When talk of Arsene Wenger finally ending his reign as Arsenal manager gathered pace, the majority of the Arsenal fans and veterans that had been there and seen everything over these past 20 and a bit years would have known, that it was just that – talk. Chances of Arsene Wenger calling it a day are about as likely as Arsenal turning around the 5-1 deficit to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Wenger is someone who lives football, breathes football, eats football, and then does it all over again, with no pause button. The Frenchman does not know a life that doesn't involve football and has admitted several times he has no clue what he will do when, eventually, he does retire from being a football manager – who sees the Frenchman, at 90, still trying to put that zipper up near the touchline.
At 67, Wenger's powers have waned – he hasn't quite been able to stay with the ever-changing facets of the game and while he has tried to stay with the times – his sudden change from liking a physical presence and strength in midfield to filling up the squad with diminutive playmakers being one of those cases in points – he hasn't quite been able to maintain those levels needed to keep winning trophies.
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Yes, the first few years after making the move to the Emirates Stadium saw his hands tied, with the manager given no transfer budget and forced to sell his best players. The fact that he kept Arsenal ticking over and in the top four during that time can be considered a minor miracle. But, since the club have seen those financial issues ease and been able to spend in the transfer market, Wenger has had no such excuses to make.
Every season, we hear this is going to be the season that Arsenal finally come of age; that the fans, who have stayed patient throughout the stadium shift, will finally get rewarded; that the potential this team has will finally come to fruition.
And yet, the results end up being deplorably predictable. One of two scenarios get played out in the Premier League:
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Arsenal start quick, go to the top of the table and just when everything looks hunky dory, they go on a poor run, and before you know it, the title chances are gone. They then, with the title pressure off, go on a searing run towards the end of the season to make everything seem hunky dory again.
The other scenario is when Arsenal start slow and everything seems like doom and gloom. Without ever really being in the title race and once they are out of the Champions League, they go on a brilliant run, which sees them finish in the top four, without anybody even remotely counting them as title contenders for that season.
But then, you can only fool the fans into thinking this season will be different so many times.
Manchester United and Chelsea, and to a certain extent Liverpool as well, have proved that Champions League qualification is not the be all and end all of club football anymore.
Even when there is no Champions League football, you can still attract world-class players. Yes, money plays a big part, but then how long can Arsenal, the fifth most valued football club in the world, according to Forbes' Rich List of 2016, hide behind that excuse.
The reason given for missing out on world-class players or refusing to fill the obvious gaping gaps is always "Oh, throwing money around is not the Arsenal way."
So, just what is the Arsenal way?
Perennially finishing in the top four to compete in a competition they are never going to win and eventually end up being in exactly the same situation as the previous season?
If that is the case, surely it is time for change.
Any other club, other than Arsenal, would have found a way to ease Wenger out of his position by now. But, unfortunately, the club have a majority owner, who doesn't care about winning trophies – and Stan Kroenke has emphatically said that winning titles is not the reason he invested in Arsenal, and if it was, he wouldn't have – and a manager who refuses to see that the team have not made any progress over the past five years.
Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech and more have come in, yet, the results and the situation at the end of the season are alarmingly similar – a faux title run and an exit in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Wenger said you need to be a masochist to be a football manager in his latest press conference on Thursday, trying to play the "I am always put under undue pressure" card.
It is easy for a lot of the supporters looking from the outside to wonder: "Crikey, just what are the Arsenal fans always moaning about. They always finish in the top four and they play some wonderful football, the envy of a lot of football clubs."
But then, expectations differ from club to club. Arsenal, like previously mentioned, are one of the biggest clubs in the world and one of the biggest clubs in the world should not just be happy finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League just to participate in it, without every looking capable of winning the title.
Despite the pressure to step down at the end of the season, Wenger, in his latest comments, seemed to suggest he is ready to re-sign and stay with Arsenal for a further two years.
"Of course I am not looking for jobs in other clubs or jobs off other people, I am focused on me, getting to the next level and trying to improve and always trying to see what you can do better and reinvent yourself and that's what I try to do," Wenger told reporters on Friday. "That's basically it.
"I have been here for 20 years and I had many times the opportunity to leave so I don't think I have to convince you that my preference has always been Arsenal.
"But of course I am objective and lucid enough to make the right decision for myself and the club as well. The club is free to make the decision it wants and I will respect that."
Wenger always likes to dangle the "I could have left several times, but I didn't" statement every time he is under pressure or his future is questioned, as if to suggest the fans owe him the same loyalty. And Wenger also knows that when he says "the club is free to make the decision" he is being a little disingenuous. The club are free to make the decision, but everyone knows the club will only make one decision, which is to keep Wenger at the club for as he long as he wants to stay.
Having such powers can sometimes make you a little blind to what's happening around you. Or, not "lucid" enough to make the right decision.
Because if Wenger were to make a "lucid" decision, he would know that the time is ripe and has been for a while to leave Arsenal and look for another challenge. Be that as the director of football at the club or as a manager with another team.
There is a really good chance that if Wenger were to move to, say, Barcelona, he might go on to win many titles, but that will be because he was willing to take up a fresh challenge and not stay locked up and secure in a role that has gone stale and incredibly same.
And again, there is absolutely no guarantee that Arsenal will enjoy instant success, or any kind of success, if a new manager comes in – the owner doesn't care for trophies remember, so the problems run a lot deeper than just the manager – but, at least, the season will be different and as Antonio Conte is showing at Chelsea this season, different is not such a bad thing.