After nearly 22 years at the helm, Arsene Wenger has earned the right to a certain amount of power in north London. The Arsenal boss helped to drag the English Premier League into the modern era while transforming the Gunners into a team that was admired far and wide for their expansive and entertaining brand of football.
In the eyes of many fans, he should be one who decides when he steps down and it seems those in charge are reluctant to break this unwritten agreement. After all, if they fire him in the summer, they will bear total responsibility for the club’s immediate future. But if they wait until he walks and things don’t work out, they can claim their hand was forced. Wenger has another year to run on his contract and has insisted that he will honour those terms.
This impasse at the Emirates has been blamed for the club’s recent stagnation, which has seen them slip down the Premier League pecking order. They currently sit in sixth-place in the table, 30 points behind champions-in-waiting Manchester City and 13 points outside of the top four. However, they have won three of the last four FA Cup finals and are currently 5/2 at William Hill to win the Europa League, having already put one foot in the semi-finals with that 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow.
This steady if unremarkable accumulation of silverware has so far been enough to keep the wolf from the door for the Frenchman. If he can add a European trophy to his haul, leading the club back into the Champions League in the process, there is no reason to suggest he will not continue his role.
While it may not be enough for some fans, a Europa League victory would once again put the board in a very difficult position. After all, how can you sack a loyal servant who is still delivering major silverware on a regular basis while running the club on a relatively strict budget? Last year, the North London club were one of only five Premier League teams to record a profit in the transfer window and this shrewd financial management has been a feature of Wenger’s tenure since the club moved into its new stadium 12 years ago.
There has been speculation that if Arsenal win the competition, Wenger might still decide to step down, leaving the club with a major trophy and Champions League football to look forward to. It would certainly be a fitting way to end his time at the club – walking away on his own terms. However, much of this seems to be wishful thinking from those who are desperate for change at the club.
Wenger himself seems content in the role and has shown in the past that he is capable of proving his doubters wrong and will be keen to do so again. If he can lead the Gunners to European glory, the power to choose his destiny would remain in his own hands.
The Premier League season is heading towards it’s finale but there is still plenty to play for. Manchester United welcome league leaders Chelsea to Old Trafford in the standout fixture of the weekend on Sunday, while the battle to avoid relegation intensifies.
Tottenham kick things off on Saturday lunchtime with the visit of Bournemouth, while Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal all have tricky away trips to Southampton, West Brom and Middlesbrough respectively. Read on to find out all of our Gameweek 32 predictions…
Tottenham 3-0 Bournemouth
Spurs are still chasing Chelsea at the top of the league. Their 4-0 win over Watford last weekend furtherdemonstrated their intensity and classy finishing. Bournemouth cannot afford to let Tottenham in early otherwise they could be on the receiving end of another rout. The Cherries look like they’ll be safe from relegation this season, they’re seven points above the drop zone but know they’re in for a tricky afternoon here.
Sunderland really are in the last-chance saloon. They are in huge trouble at the bottom of the Premier League table and haven’t scored a goal in over two months. West Ham’s season has been inconsistent throughout but they got a much-needed win against Swansea last weekend and should be able to follow that up with another narrow win against a team that looks destined for the drop.
Stoke’s season has become a little stale. They face relegation threatened Hull this weekend who have hit some form as they continue their fight against the drop. Mark Hughes will be expecting his side to win here and edge closer to that 40-point mark. Hull will be hoping results go their way to ensure they don’t drop back into the bottom three.
Crystal Palace have turned their season on its head in recent weeks as Sam Allardyce has worked his magic once again. They have won five of their last six and could overtake Leicester with a win on Saturday. The Foxes have also turned their season around since a managerial change but they have a Champions League quarter-final to focus on and that distraction could see Palace take full advantage in this one.
Everton stunned Leicester with an impressive attacking display last weekend but still showed their defensive issues. Romelu Lukaku is the Premier League’s top scorer and he will be looking forward to causing the Burnley defence problems here. Sean Dyche’s side have conceded 44 goals this season but look comfortable in mid-table.
If Swansea stand any chance of staying in the Premier League they need to win games like this. A loss at Watford on Saturday would leave them in huge trouble, but Paul Clement has a team good enough to get the job done. Watford got battered at Spurs last week and look like a side that’s season is already over. They’re effectively safe from relegation and don’t need this as much as Swansea.
Southampton 1-3 Manchester City
Pep Guardiola’s side face a tricky away trip to Southampton on Saturday evening. The Saints will be looking to take a positive result here as they continue to apply pressure to West Brom above them in 8th. Manchester City cannot afford to drop points, they will potentially let Arsenal and Manchester United back into the race for the top four and miss the chance to go ahead of Liverpool by winning their game in hand.
These are the sort of games Liverpool have struggled to win this season and they can expect another tricky test at the Hawthorns. They might have produced a comeback at Stoke last week but the Baggies are a tougher unit to break down and proved their threat with that 3-1 win over Arsenal a few weeks ago. Liverpool can’t really afford to drop any more points if they are to secure a top four spot, but they might have to settle for one point on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho welcomes league leading Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. He has faced his former employers twice already this season, losing both games. Antonio Conte’s side cannot afford to get complacent at this stage of the season as they are pushing for the title. United are on a 21-game unbeaten run and a draw looks a likely result this weekend.
To call this the biggest game of Arsenal’s season might seem a bit farfetched, but a defeat at Middlesbrough could see their top four hopes all but ended, depending on results over the weekend. Boro are in trouble themselves and look set for relegation. They have struggled to find goals all season but will be giving it their all against the Gunners on Monday night. Arsenal have the quality to stroll past Middlesbrough but it depends which side shows up. If it’s the one that lost 3-0 at Palace last week, then they’ll be in big trouble.
Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Arsenal
Venue: Old Trafford – Saturday, November 19 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)
Match Odds: Man United 6/4 – Draw 23/10 – Arsenal 9/5
Manchester United host Arsenal as the Premier League springs back into life in emphatic style following the latest international break.
Both sides will be looking to climb the table when they meet on Saturday, with Arsenal two points off the top in fourth and United six points further back in sixth place.
It’s a huge game on the pitch, but the battle in the dugout between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger will be sure to draw attention throughout. The long-time enemies will face off in this fixture for the first time since Mourinho moved to Manchester here and it’s expected to be as tense as ever.
Wenger has still never beaten Mourinho in a Premier League game, but the visitors will be confident given United’s stuttering form so far this season.
The Red Devils won 3-1 at Swansea two weeks ago, ending a four-game winless run in the Premier League, but they still have a lot to work on if they are to finish the season in the top four, let alone challenge for the title.
Injuries and suspensions have left Mourinho short of options ahead of such a crucial game but he will have to trust some of his fringe players to step up and deliver, as they did in Swansea before the international break.
Their 1-1 draw against North London rivals Tottenham two weeks ago raised some concerns but they know they have the quality to beat anyone on their day, and this should be a thrilling clash as a result.
United beat Arsenal 3-2 back in February in the most recent meeting between the two. A lot has changed since though, most notably in the dugout, and so this is sure to be a fascinating contest.
Manchester United will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who misses out through suspension. Wayne Rooney is unlikely to deputise after off-field controversies have surrounded him this week, so Marcus Rashford is set to start up top. Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Chris Smalling are all sidelined through injury, while Luke Shaw and Marouane Fellaini are doubts.
Arsenal have been dealt a blow as Hector Bellerin will be out for the next four weeks, while fellow defender Per Mertesacker remains out. Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Lucas Perez and Chuba Akpom are also out, while Alexis Sanchez is a doubt after picking up a knock on international duty. Mesut Ozil will be fresh after being given two weeks off to rest by German head coach Joachim Low.
Man United’s last five: D/D/L/D/W
Arsenal’s last five: W/W/D/W/D
Key Stat: Jose Mourinho has never lost a Premier League game against Arsenal in 11 previous contests, winning five and drawing six of those.
Key Player: Mesut Ozil – The German playmaker will be one of the freshest on the field after being given time to rest during the international break. Regardless of that, he is one of the league’s most talented players and will look to break down a weakened Arsenal backline here. He scored at Old Trafford in February and will be hoping to put in a commanding performance on Saturday.
Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal – There is very little to separate these two sides ahead of such a big game. Mourinho has the edge over Wenger but there isn’t much to split the two teams on the field, with injuries likely to affect both as equally as the other. An excellent game is expected but ultimately, this one looks likely to end in a draw, which won’t do either side too many favours.
We’re closing in on another action packed round of Premier League fixtures. The ‘weekend focus’ series picks three games and looks at what to expect. This time around we’re looking at Arsenal‘s trip to Watford, whether Hull City can keep their run going and if Tottenham Hotspur can overturn Liverpool at White Hart Lane.
Pressure on Arsene Wenger:
Arsenal have picked up just one point from a possible six so far and their trip to Watford on Saturday afternoon isn’t going to be an easy one.
The Gunners have drawn their last four away games in the Premier League.
Arsenal managed just four shots on target in their game against Leicester last time out, their defensive performance was much better than their opener but they looked sluggish and out of ideas in the final third.
The second Premier League weekend of the season has passed with some surprising results. So here are our top three picks.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United impress:
Manchester United played out the first Friday night football of the season at home to Southampton. Although possession favoured the visitors early on, United dominated on the most part. They barely got out of second gear and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s two goals showed exactly why he was signed. Paul Pogba looked comfortable on his second debut.
But for some hesitation in decision making in the final third, United could have easily scored two or three more. Southampton had a couple of decent half chances as they broke through United’s defence, something Mourinho will be looking to iron out in training this week.
A relatively easy win with United looking the part.
An all too familiar story for Arsenal fans in this one. They struggled throughout to break down a resilient Leicester and any chances that presented themselves were not taken. Leicester felt they should have had a penalty late on and they had a case.
The return of Laurent Koscielny was welcomed by the Gunners and Petr Cech showed his class once again, but Arsenal are already five points behind the Premier League leaders.
Wenger still needs a centre back and centre forward.
The shock result of the weekend was undoubtedly Liverpool‘s 2-0 away defeat to newly promoted Burnley. Jurgen Klopp’s side had 26 shots but failed to breach the Burnley backline.
This could well be a one off for Liverpool, they had plenty of chances and 81% possession but it was just ‘one of those games’ – they impressed offensively in their opener but have already shipped in five goals.
Liverpool need to tighten up at the back and take their chances but it is not the time to panic.
Arsene Wenger has been Arsenal manager since 1996 and is the longest current serving manager in English football. Over the course of his reign, the Gunners have enjoyed incredible successes – most notably The Invincibles of the 2003/04 campaign.
But things haven’t been quite so successful in recent years, with Wenger now a man under intense pressure more often than not.
He has be in charge of Arsenal for a massive 1063 matches, winning 611 and accruing an average of 1.95 points-per-game in that time. In comparison, Jurgen Klopp gathered 1.90 points-per-game in 318 games for Dortmund, while Sir Alex Ferguson managed 1159 games for United, winning 2.10 points per match on average.
The Frenchman’s quality as a manager is undeniable, however, since the 2003/04 season when his team went unbeaten, Arsenal have only finished second once – that came the following season – after that they have finished either third or fourth ten times in a row, with that run looking set to stretch to eleven following Sunday’s final game of the season at home to Aston Villa.
What this consistency guarantees is Champions League football year after year, a competition they have never won despite reaching the final in the 2005/06 campaign. But is this enough for Arsenal fans to be satisfied? Or is it time to change things up?
When Wenger retires his legacy will be remembered forever. He is often spoken of in the same vein as Sir Alex Ferguson as the pair are considered to be two of the greatest managers in English football history. What Wenger brought to Arsenal when he signed in the mid-nineties was incredible stability coupled with attractive, fluid football – all without (until recently) spending excessive amounts to revamp his squad.
Consistency is important in a league in which only six teams have yet to be relegated since the start of the Premier League in 1992, Aston Villa being the latest victims. However, in a time where social media has formed a route for people to voice their opinions, it is becoming more evident that this is not enough. Many Arsenal fans on Twitter aren’t wanting to reminisce on past successes with ‘#WengerOut’ trending after several disappointing results in recent months.
Sports fans are fickle, it’s in our nature, particularly those supporting the top teams who have achieved success over and over again. We all want our teams to win and to do so every year. This results in an incredible turnover in managers for some teams. Some clubs have won many trophies with this method (look at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich) while others have fallen from grace (look at Leeds United’s collapse).
Wenger’s consistency is good, but for the fans it’s not good enough. They want trophies and something to brag about as “we’ve qualified for the Champions League 18 seasons in a row” may be remarkable but it still doesn’t quite equal “we’ve won the Champions League”. The club has enjoyed success in the FA Cup in recent years but that is not enough for a club as big as Arsenal.
After Arsenal went unbeaten over the course of a whole Premier League season in 2004 many fans expected them to create a dynasty. Expectations were to win several league titles in a row while pushing for a Champions League trophy.
This never happened. The club, under the guidance of Wenger, never pushed on and instead seemed to settle into a groove while teams around them rose up. Both Chelsea and Manchester City invested millions into becoming top teams and in the process created a solid group of teams challenging for the same goal. The Invincibles season is now 12 years old and the club have not come close to producing a team with anywhere near as much quality in every position since.
This season has produced arguably the most incredible story in all of sporting history, as Leicester City have won the Premier League for the first time in their history despite being 5000/1 outsiders at the start of this campaign.
Since the 2003/04 season only Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have won the league. Those three dominant teams have struggled and seeing Leicester go on to claim the title must aggravate the Arsenal fans and will be seen as a missed opportunity, particularly given the Gunners’ position at the top of the table at the turn of 2016.
This year also marks the first time in 21 years that arch rivals Tottenham look set to finish above them, with Spurs two points ahead of Arsenal entering the final game.
This season would have been the perfect year for Wenger to spend £100 million+ in the summer or overpay for a superstar in January to win the Premier League, instead Arsenal only signed Petr Cech and Mohamed Elneny. As good a signing as Cech was, the overall transfer business was not enough improvement for a squad that finished 3rd last season.
In 2011/12 Robin Van Persie was the league’s top scorer with 30 goals while leading the line for Arsenal, but that summer he was sold to Manchester United for £22.5 million. In 2011 star midfielder and club captain Cesc Fabregas was sold to Barcelona for £23 million, he would later sign for Chelsea, their London rivals. Other questionable transfer deals include sending Ashley Cole to Chelsea in return for William Gallas and selling Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City for £25 million a season removed from being the club’s top scorer.
What Wenger does for Arsenal, to the satisfaction of the board, is make sure the club breaks even every season. The amount of money received from finishing in the top four of the Premier League is over £21 million, which is then saved rather than immediately splashed out on expensive players and he isn’t afraid of instead selling stars to fund moves for more talent.
The problem the board face is that top managers have become available in recent years with the likes of Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte all looking for new jobs, but Arsenal have not gambled on them, missing their opportunity to pick up a great coach out of contract, without needing to spend money to pay off a release clause.
Wenger is unlikely to be sacked, as the club have had the same results for too many seasons for them to pull the plug now. His current contract ends in 2017 and it is much more reasonable to expect them to wait until he leaves mutually, especially as he is now 66 and this could very well be his final coaching role with a team. This will also give the club a whole season to lineup a possible new manager.
It will be interesting to see which manager they go after, Diego Simeone is a highly regarded coach who would keep the team at the top, but his style of management and the way his team plays is the opposite to that of Wenger.
Other names linked with the job are Ronald Koeman, Joachim Low and Roberto Mancini but several more are expected to be lined up as and when Wenger’s time in the dugout comes to an end.
The board will be confident of finishing in the top four again next season, but what this year shows is how unpredictable football can be at times. Should they reach out for a new manager now? Or wait until 2017 to find a new leader? Wenger should probably be sacked, but he won’t.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left frustrated after watching his side suffer a 2-0 first leg defeat at the hands of current Champions League holders FC Barcelona on Tuesday night.
Barcelona came into the game unbeaten in 32 matches but were frustrated by a resilient display from the Gunners for the first 70 minutes. However, eventually their quality shone through as Lionel Messi grabbed himself a brace to give the Spanish giants a huge advantage heading into the second leg.
Wenger believes his side were once again naive and the Frenchman was frustrated that they couldn’t open the scoring in what was an open contest.
“Technically we were very average,” Wenger said after the game. “The regret I have is, despite looking like we dominated the game, we gave a goal away in the last 15 minutes, similar to Monaco; naive and that’s what is frustrating. When we looked like we could win this game we just gave it away.”
Wenger added that his players looked tired, which will worry Arsenal fans as they have a hectic upcoming schedule in the Premier League title race.
“It’s too easy to blame, you have to respect the effort the players have put in but it’s very frustrating at the moment, we looked like we were tired. I knew before the game in the last 20 minutes we’d have a chance to win the game if we didn’t make any mistakes and that’s the frustration of the night.”
Arsenal’s vice captain, Per Mertesacker, made a mistake leading up to the Barcelona penalty which made the score 2-0. He rued his sides missed chances and highlighted the main focus for now must be the Premier League.
“It’s a tough go for us now, we had to score at one point here,” the German said.
“You would never keep them quiet for 90 minutes that was for sure. We tried our best but we didn’t deserve it because we had enough chances to score at least one.
“We have to concentrate on the Premier League now and then in one month we are facing Barcelona again with the same bravery and same courage. We still have a little chance, we don’t give up.”
Could Arsenal’s ‘naivety’ cost them in the Premier League title race?
The Gunners are in fantastic domestic form and have won their last five on the bounce. They come into this one off the back of their 3-0 away win over Swansea last weekend.
However, Arsene Wenger’s side were thumped 5-1 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday evening and they cannot afford to allow that result to play on their minds heading into this tie.
Arsenal sit second in the league, only trailing leaders Manchester City on goal difference, so this is a must win game for more than one reason. Wenger’s side have to continue their excellent home form and avoid losing games like this to give them a great chance of challenging for the title.
Arsenal’s injury woes continue. They could be without as many as eight first team players for this one as Hector Bellerin, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Thomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck are all set to miss out. Laurent Koscielny is a doubt and he would be a huge miss should he miss out.
Tottenham have six injury concerns. Nacer Chadli and Alex Pritchard are out, while Danny Rose, Clinton N’Jie, Heung Min Son and Nabil Bentaleb are all doubtful. Son made his return to action on Thursday and could feature off the bench.
Arsenal’s last five in the Premier League: W/W/W/W/W
Tottenham’s last five in the Premier League: W/D/D/W/W
Key Stat: Arsenal have an incredible home record against Tottenham. They are undefeated in 19 of the last 20 meetings between the sides in all competitions.
Key Player: Harry Kane – The Spurs forward has netted five in his last three in all competitions and looks to be back to his confident best. He has already scored against Arsenal in the North London Derby and will be looking to cause further problems to an injury-stricken home side.
Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham – This has the makings of one to remember. Arsenal’s injuries could well be a problem but they still have the firepower of Olivier Giroud, who seems to score every time he plays at the moment, as well as Alexis Sanchez. Spurs will see this as an opportunity to take all three points but with both sides in great form they are tough to split.
Match Odds: Chelsea 11/8 – Draw 5/2 – Arsenal 15/8
The early kick off on Saturday sees Chelsea host rivals Arsenal in the standout tie of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
The champions have struggled to get going so far and lost their third game of the domestic season last weekend, 3-1 away at Everton.
Manager Jose Mourinho has insisted he is still the right man for the job and has dismissed talk of a crisis at the club, despite being under pressure. Chelsea must go on a winning run if they are to convince doubters that they are in with any chance of defending their crown.
They come into the game off the back of their 4-0 midweek win in the Champions League against Maccabi Tel Aviv, a game they were expected to win but they looked far more positive and it could be a turning point in the season even this early on.
Arsenal have started the season in typical fashion, not quite setting the world alight, but picking up points nonetheless.
Arsene Wenger’s side won 2-0 at home against Stoke City last weekend and will see this as an opportunity to win against Chelsea in the league for the first time since 2011.
The Gunners had a disappointing game midweek, as they lost 2-1 away against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, and will want to bounce back to winning ways here in a huge London derby.
Wenger is yet to beat Mourinho in the Premier League, but did however finally defeat his nemesis in the Community Shield a week before the opening game of the season and will be hoping for a repeat of that performance.
Chelsea will be without Thibaut Courtois for some time after picking up a knee injury. Mourinho is being forced into making more changes to his squad this weekend as Pedro, Willian and Radamel Falcao are all expected to miss out through injury. This could mean Ramires or Loic Remy will start on the right-hand side of Chelsea’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system as Oscar will return in the number ten role.
Arsenal also have four injury concerns. Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker all remain sidelined. Wenger isn’t expected to change his side around much, the only real decision he has to make is who to start up top. Theo Walcott scored again in midweek, his pace and direct approach may see him lead the line again over Frenchman Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea’s Premier League form: D/L/W/L/L
Arsenal’s Premier League form: L/W/D/W/W
Key Stat: Arsenal have won seven of their last eight away matches in the Premier League.
Key Player: Petr Cech – The former Chelsea fan-favourite will line-up against the Blues for the first time in the Premier League. He has been in good form after his shaky performance on the opening day and as Chelsea fans will know, he can prove to be the difference in his side taking all three points in a tie.
Sanchez was easily one of the best signings of the season and Arsenal fans will be hoping Wenger will continue to bring in top quality players.
The two are considered to be similar players, so how did they perform in key attacking areas over the course of the Premier League season? Having looked at their performances earlier in the season, the two are still just as hard to split now the season is over.
Stats via Squawka
Sanchez ends the season with a better goals-per-game ratio but Hazard impressively featured in all 38 games of Chelsea‘s campaign.
Hazard had more assists, better pass accuracy, more key passes and 65 more successful take-ons. The Belgian superstar bettered Sanchez in the majority of the key attacking areas.
Chelsea’s key man was beaten on shot accuracy, which ultimately showed with Sanchez’s goal output. The two are incredibly hard to split but winning the Premier League certainly helps to sway the argument in favour of Hazard.
Sanchez can show his worth to Arsenal yet again this weekend as he prepares for his first chance of silverware at the club in the FA Cup final.
This is going to be key battle and talking point for years to come in the Premier League as both seem to be settled at their clubs.