In the 2003-04 season Arsenal finished the year as the champions of England in a sensational campaign that saw them finish on 90 points without losing a single game.
Arsene Wenger had successfully assembled a blend of an experienced squad that had peaked and gelled with the influx of talented youth to strike a cohesive balance that saw this generation of Arsenal players become known as “The Invincibles”.
With Thierry Henry in irresistible form with 30 goals and the aptitude of players like Bergkamp, Vieira, Keown, Campbell, Cole, Pires, Ljungberg, Parlour and Kanu, Arsenal were an extraordinary outfit that had strength in depth, flair, pace, creativity and discipline in defence.
The only thing preventing that Arsenal side retaining their title was the astonishing cheek of a sugar daddy-aided Chelsea side that lost one game in the 2004-05 campaign, finishing on 95 points.
Fast forward to the current day and Arsenal lie off the pace of the Champions League places, have lost hope of challenging for the league and are rooted in a frustrating cycle of form that has opened the doors to an unwanted record; the club’s longest goalless run for 15 years.
And even though a commanding win against a sub par West Brom side has massaged the nerves, many are still questionable of their ability to maintain consistency or challenge the top sides.
Talk of crisis has never been so rife in the presence of their magnificent manager and some of the Gunners faithful are still calling for drastic changes at the club. But the indenting truth of the matter is that Arsenal are nowhere near capable of reaching the high standards set by the fans, and they should be prepared to ride the wave of a transitional period to see their team reach great heights again.
It’s the modern age of football to call for the manager’s head when things go wrong, impatience takes precedence and instant gratification is demanded.
Put simply, what has been happening at Arsenal for the past three seasons is a transitional period.
The process of fading out the old successful squad, and building a new one to excel to greater heights in the future. That process requires losing games or drawing them, learning what it takes to win, striking a balance in the team and learning from mistakes.
It requires transfers of several players in and out of the club, financial backing from the board, and the experimentation of youth players and most importantly, it requires patience and support from the fans.
After a quick glance at the team sheet from Arsenal v. Fulham on Saturday, and the team sheet from the same game in the 2003-04 season, how can fans booing their lungs out expect anywhere near the same kind of success?
Where is the striker capable of finishing on 30 goals a season? Where is the experience in midfield to coordinate the pace and build effective attacks? Where is the experience and solidarity in defence to prevent conceding to so called lesser teams?
Imbalance, experimentation and a lack of experience is necessary to find a team capable of challenging for the top honours again and without a man who knows how to orchestrate that transition, success is extremely unlikely. So sacking Wenger should be the last option.
Arsenal fans need only look as far as Manchester United for inspiration of what can happen when fans are ready to put faith in major alterations that take a long period of time. When "The Invincibles” were crowned champions is 2003-04, Man Utd would finish third for two consecutive seasons.
A host of players came and went in their droves between then and the next time they won the title including Bellion, Djemba Djemba, Kleberson, Veron, Forlan, Miller, Howard, Richardson, and many others.
Today Sir Alex Ferguson boasts a squad that is now being considered as capable of winning five trophies in a single season. In between that juxtaposition was patience by fans and a belief and trust in that the manager was capable of building a team that was once again ready to be a realistic force in the competitions it entered, given the right amount of time.
For Arsenal’s current predicament it can steer in one of two directions. Either the fans concede that their team is not yet ready to exceed their overambitious expectations and give the process time to come good in the trust that Arsene Wenger will once again succeed in trying to build a great team.
The alternative is to drive him out and leave a half-baked project that will only be hindered further by the arrival of a different manager who will ultimately have different ideas, ambitions, and direction.
There are no objections that Arsenal will be ready to win the league again soon. But that ultimately depends on how soon the fans want that to be. Force Wenger out and it will take longer: Trust in his experience, his judgement, and his track record, and the Gunners could be on the cusp of the glory days once more.
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