COMMENT By Alex Taylor
The best managers in the world rarely go out with a whimper.
Few will forget the scenes on Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game at Old Trafford; United had already won the Premier League, 70,000 fans were on their feet to greet him as he entered the stadium, and if supporters weren’t sat inside the Sir Alex Ferguson stand cheering him on, they were outside the ground admiring his statue.
That day saw the Red Devils play out the only ever 5-5 all draw in the history of the Premier League on their manager’s 1,500th game in charge, a fitting end to an incredible era of success.
No one will look back at say it wasn’t the right time to go. It was.
The focus now though has turned to the possibly imminent departure of another great manager in Arsene Wenger.
Admitting this week that his future “will depend a little bit on how the season goes”, the first cracks perhaps in an armoury that has never once considered the potential for failure in 20-years of management in north London.
The somewhat nervous approach to this season is understandable. Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista are both sidelined for months, their chief goal-scoring threat in Oliver Giroud is not match fit, Jack Wilshere is out with yet another injury and confidence around the Emirates is low.
Yet Wenger has never been one to listen to other people’s opinion.
Despite the obvious hurdles that will have to be jumped this season, his drive and ambition remains unquestionable.
If the Frenchman is even for a moment considering life beyond the club he has shaped and sculpted for the best part of two decades, then his thoughts will be focused solely on finishing in style.
He will look around at his domestic counterparts in Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte and see not the arriving superstars or great Champions League winning managers, but clubs in an immense period of transition.
Chelsea have nine places to climb next season if they are to prevent the Gunners from winning the league, a far cry from the one place Arsenal must scale.
The Manchester clubs will have enormous challenges to overcome throughout the season too, accommodating Jose Mourinho will prove difficult enough, but an £89million player in Paul Pogba as well? It may all prove too much too soon.
City will have similar issues, granted Guardiola has a somewhat cooler head than Mourinho, but the future of Yaya Toure and the form of David Silva are questions upon which any title race could turn.
Seldom have we questioned this Arsenal side’s talent and ability, but more their passion and fight.
With a solid base and a manager desperate to prove his relevance in the modern era of football, what better grounding is there for Arsenal to push for domestic glory, and give Wenger the title winning finale he deserves?
It may well be a season of basics; consistency, determination and patience. In that sense you wouldn’t rule Arsenal out, in-fact – they might just be favourites.
In other Arsenal news, the Gunners will kick off their Premier League campaign against Liverpool on Sunday with a weakened team after availabilities wrecked by injury and the match fitness of key men.