Things change when you start to lose. It’s like the ground gives way beneath you and you can do nothing to reverse the slide. And for a football manager, decisions you make always seem to be wrong.
I’ve always been a great Arsene Wenger admirer. And I still am. I acknowledge that now might be a good time for him to move on, but it must be his own decision. And it must be when the board are ready for him to leave, with a suitable successor in place (and ‘suitable successor’ absolutely does not include Diego Simeone – a good manager, but it’d be like asking Stephen Hawking to write a poetry collection: Wenger and Simeone come from two very different schools of thought).
In the meantime, he is still there. And his achievements of the last 20 years still stand. But now, because it’s the ‘in thing’, he is criticised for any and every decision.
As a case in point, I switched on the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary for Arsenal’s game against Manchester City today. Martin Keown was criticising Wenger’s decision to bring on Olivier Giroud, citing Alex Iwobi as a ‘more mobile’ option.
Now I agree with the point in principle – but I can say with relative confidence that he would not have made that criticism if they were coming off the back of a 10 match unbeaten run. Decisions like that can’t be right or wrong. Who’s to say that Giroud won’t come on and score a spectacular scorpion kick?
Criticism mounts up in the same way that defeats do. The longer the losing run, the greater the scrutiny and the easier it is to pick things out for criticism. Even things which, for anyone else, might be deemed a stroke of genius.
But just because something’s fashionable, doesn’t mean it’s right. Look at the mullet. That was fashionable. And whilst criticising Wenger is in vogue for pundits everywhere, I still think we should be wary of going overboard.