Sam Wallace: If Arsene Wenger is like Thatcher, Arsenal are far from ready for a leadership challenge

Those who call for Arsene Wenger to go this summer misunderstand Arsenal. It is not like sacking a Chelsea manager

There was a caller to BBC Five Live's 606 programme on Saturday who compared Arsène Wenger to Margaret Thatcher in the former Prime Minister's final months of office: ignoring the advice of those around her and refusing steadfastly to change even more than she had in previous years.

Funnily enough, for such an interesting man, Wenger's politics have always been a mystery. The last time he was asked, in relation to the French presidential election in May, he treated the inquiry with the same evasiveness he once reserved for questions about possible incidents that might cast his team in an unfavourable light.

Instead he refers you back to his interest in economics and, of course, there is always his degree in the subject, surely by now the most famous qualification that Strasbourg University has ever awarded. When Thatcher was being dispatched by her cabinet colleagues 23 years ago, Wenger was making his name at Monaco, but he will know what the reference conjures up. It is the image of a leader hopelessly out of step with her own party and, ultimately, vulnerable.

Is that where defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday leaves Wenger? Certainly, there appears to be a significant part of the support who believe that eight years without a trophy is too long and that Wenger must go. But that alone does not make him vulnerable.

With Thatcher, the killer blows were dealt by some of her closest allies. If Ivan Gazidis is Wenger's Geoffrey Howe then this particular Geoffrey is in no mood to resign in devastating fashion to his celebrated leader. The Arsenal chief executive and the de facto owner, Stan Kroenke, are going full steam ahead towards a future they hope will be kinder to the Arsenal business plan.

Those who call for Wenger to go this summer misunderstand something fundamental about Arsenal. It is not like sacking a Chelsea manager, when the new man can slot in the next day with the newly ironed initials on his tracksuit still warm.

Arsenal have bought into the Wenger way of operating so completely that he is as integral to their business model as any manager of an English club. Arsenal have bet the house on financial protocols at home and abroad having the teeth to rein in the kind of clubs that have outspent them and outperformed them in the last eight years.

In June, they have the revenues from the new Emirates Stadium rights deal, and a new kit deal. Wenger will be encouraged to spend money on new players, including a striker, as he enters the last season of his current contract. If he can demonstrate that the club is moving forward again, the chances are that he will get a new deal.

It is the board's prerogative to run the club as a profit-making organisation and there is a strong case for saying, with Arsenal so set on this course, it would represent greater folly to part company with Wenger in the summer. But no one would claim that, in modern English football, the board's way is yet a guarantor of on-field success.

Let's put Saturday in perspective: cup shocks do happen, even those at home to Championship teams. Arsenal were a bit unlucky on the day. Unbeaten in five before Saturday, they are unpredictable. They might even beat Bayern Munich tomorrow. But put Saturday's result alongside that defeat on penalties to League Two Bradford City in the Capital One Cup in December and you have a theme.

The theme is that the more you embrace relative mediocrity, which Arsenal have done, the more likely results like Saturday's become. Cup form is volatile but generally it follows a pattern. It is why Chelsea have picked up four FA Cups and two League Cups in the last decade as they have challenged for titles. If you shoot for the moon, even if you miss you might end up with another pot to stick in the cupboard.

Defeats like Saturday's are symptomatic of the general malaise of a club that has some good days and some bad days but is in decline in terms of its performance on the pitch. That state of decline does not respect boundaries. It does not confine itself to defeats to wealthier clubs, or those with a bigger wage bill. It gradually infects every performance in every competition, even the games that Arsenal should win.

Those who defend the club point out that Arsenal are only four points off in-form Tottenham in fourth with 12 games to play in the league, as if that is supposed to be good news. Until April 2010, they had not lost a league game to Spurs in more than 10 years. Now they trail them in the league and must at least contemplate the prospect of failure to finish in the top four for the first time in 16 seasons.

The club lies dormant, like a city under siege waiting for the political situation to change and reinforcements to arrive. But football, sport in general, does not allow you simply to stand still, it obliges you to keep finding new ways to succeed – and while Arsenal try to mould the future, the present is slipping away from them.

The club policy is to hold their nerve and wait for better terms. Wenger is not an isolated figure at Arsenal; he is a core part of a plan and this summer he will have the chance to invest in the team and earn himself another new contract. He and the club could well go on and on and on.

Fans will be tolerant of the first openly gay star

The story of Robbie Rogers, who came out last week and then announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 25 is intriguing. In the blog the former Leeds United, Stevenage and United States international published on his website, he dwelt more on the "fear" of telling his "loved ones" about his sexuality than the problems he might encounter within the game.

Football's response to Rogers has been overwhelmingly positive. He clearly has his own reasons for retiring but it is a pity. I have faith that the majority of English football will be tolerant and welcoming to the game's first out gay footballer. There will always be the prejudiced halfwits but, on the whole, football fans connect with the individual and whatever struggles they have.

It will take a lot of courage for that first high-profile player to come out, and that, above all, will be recognised by all the decent, fair-minded people who love the game. Which is most of them.

Farah takes half a cue from England

Intrigued to hear that Mo Farah will run the London marathon but will drop out halfway through, treating it instead as a half-marathon in preparation for his conversion to running the full distance.

Of course, some people have suggested that completing only half an event and claiming it is as some kind of triumph is a modern phenomenon in sport but the England football team have been doing it at major tournaments for years.

Suggested Topics
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
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?