The Arsene Wenger fan club’s member count was sent on yet another downward spiral on Sunday, as the Gunners surrendered their control in the race for fourth place to Everton.
The Toffees ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Goodison Park, leaving Arsenal with just one win in their last six league matches at a time of the season where the men are separated from the boys.
Wenger has won 11 trophies during his time in North London, but none since the 2004-05 season, and the pressure is beginning to mount on the Frenchman.
Arsenal sit just one place and one point ahead of Everton in the Premier League table, but Roberto Martinez’s side crucially have a game in hand heading into the final stretch.
The last time Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League was in the 1997-98 season, at a time when Wenger was an exciting new manager in his late 40s, as Champions League revealed via Twitter:
A total of 16 seasons and 60 grey hairs later for Wenger, that record looks under serious threat with Everton nipping at Arsenal’s heels, and the French manager voiced his concerns in an interview with John Edwards of MailOnline:
Was there a lack of fight? You could say that. It is a massive worry to lose a game like that. We have to analyse it well and come back with a different attitude, with more personality and stronger challenges. We have to go back to basics. Everton are in a strong position now and it is right to say we have struggled in games like this and the one at Liverpool. I am absolutely 100 per cent determined to fight and make the top four, but it will be difficult.
The Gunners have endured a free fall in form since the turn of the year, which BBC Sporf’s Twitter feed was quick to acknowledge following Sunday's defeat:
Wenger went on to say there could be several contributing factors to Arsenal’s poor recent spell, per Edwards:
We have lost something in terms of confidence and you could see that. We looked a bit disjointed when we had to chase the game. I don’t know whether it is fear we might miss out (on fourth place), but the big defeats we’ve had away from home do seem to have taken some of the charisma away from us. Is it fear, confidence, belief? Maybe it’s all those things together. We were not convincing, either defensively or offensively. It was massively disappointing.
Arsenal have lost all their games against the Premier League’s top five away from home this season by a considerable margin, with the 3-0 defeat at Everton the joint closest they’ve come to picking up points.
Such dismal form has even got under the skin of club legend Ian Wright, who has always been a supporter of Wenger ever since he played under him during the start of the Frenchman’s reign in North London.
Wright said Everton’s Martinez is the right man for the Arsenal job during an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, as reported by Graeme York of MailOnline:
That's the kind of manager that you want, a good young manager that has proven himself tactically, he knows what he's doing. It's got to be that kind of man, Roberto Martinez, he's the perfect one. If someone was to ask me who I want, I'd say Roberto Martinez. That's the kind of manager you've got to be looking at to take Arsenal forward.
Martinez is on the verge of orchestrating Everton’s best top-flight points haul in 25 years, and there are no arguments that the Spaniard has the managerial credentials to lead any Premier League side to glory.
Wenger has just six matches (including the FA Cup) to turn his fortunes around or it may be curtains for the long-serving manager. Next up for Arsenal is a trip to Wembley to take on Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup semi-final, where a loss would see the Gunners fail to take silverware for the ninth straight season.
Wenger has led his Arsenal side incredibly throughout his tenure, but with the class he has at his disposal, he really should have been putting together something special this season.
Take nothing away from Everton, though. The Toffees deserve their shot at competing amongst Europe’s elite, and with the fixtures that they have on the run-in, betting against them would take a lot of bravery.