Wenger: Time to Go?

It’s a question that not only now divides Arsenal fans, but one that has spread throughout English football.

It goes without saying that the 67-year-old has tasted his fair share of success during his 21 year spell with the North London outfit, but as the 2016/17 season draws to a close, Arsene Wenger seems to be on the verge of his worst league finish in charge. After suffering a humiliating 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Last 16, and a string of poor performances in the league, the FA Cup once again appears to be the only piece of silverware that Arsenal are competing for.

Arsenal-fans-fighting

Images of Arsenal fans fighting amongst themselves surface following 2-2 draw at Home against Manchester City in April

The fans have become ever more vocal about their decisions this season, with some protesting during their 3-1 away defeat to West Brom by having 2 separate banners fly over the Hawthorns via plane, which prompted calls saying that the fans were making the club a laughing stock.

One plane held the message “No New Contract #WengerOut”, whilst the second stated “In Arsene We Trust #RespectAW”, showing that the Frenchman clearly divides opinion within the fans, and now pundits and fans from outside the club are weighing in with their opinions on the matter.

The Reality is that after 21 years, Arsene Wenger has won just 9 Major competitions, compared to long running rival, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who delivered 28 trophies in his 26 years in England. He has lead them through the incredible feat of an unbeaten title winning season in 2003/04 and has also delivered Champions League football each and every season that he has been at the club, which is still a monumental achievement in the English game.

But Arsenal’s move to the Emirates in 2007 was a step in the direction to secure their place as one of the top European football clubs, yet that is still to materialise, with 7 consecutive seasons of Last 16 defeats in the Champions League, none more humiliating than the 10-2 drubbing on aggregate that Wenger’s side suffered this season, proving that they are still looking to improve on their European form, with their best finish in the tournament coming in 2006 where they were defeated by Barcelona in Paris. But is there more to it than just Wenger’s management, are the players pulling their weight in the big games?

I believe that Wenger’s time at Arsenal is up, and that Arsenal should begin to plan a future without the man that has helped shape them into the side they are today, but I also believe that he deserves much more respect than he is being granted by the fans given the years of service he has put into the club.

The main question then looks onto who Wenger’s replacement could be, with the current bookies favourite being Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri. Despite him losing just 20 of his 152 Juventus games in all competitions since 2014, he has only ever managed in Italy, and it may take him time to adapt to the English game, however this has not been the case in Antonio Conte’s opening Premier League campaign, with Chelsea looking set to win their 5th Premier League title.

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A New Era?

The opening weekend of April saw some of the Worlds Strongest Athletes head to Leeds to compete for the title of Europe’s Strongest Man.

Despite his shock result just 9 months previous, Laurence Shahlaei pulled out due to illness, meaning that a new champion would have to be crowned. With Hafthor Julius Bjornsson winning the competition in 2014 & 2015, he came in as a firm favourite despite being diagnosed with Bells Palsy just days before the competition, causing a temporary paralysis of the face.

Britain’s record breaking Eddie Hall also came in hoping to prove himself as one of the best strongmen competitors in the World in the same arena in which he broke the deadlift record, following his continuous improvement that saw him land a 3rd place finish in Worlds just last summer despite dislocating 2 fingers prior to even competing in the opening event, and with legendary Zydrunas Savickas out again with injury, the title was everybody’s to win.

The event not only allowed us to see who could win the battle of strength, but it also showed just how far the sport of strongman has come over the years. A sold out 11,000 seat arena filled to the brim for a sport that is rarely aired or even spoken about shows that there is a growing interest in possibly one of the most impressive sports around, especially as this is the largest crowd for an event of this type.. If this continual growth continues I can see many more sponsors wanting in, and therefore opening more opportunities for promising talent to have a chance to break through, and hopefully allowing for more accessible viewing, as despite the Worlds Strongest Man contest being held in the summer, it is not shown on TV until Christmas time, meaning that the results are leaked before people have the opportunity to watch the action unfold, lowering the interest in watching.

The events tested each and every aspect of a strongman’s game, with events such as a Bus Pull, flipping a 450kg tire 4 times followed by dragging a giant anchor and chain back down the course, the Axle Press (In which Eddie Hall broke yet another world record, by pressing 216kg over his head, 1kg more than the on looking Zydrunas Zavickas’ previous record) and was finished off in true strongman style with the Atlas Stones.

Despite the efforts of the chasing pack, Thor won a record 3rd title, pipping Hall by just 2 points, and with ‘The Comeback King’ Terry Hollands finishing in an impressive 3rd place ahead of Georgian Konstantine Janashia, who starred in the 2016 Worlds Strongest Man and certainly has a promising future in the sport. Following his early exit due to illness, Laurence Shahlaei’s title defence end after just 3 events, as he finished in 8th place.

This competition has been the perfect warm up for the athletes ahead of Worlds that are set to be held in Botswana for the second successive year, and gives us a good idea of where abouts the European Competitors are in terms of performance, as Thor and Co look to prevent the ever improving Brian Shaw winning a record equalling 5th Worlds Title.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @CurtTaylor97