James Lawton: Old invincibility now only serves to haunt Wenger

The tyranny of results invariably exerts itself. For Arsène Wenger it is now knocking on his door

One of Arsène Wenger's most passionate admirers, Arsenal's old Double-winning goalkeeper Bob Wilson, has rather brought matters to a head. While charging the media with an active, pernicious conspiracy against the great manager, he wonders, disdainfully, about their idea of a replacement.

Loyalty is a wonderful quality but it doesn't always place you slap bang in the middle of reality.

Really, is it still an irreplaceable Wenger? The concept, let's face it, may have served its time, however dismal a statement this makes about the durability of respect for brilliant achievement in modern football.

The truth, painful though it may be to all those who have for so long held the embattled Frenchman in the highest esteem, is that if the man who fashioned and inspired the unbeatable side of 2004 was utterly indispensable, the same cannot be said, at least with anything like the same confidence, of the one wearing his clothes seven years later.

Of course, it is tempting to believe that Wenger can recreate some of that old aura – and certainly it is no hardship acknowledging the superb principles he has followed in transferring the team he once lifted so sublimely to the splendours of the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger's approach is more than a business model. It is a moral statement. Unfortunately, something more is required.

It is the competitive edge which he once produced with such casual elegance of mind and action that he might have been meeting a challenge no greater than turning the page of his morning newspaper. This is not the picture we have now. It is of a man driven into a most discouraging corner, one who has just lost in Cesc Fabregas one great protégé to Barcelona and understands that another, Samir Nasri, is preparing to leave with much unfinished business at the ground where he was so quickly celebrated. Like every other manager at every level of the game, Wenger no doubt is buoyed by recurring hope, in his case that Jack Wilshere will justify the belief that he is the English player of his generation by some distance, that the mantle of Fabregas will be worn without a flicker of self-doubt and that Aaron Ramsey will be another proven example of an unrivalled flair for identifying exceptional talent.

Maybe Gervinho's skill will quickly dismiss the memory of his catastrophic misjudgement at St James' Park last weekend and perhaps, like a besieged conjuror, Wenger will at the last moment produce a white rabbit with some propensity to defend.

Still, it is idle to ignore the odds building against Wenger's ability to maintain any sense that Arsenal remain one of the more serious forces at the top of English and European football. Increasingly voluble voices say that Wenger has been encouraged to buy by the board but that he continues to sit in the face of a menacing tide. Certainly, there were reasons for concern this week when the great prize of Champions League revenue, under Wenger for so long such a seamless source of major income, was put under threat by Udinese – and at the end of the game was protected by someone as raw as young Carl Jenkinson.

Wenger's achievements scarcely need listing here. But none of them removes him from the obligation that sooner or later confronts the greatest of football managers. It is the need not only to win but also to make an indisputable case for such a possibility.

Rightly, Chelsea were castigated for their treatment of Carlo Ancelotti, sent on his way a season after winning the Double. But sooner or later, the tyranny of results invariably exerts itself. For Wenger, six years after his last trophy, it is only now knocking lightly on his door.

This may outrage his admirers, may provoke that talk of conspiracy and envy and a colossal lack of understanding about the weight of the manager's contribution to the life and the horizons of the club, but it hardly offends a truth that in football cannot be ultimately denied.

Sooner or later all the great managers are required to show their teams are moving forward. When they cannot do this, they are reminded that the greatest achievements in football have never proofed a man against the possibility of being asked to walk away.

In so many ways it is unthinkable that this might be the fate of Wenger. Even in defeat, his team still offers haunting promise. Even in defeat, the dream persists that one day his football will be triumphant again, as it was when Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira were in their great pomp and a kid like Fabregas was just an underpinning of unbroken success.

Wenger could do anything then, of course. He could make beautiful, winning football – he could ransack the world for the best of its young talent. But that was before the conspiracy, the one football always has up its sleeve – and from which no one will ever be exempt.

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Media baron Rupert Murdoch owns News Corps and 20th Century Fox
theatrePlaywright David Williamson is struggling to find a big name to star as the media mogul
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?