A good result lifts the pressure on the manager, a bad result increases it. It is a rule that makes perfect sense in almost all debates over whether a manager should stay or go.
But when applied to Arsene Wenger, it makes absolutely no sense in either direction.
The idea that one good win strengthens the case for him to stay is as absurd as the idea that one bad defeat should strengthen the case for him to go. I’d even go so far as to say that just as one fine season should not merit a free pass for the next few years, one very bad season is not sufficient grounds for instant dismissal.
So while I happen to be one of those who think that his time is up, whether or not we secure Champions League status this year would neither strengthen nor weaken my sentiments. Had we missed out on Champions League qualification in 2005-06 I would never have dreamt of saying that alone was grounds for him to go and I would say the same now.
No, instead my sentiment is based on a very long view. The metric by which I make my judgement is that in 13 years, we haven’t once really, properly challenged for the title (as in been right up there in the final few games). Add to the fact that I don’t particularly see that changing and, there you are, I wouldn’t extend the manager’s stay.
But it is complicated. Firstly, because he is the most successful manager in our history and turning against him is the last thing almost all fans want to do. And secondly because what he has achieved since 2005 is, in it’s own way, remarkable. Not just Champions League qualification every season but progress to the group stages.
To dismiss that completely would be very foolish. Of course it matters. Winning significantly more games than you lose and playing in Europe’s premier competition year after year is not to be sniffed at. Not in any way.
And were Arsene Wenger investing money on my behalf and getting the equivalent decent but not spectacular returns of Champions League group stage qualification but no title challenge, I’d let him carry on investing that money, safe in the knowledge that my money was safe.
But he’s not investing my money. He’s managing my football team and I don’t need to be so cautious. Football is about daring to dream and accepting that just as things go up, things may go down. Carry on with Arsene Wenger and I can’t see us improving on where we are any time soon. Get rid of him and maybe his replacement will totally bomb. It would be a shame but that’s life. The reality is that when I’m old, it is those few great highs that will stick in my mind, not the great cumulative pile of steady decency. If that seems fickle on my part, then so be it.
What of those who run the club? They do undoubtedly have a role as custodians, one where they rightly act as a sensible counterbalance to the extreme ends of fan sentiment. But they also, inevitably, have their own self interest, one where the status quo is serving them OK. Here it is the job of the fans to act as the counterbalance and while few of us would feel comfortable actively protesting, I think we’re secretly glad that others do. I know I am.
I’ve already said how 13 years without a challenge and little prospect of improvement puts me in the no new contract camp. To that I’d add a fear that our place at the table we’ve occupied so consistently is becoming less rather than more secure.
The headlines and the viral videos are about fans scrapping in the stands and that is completely understandable.
I think it reasonable to argue that the club and manager should take some blame for this. That their refusal up until very recently to even acknowledge things were less than perfect has generated real anger.
But more than that the scrapping is an acknowledgement that this is an attempted footballistic defenestration like no other, one that leaves so many of us completely torn. I know I want him to go but then when I see him being bombarded with questions at press conferences my loyalty to a man who came into my life when I had only just started studying for my GCSEs suddenly kicks in.
It isn’t simple.