I remember the day in 2001, when I received the keys to my Dodge Shadow. She was staying still with occasional glances of sunlight reflecting through her tinted eyes. I realized at the time this was a lifelong bond in the making. When you drive an ancient and scruffy car, as I did, and with no disrespect to my panther (her name) that I assume is resting in peace after passing away a few years ago, you just try to make the best of it. Numerous are the times where I had boasted about how she had come through in various situations, how she had survived through it all and how she looked prettier on the road as compared to the generation after her. But, I always knew that there would come a day, when I would have to let go.
Similar is the relationship of a true Gunner with its gaffer Arsène Wenger, and what I mean by a true Gunner is the one who had stood by thick and thin with the club and had never flaked based on performances. Only a few of them exist among the Gunner faithful, in current times.
After twenty years at the realm, the Frenchman still manages to command a style of play that only a few of his compatriots adhere to. Though, the club has failed to cough up the wins that many desire, when you watch Arsenal play, regardless of your allegiance, you are sure to be entertained by those quick offensive attacks coupled with intricate ball possession.
In current times, the Gunners and Arsène have built up a perfect kind of perceptive disagreement. Surely things might go on as they always have, indeterminately. After all, Arsène has been reliable and does not carry a lot of baggage. His ability to experiment with the youth will always have many of us appreciate him.
“Young players need freedom of expression to develop as creative players… they should be encouraged to try skills without fear of failure.” – Arsène Wenger.
But, there will always come a tipping point. One day, your panther runs smoothly on the fresh pint that you had just venerated her with, the next you see her coughing black smoke on a perfectly gorgeous day.
For Arsène, it seems like this could be it. After years of maintaining the fabled fourth position in the league, many are questioning his ability to take them to the finish line. Few of his decisions in recent games have raised some concerns of the 66-year-old’s cognitive ability leading us to believe that there might be a change in the horizon. But not all of the liability goes to Arsène. The club’s desire to succeed on the commercial end globally made up for the overall strategic slip-ups coupled with lack of resources, at times.
On the brighter side, Arsenal is not in as bad of a shape as my car was, where the emergency brakes were non-functioning, the seatbelt was a makeshift piece of cloth, and the side mirror had to be secured by borrowed pieces of duct tape. Gunners are still sitting comfortably in third behind unlikely title contenders.
It is clear that Arsène had been the right man for the job for ages. He managed to replace broken or worn out ends and piece the squad back together, every season. For Arsène, considering his tenure at the club I’d say he does not owe Arsenal anything.
Yet, it is time for the club to get back on the winning road, amid an evidently creeping melancholy. For so long Arsène has been the ‘Gaffer’, the leader before the leaders. Those long tiered jackets, the supportive accent, the occasional FA bashes with hidden reserves of brilliance. Never. He is just an average man who was brought in to do his job.
He is only a man just like my ‘Panther’ was a car; hence there is no point in being emotional. After all, there will always be another. For now, as I slowly peel off the “I voted” sticker off the aura that is Arsène, it is known that he will always be a part of the Gunner family.