As referee Anthony Taylor blew the full-time whistle of the FA Cup final lon May 27, Arsenal players instantly tore into their celebratory moves.
And why wouldn’t they? Their 2-1 win, despite the controversial opening goal, and against an opponent still clearly hungover from their own league triumph, was largely deserved.
But by watching the sea of red at Wembley, one got the feeling that it’s not just the Gunners who were in festive mood.
In fact, Arsenal’s record 13th FA Cup triumph was celebrated by the entire Premier League fraternity, for this consolation ensured that their manager Arsene Wenger stays at the club.
A week later and as expected, Wenger was handed a new contract, not just for one but two more seasons. This, in Arsenal terms, means two more seasons of mediocre acquisitions, promised title tilts, eventual failures before settling for consolatory comforts.
While Arsenal fans may have celebrated their latest FA Cup wholeheartedly, it by no means means that another miserable season has been forgiven or forgotten.
Plenty has happened in the recent past that suggests the fans of this once top London club are far from happy from the conduct of their club’s manager. Such as this:
Time to say goodbye
Some sections of the Gooners, as they like themselves to be called, have been murmuring for a change for several years now, although the first concrete sign of a mutiny was seen outside the Emirates Stadium at final match day of the 2015-16 season.
Before that season-ending game, Arsenal were trailing their arch-nemesis Tottenham on the league table for the first time in God knows how long. This is when Gooners, for the first time, spoke explicitly and vociferously against their long serving manager, asking him to ‘say goodbye’.
Spurs, dejected by their failed title challenge, lost their game whereas Arsenal won theirs, delaying the realization of their worst nightmare, if only for a year.
No new contract
During the summer of 2016, the club pacified the fans by splashing the cash they had previously only eked out on the likes of Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez.
But by winter, even that £100m outlay proved insufficient as the wheels started to come off in typical Arsenal fashion.
No longer in contention for the league due to Chelsea’s form, Arsenal fans were left hoping for a respectable Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich. Surely, even the possibility of beating the Bavarian behemoths was beyond Arsenal’s scope, but the fans would’ve sufficed with a battling display.
What they wouldn’t settle for, however, was a humiliating 5-1 mauling. Not just once, but twice. Not just in the hostile conditions of Allianz Arena but at the home comforts of Emirates Stadium.
The fact that the change in venue failed to bring a change in Arsenal performance was proof that Arsenal, under Wenger, was broken.
Round two of protesting began, with the fans this time demanding from the board to not hand Wenger an extension.
It went from worse to very, very worse for Wenger 10 days later when his charges were routed 3-1.
Superficially, it could’ve been considered an improvement since Arsenal defence leaked two less than what they were used to by now — thanks to Zee Germans. But in reality that 3-1 came against the not-so-mighty West Brom at the Hawthorns. The West Brom that is coached by the genius Tony Pulis…NOT!
To make matters more interesting, that match also saw an airplane flying above the stadium and towing a banner that read: ‘No Contract #Wenger Out’.
Minutes later, a pro-Wenger fan group sent another plane with the message ‘In Arsene We Trust #RespectAW’, but damage had been done by then. Mutiny had reached the sky. Quite literally.
Since then, supporters have parked a van carrying anti-Wenger quotes outside the Emirates Stadium, showed up with more such placards at the club’s training ground and even boycotted some of club’s home matches.
Their friend-turned-foe, however, has remained unmoved.
In fact, after the FA Cup win, he went on the offensive, lambasting those who stood opposed to his reign of repeated let-downs.
“The lack of respect from some has been a disgrace and I will never accept that,” said a visibly riled-up Wenger. “I will never forget it. The behaviour of some people during the season, that is what hurts me most.
“It’s not my person that is hurt but the impeccable image of the club around the world. That kind of behaviour does not reflect what Arsenal is.”
That tone and those words aren’t of a man who gives two hoots of what the fans think. They reek of a stubborn dictator who will not bend, who will not change and who will keep on delivering those fourth-place finishes to go with cups no one truly cares of.
Arsene Wenger, at age 67, is incapable of change. And if the fans want to get rid of him, they’ll have to up the ante, considerably.