Wenger’s departure will finally thrust many Arsenal players into the spotlight.
It was bound to be a very emotional day, as Arsenal’s longest-serving manager took one final bow in front of the Emirates faithful last night. In spite of a shattering semifinal loss to Atletico Madrid just a few days back, Arsenal fans put any simmering feelings of discontent aside to applaud and appreciate one of the greatest managers to have graced our beautiful game.
The match itself was a one-sided affair, as the Arsenal players played some scintillating football to brush aside Burnley’s feeble resistance, and romped to a convincing 5-0 victory. The attention though was on Arsene Wenger, as the Frenchman saw a display that was akin to some of his greatest teams over the last two decades.
The stadium was overflowing with emotion at the end of the match, as Wenger soaked in the applause and addressed the fans for one final time. But while the fans cheered Wenger as he took his lap of honour, there were many fans who were not too impressed by several members in the current Arsenal squad.
For the past eighteen months, Wenger has faced an enormous amount of flak from the Arsenal fans, as everyone attributed Arsenal’s woes to the ineptitude of the manager. But while Wenger should certainly shoulder a lot of blame, there is a sense that many players have hid behind Wenger, as the manager faced the brunt of the criticism.
The likes of Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Granit Xhaka, Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi to name a few, have not performed anywhere near to their potential, as Wenger often protected them and deflected criticism from his players.
Arsenal as a team are filled with excellent players, but far too these players go missing in those crunch situations. Eighteen months ago, Hector Bellerin was touted as the most promising right back in world football. Today there are rumours that Arsenal are willing to let sell him to the highest bidder in the summer.
Cech has visibly deteriorated from his previously exceptional levels, while the likes of Xhaka, Iwobi, and Mustafi have not kicked on as expected. Mesut Ozil is the polarizing case in itself, as the mercurial midfielder is unplayable one day and then downright awful the next.
With a new manager next season, these players will no longer have Wenger’s shield in front of them, which is why they will need to really step up and put in the performances that a big club like Arsenal demands of.
Lots to look forward to next season!