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Thursday 30 March 2017

The final chapter of Wenger's story will be full of sadness

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger

There is now an overriding sense of sadness about Arsene Wenger among all those who love football. Alex Ferguson is the only great manager that I can remember to escape the certainty that all stellar careers in management end in failure.

But I always hoped that Wenger could somehow slip away without the bitter catcalls of angry football fans chasing him out the door. That might be difficult to do now.

The defeat by Bayern Munich was a humiliation. Sure, there have been bad defeats and an accumulation of unsuccessful seasons but never anything quite like this.

Arsenal were in disarray. They lost the game but their discipline went first. When you see players from the same team arguing during a performance like this it is a sign of deep rooted problems

Wilted

Mesut Ozil's awful performance summed it up. He could hardly kick the ball straight and wilted under pressure.

This is not a player anyone should ever rely on. When you need him, he goes missing and Wenger badly needed him to do his stuff in Munich.

Ozil was hailed as the next world star not so long ago but I'll bet if you asked Arsenal fans about him you would get some unprintable words in response.

The fans have been unhappy for a long time but they mostly kept quiet about it and showed the kind of restraint a great manager earns through his behaviour and his record.

Wenger had an awful lot in the bank and after he has gone, his legacy to the game will be very significant.

Throughout his career at Highbury and then the Emirates, it is hard to find even one player who had bad things to say about him.

But good will doesn't win titles and the time has come to call a halt.

Someone asked me why now, when there's a very good chance that Wenger will end up with the same kind of season he's had for almost a decade?

Arsenal will more than likely finish in the Top Four and continue Wenger's tradition of giving his club the means to fund expansion through involvement in the Champions League.

They face Sutton United on Monday night in the FA Cup and I wouldn't write them off in that competition.

But even winning the FA Cup and a Top Four finish won't be enough this time.

It won't be enough because everyone, fans, directors, owners and players have reached the same conclusion as I have. He can't fix it.

Wenger cannot find a way back to the extraordinary bubble of success he lived in when he first came to Arsenal and it doesn't matter how many seasons he is given.

Most importantly, I think the supporters have irrevocably turned against him and while most will continue to respect a man they revere, there will be enough on the stands to make their feelings heard.

It will be very difficult for Wenger. Even now, he still believes that he will find a way and he is tormented by that fact.

This torment manifests in many ways, most of them negative.

He walked by Carlo Ancelotti and barely offered his hand after his team were given a lesson by a Bayern Munich team which surprised and impressed me.

Annoying

It was rude but not out of character. Wenger contributed a great deal to some of the most annoying aspects of the modern game.

His blindness when it came to sins committed by his own players was dishonest and didn't help him in any way.

His constant carping about referees and often nonsensical arguments about penalties awarded or not were a constant irritation.

But I can forgive all of that for what he did with a group of players over a decade ago and his dogged refusal to be anything but his own man.

Whatever you say about Wenger, he tried to play the right way and if, somewhere along the way he forgot about defending, his enduring legacy will be a positive one. I have no doubt about that.

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