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#WENGEROUT Actually... This Is Not A Joke

wenger 3Early Friday morning, soccer fans awoke to the news that Arsene Wenger, long-time manager of  English Premier League club Arsenal FC, had announced that he will step down from his post at the end of the season. WOW. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. As much as this shouldn’t be a surprise, it is.

“After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season. I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years,” he said. I still can’t believe what I’m reading. Love him or hate him, the Frenchman did so much for Arsenal, and will walk as the greatest-ever manager in club history.

The Frenchman was largely credited with revolutionizing English football, despite being unknown in England when he was appointed in 1996. Wenger led the club to a domestic double in 1998, the first of three league titles and seven FA Cups he has delivered over his 22 years at the helm. He will largely be remembered for managing the 2003-2004 Arsenal team nicknamed “The Invincibles” after it went through the season undefeated with 26 wins and 12 draws. He also played a pivotal role in moving the club from Highbury to it’s current grounds at Emirates Stadium. Arsene Wenger has been synonymous with Arsenal.

The thing is, for a club as big as Arsenal, fourteen years without a Premier League title isn’t good enough – fans around the world were overly disgruntled. It was a recent run of doing “well-enough,” but with constantly settling on what would regularly be a 4th place league finish. That’s by no means bad, it’s pretty incredible to have that level of consistency in the fluctuating world of sports, it’s just not good enough for a club with Arsenal’s size of purse-strings.

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Still, even with years and years of #WengerOut cries, signs, and pleading from fans, absolutely nothing happened. In fact, Wenger was regularly rewarded with mind-boggling contract extensions (finishing out of the top 4 last season, yet won FA Cup = 2 year extension). In a sport where managers are sacked on the spot when the wind blows the wrong way, somehow Wenger was untouchable. Gooners wanted a trophy. They wanted the league. And even when they were upset with a perennial 4th place finish, if only they knew how much worse it could get. Welcome to 2018, where things reached a tipping point this season – was it when Arsenal failed to make Champions League for the first time in 19 seasons? When they lost to Nottingham Forest to drop out of FA Cup in the 3rd round – the only trophy the Gunners seemed capable of winning – or even casual weekend blows to Brighton & Hove, Ostersunds FC, Bournemouth, nestling into 6th place in the EPL (with Burnley a close clip behind), losing Alexis Sanchez, or failing to secure any away wins in 2018, etc., etc.

The season isn’t over yet, and Arsenal is remarkably in the semi-final of the Europa League taking on Atletico Madrid, with the potential of securing a Champions League berth if they win the tournament. Imagine that, Arsene Wenger sailing off into the sunset getting Arsenal back into the Champions League saying “this is what you fuckers wanted right?!”

As an Arsenal supporter, I feel bittersweet. Here’s this icon who has done so much for the club, fans, English football, but who hasn’t been good for a while, who has the club currently in a dire position, but my mind tracks back to – is he still better than what’s out there? Remember when Sir Alex Ferguson retired and David Moyes took over and the dumpster fire that ensued? What if that happens with Arsenal? Maybe the saying will be right – that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t… Unless…

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Patrick Vieira. Arsenal Legend. France National Team Legend. Current coach of NYCFC in MLS. He’s been coaching David Villa, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, not to mention young players like Jack Harrison, Yangel Herrera, Jonathan Lewis. He’s in Manchester City’s system, and spent time with the mothership in England learning and working with one of the best managers out there, who just won the Premier League – Pep Guardiola. He can show he can win, win at Yankee Stadium, deal with travel, egos, media (me stalking him), and playoff system (meh could use some work in that area). He would be perfect. Is he the right choice right now? Not sure, I almost don’t want to ruin Vieira with the crazy expectations of replacing Wenger right away, but there’s not a much better time to come in with low pressure on your shoulders than when a worrisome clash with Burnley is on the horizon.

Arsene Wenger will be remembered for so much that he did – and recently, didn’t do – with the club. It’s a bittersweet ending, and one that will certainly be celebrated in the coming matches as we say goodbye to a storied past and hello to an uncertain future.

The only people more sad about the news of Wenger’s departure are Spurs fans, which is certainly a happy ending.