stellar league campaign, to say the least. They, once again, were never really involved in this season’s title race. Their 2016-17 Champions League campaign would once again end in resounding fashion in the knockout rounds. Additionally, Arsenal’s 19-year streak of qualifying for the UCL ended. For the longest time, that was their trophy. That was Wenger’s trophy. What now?
A club of their stature, with world class players and a manager possessing Wenger’s track record, needs to be winning more. It’s that simple. The Gunners haven’t won the league since the 2003-04 season. Winning the FA Cup is fine—it is nice to win things, after all—and Arsenal have won three of the last four! As manager, Arsène Wenger has overseen 7 such FA Cup victories himself. That’s a record, as is Arsenal’s 13 FA Cup trophies overall.
But again, that can’t be enough. It’s a nice moment, perhaps even a fitting one. It would serve as a splendid send-off during a season that was anything but. To beat the Premier League champions on the final meaningful match of the season? You could do a whole lot worse. Wenger did so much for Arsenal for so long. He was a model of consistency, even if that consistency became a point of frustration at times. Even if that consistency transformed into complacency at times—in the eyes of some.
So it’s time to move on. It’s time for Arsène Wenger to finally choose to move on.
Winning the FA Cup shouldn’t change anything in that regard. Things happen in cup finals (and in semi-finals, and so on). It takes a combination of skill, luck and experience. Chelsea had a few things break their way in the semi-final against Tottenham; Arsenal had a couple no-calls break their way within the first five minutes of the final itself. Plus, as we’ve covered, Wenger knows a thing or two about an FA Cup Final.
So send him off. He’s done more than enough to earn that at this point. Then step into the unknown. After all, what does Arsenal have to lose? They’re in the Europa League next season, not its older, more prestigious brother. They should always have the squad to mount a title challenge, yet, they’ve stagnated. But at the very least, Arsène Wenger and his squad gave Gunners supporters one more nice moment. They went out on the only high that remained possible for them.
Now it’s time they aim higher.