Has Arsene Wenger been fired as manager of Arsenal yet? No.
(How about now? Not yet? OK, I'll check back in a few paragraphs.)
Arsenal fans have been clamoring for their deep-pocketed but spend-thrifty owners to finally jettison the manager in favor of new blood, new energy and a better chance at winning a title. Arsenal fans, perhaps the most passionate and loyal lot in England, have become spoiled brats.
Did you know Arsenal haven't won a trophy in more than eight years? Talk to any Arsenal fan and it's the first thing they mention. Eight years? Some clubs have been waiting eight decades.
With a down season in the Barclays Premier League—more on that in a moment—and the demoralizing FA Cup loss to Championship side Blackburn followed by the 3-1 home thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Arsenal will once again finish yet another campaign without any silverware (barring an incredible showing in Munich).
Yes, Arsenal have played poorly over the last week, and their fifth-place standing in the EPL table puts them in a tenuous position to return to the Champions League next season. Things are not great at the Emirates right now, I'll grant that.
Fans have the right to be frustrated. It's just that yelling on social media or in print or on TV about firing Wenger this week/today/right now/before the end of this sentence seems to show an utter lack of perspective for how the other half has lived during his tenure.
Wenger was hired at Arsenal in August of 1996. While he has not led the Gunners to a major championship in the last eight years—something that cannot be overlooked or understated—he has won three EPL titles and four FA Cups during his time with Arsenal. Of the current managers in the EPL, only Sir Alex Ferguson is more accomplished.
Since Wenger took over at Arsenal, the club has qualified for the Champions League 15 straight times, advancing to the knockout stage in each of the last 10 seasons. If you listen to the average Arsenal fan—or even the reasonable critics—they'd be happy to see Wenger removed from his post before the club even gets a chance to play their Round of 16 return at Allianz Arena.
That logic doesn't seem fair.
Now, does anyone on the planet think Arsenal can go into hostile territory and beat Bayern Munich 3-0 or 4-1? That would be quite the upset, for certain. More than likely, Arsenal's time in the Champions League is a mere 90 minutes away from being over for another year. The last chance for a title has escaped Wenger's grasp again, and Arsenal fans have had enough.
(So, wait…has Wenger been fired yet? That last paragraph was pretty damning.)
Arsenal last won the FA Cup in 2004-05, the same year they finished second in the EPL behind Chelsea and the last major title the club has won under Wenger. The last time Arsenal won the EPL was in 2003-04, hoisting the trophy for the third time under Wenger. With the drought nearing a decade, Arsenal fans are going stir-crazy.
Since Arsenal last won the EPL, just three other clubs have etched their names in history.
In the nine seasons since Arsenal won the Premier League crown, Chelsea have taken home three titles, Manchester United have won four titles (on pace to win a fifth this season) and Manchester City brought home the title last season. In that time, United and Arsenal are the only two teams to finish in the top four every single season (note: Chelsea did not finish in the top four last season but still qualified for Champions League after winning last year's tournament).
Arsenal have been consistently great under Wenger, if not elite enough to beat the three billion-dollar super clubs who have won all the recent EPL titles.
Would Arsenal fans really rather be Manchester City, paying beyond their means to create a winner at the risk of crippling the franchise for the future? Does anyone think the spending at City is sustainable, even if the title run helped them to cut their debt from nearly half a billion to a mere $160 million? Is that really what Arsenal fans want: a trophy by any and every means necessary, future be damned?
(I'm hearing a lot of people yelling "yes." Yes, dammit, yes. Has Wenger been fired yet? Clearly, that's not what he's done.)
Fans were apoplectic when Wenger and those clenching the Arsenal purse strings let Robin van Persie leave for Manchester United, decrying the loss as a death knell for Wenger and the club. (He should have been fired right then!) Instead, he signed Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud to reasonable deals and then extended Theo Walcott with a long-term contract, ensuring the star winger would stay at Arsenal for the foreseeable future.
There are 16 other EPL clubs who would die for that kind of offensive power, leaving out the likes of Gervinho and burgeoning young star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. How many other clubs would prefer to have Jack Wilshere manning their midfield or a defense that has given up fewer goals in the EPL this season than all but two clubs, while outscoring 17 other clubs?
(Where's the trophy for goal differential?! Fire Wenger now!)
This is a down year, and Wenger could be fired, leaving the next manager a talented, youth-laden core and time to let them jell. The next manager will get time to let the players jell, won't he? Probably not; there are trophies to be won.
Look, I'm not actually suggesting Arsenal keep Wenger around forever, as perhaps it is time for a fresh approach. If that old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," then Arsenal fans really need to reassess their definition of the term "broke."
Broke? That's what the teams in Europe who overpay for players in a never-ending chase for silver are. Broke is a team like Everton, unable to replace star players who sign at clubs like Arsenal, hoping to find a gem in lower European leagues and relying on deep-level youth scouting to field a competitive team.
(Oh boy, now I have Arsenal fans salivating at what David Moyes could do with their talent. Has Wenger been fired yet?)
It's understandable to see why Arsenal fans are frustrated. A decade ago, they were the kings of England, so to speak, and now they've gone more than eight seasons without tasting that glory. It's right to be frustrated, and the manager is always the target of that frustration. Still, the grass on the pitch is pretty green when you look at the other EPL clubs.
Since Wenger was hired at Arsenal, just two of the other 19 clubs in the EPL this season have employed fewer than five managers (these numbers do not include former—and perhaps future—EPL clubs that have been relegated).
Six different current EPL clubs have employed 10 or more managers since 1996—that doesn't include caretaker managers, which puts some totals over 20 different men to manage their clubs in the last 15 years—while another nine clubs have employed at least seven managers in the last 15 years.
Only Ferguson has been at his club longer than Wenger. The next-longest-tenured manager in the EPL this season is Moyes, who was hired in 2002. After him, it's Tony Pulis, who signed on for his second stint at Stoke City in June of 2006, and after him, no current manager of an EPL club was hired before 2009, with many of the names shifting from one top-flight club to the next over the last decade-and-a-half.
Is that what Arsenal fans want? They want Harry Redknapp for a year before Alan Pardew takes over for three before Martin Jol gets a go before fill-in-the blank manager wins the fans over with an FA Cup title in advance of the owners getting fed up with retreads and firing him to bring in the next great Mauricio Pochettino in an effort to change the club's fortunes halfway through a down campaign?
(Do Arsenal fans reading those names still want Wenger fired?)
Of course, Arsenal are in another tax bracket from the likes of Southampton or Fulham or QPR or even Newcastle. Arsenal would more likely be in the market for a more high-profile manager. Maybe Jose Mourinho will take over at the Emirates. (Has that rumor started yet? It probably has.)
I promise this is not an attempt at a defense of Wenger, more a modicum of perspective for those screaming for his ouster right now. Your grass is pretty damn green.
That said, Wenger isn't dumb, so he knows how frustrated the fans are and that he needs to win something soon or the club will have no choice but to move on. He should be thankful he doesn't manage the likes of Chelsea, who have gone through a dozen managers in the last 15 years, including seven different stewards since Mourinho left in 2007.
He should be thankful he doesn't manage, say, Manchester City, who have been looking for a reason to sack Roberto Mancini when he actually won the league title just last season.
It could be worse for Wenger. It could also be worse for Arsenal. Maybe the two really are meant for each other.