In the 65th minute of Arsenal's defeat to Everton on Sunday, Arsene Wenger made two substitutions. He brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the returning Aaron Ramsey for Lukas Podolski and Mathieu Flamini. Two perfectly reasonable changes, bringing a little more dynamism into the Arsenal team and, of course, reintroducing perhaps their best player of the early part of the season.
The trouble is, it was already 3-0 at the time, and the game was lost. It wasn't as if Arsenal had been suddenly overwhelmed by Roberto Martinez's side and this was his last throw of the dice.
Everton had outplayed Arsenal throughout the first half and were 2-0 up at the break, so if Wenger had changed things at the interval then perhaps he could have made a difference, but by the time he did look to his bench, the game had gone.
This simply adds to the sense that Wenger's time at Arsenal is done. From a side that were still realistic title contenders as recently as February, Arsenal are now nervously clinging onto fourth place, with Sunday's result leaving Everton just a point behind with a game in hand.
Wenger even acknowledged this in his post-match press conference, as quoted by the Guardian:
I am absolutely 100% determined to fight to make the top four but it will be difficult. We have a programme that is feasible. We have to first focus on the quality of our performances before we dream of places. Let's get back to playing better than that.
I wouldn't question the spirit of this team. They are focused and want to do well but they have lost something on the confidence front.
The fight is very open and is depending not only on us. Everton is in a strong position but we have been confronted with that before and it is how we respond.
The problem is that the Arsenal players simply don't seem to respond to Wenger in the same way anymore.
It is possible that the stubbornness that Wenger shows in his refusal to pay over the odds for players (which was of course partly informed by Arsenal's need for parsimony as they paid for the Emirates Stadium) extends to his methods, and that the same things that made him revolutionary after arriving in England back in 1996 are merely standard now.
Everyone else has moved on, but Wenger has stayed the same; which in football is basically the same as going backwards.
Of course the danger is that making a change after one man being in charge for so long could go either way. It could revitalise a squad that has perhaps gone stale as Martinez at Everton seems to have done, or it might simply expose the players at Arsenal's disposal as being inadequate, as we have seen all season at Manchester United.
Wenger's philosophy at Arsenal is to rarely change the approach of his teams, preferring instead to try and impose their own style of play on the opposition. That's fine when things are going well, but when Plan A doesn't work it's difficult to see what his Plan B is. That might simply be because he doesn't have one.
Arsenal are now in a fantastic position to challenge the dominant forces at the top of the table, with the basis of an excellent squad, some superb youngsters coming through and the financial rewards of the now paid for Emirates to back them in the transfer market.
This season most of the established powers in the Premier League have been vulnerable, something that Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool has shown can be exploited, and you don't necessarily need to spend £100 million on players to convincingly challenge for the title. Arsenal have the potential to do that, but it's clear now that such a challenge isn't going to happen under Wenger.
Really hope he wins the cup. Deserves a send off. I’ll never have anything but love for him, but time’s up. Shouldn’t be manager next year.— Arse2Mouse (@arse2mouse) April 6, 2014
Arsenal will be facing Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final. If they win that game, they will play against either Hull or Sheffield United in the final. Arsenal will be, of course, strong favourites to lift their first silverware since 2005.
At one time, that might have looked like the start of something new, a new beginning for Wenger that would galvanise his team to better things.
However, now it's starting to seem like a piece of silverware would actually be the perfect way for Arsene Wenger, the man who built the version of Arsenal we see today, to leave, with the thanks and gratitude of Gooners everywhere.