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Arsene’s going home present is a reminder of drought

OPINION: ‘Invincibles’ trophy presented to Arsenal boss could turn out to be the cruellest gift they could have given him

10 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon

IT’S a shame that Arsenal could not write off the season with its “Merci Arsene” moment, a 5-0 victory against Burnley and then some slightly emotional moments on the pitch. Sunday afternoon had been nicely staged by the club, not over-the-top nor too twee, but a grand enough occasion for even Arsene Wenger’s deep-set doubters to understand that someone special had once walked this way.

Wenger could have taken the bottle of wine warmly handed to him by grateful football journalists in the media lounge, who understand his press conferences provide them with clicks without them having to leave their seats, flashed these hacks a fake smile and then headed off into the distance with one last warm memory of triumph.

But then, almost immediately, the bubble was burst as we were treated to a clanging reminder as to why the manager is leaving the club. An out-of-form Leicester City underlined Arsenal’s cursed ability to pivot between really good and really bad in a matter of days. They can do it in one-off matches, like the FA Cup final or when your manager of 22 years needs an appropriate way to check out of the stadium he helped built. Sure, we know a lot of these players are good enough – just ask the Burnley defence.

But for much of this season and for many that have passed recently they have not been motivated enough to perform consistently as well as they can.

The person who has that job in any club is the manager.

It was not just a bottle from the offy that Wenger was handed on Sunday. The club hauled the gold “invincibles” trophy from the club museum and told him he could take it home with him. It will be sat on the Wenger mantelpiece this morning, gleaming. It was seen as the perfect present for the only manager to have passed through a league season unbeaten. It was a fine, fine achievement and Arsenal had produced the best club side this country has ever seen.

That shiny pot, however, stands as a reminder that it was awarded to the Gunners on the last occasion that the team were champions of the land. Fourteen years will turn into 15 years, and if the Gunners are not careful it could quickly expand to the 28-year drought currently being lived by Liverpool. Spurs have done a stretch of 57 years.

As each year passes, the invincibles trophy reminds us how long it has been. In fact, you can imagine Wenger going home from the Leicester match after yet another away defeat, and staring at the trophy on the wall with hands clenched in rage, yelping for the past. How could a team of invincibles be turned into a team scrapping away in sixth. It may turn out to be the cruellest present they could have given him.

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