The announcement of Arsene Wenger’s departure on Friday sparked something that hasn’t truly happened for a long time, the Arsenal fanbase came together.
It has been months – years perhaps – since there was such a collective feeling of goodwill around the club, a single focal point around which the fans and followers of the Gunners have been able to rally around.
If nothing else, we should be grateful to Arsene for that, as it could prove to be a last flash of genius before he heads off over the horizon and into his rightful place in the history books of our great club.
With the team flagging, the stadium half-empty, and the fans as disenchanted as they have been for a generation, Arsene’s decision to announce his resignation might just provide all concerned with the spark needed to propel the team to one last hurrah.
It could prove to be one of his greatest successes and a parting gift to the club he loves.
If we can all focus that goodwill, that extra 10 per cent, on getting the team over the line in the Europa League, and finishing as high as we can in the Premier League, it will mean that Arsene’s legacy will be gilded in success, rather than tarnished with a final failure.
One thing is for certain, I feel a lot more confident about facing Athletico Madrid now than I did a week or so ago.
Aside from the handful of people who were privy to the conversations about Arsene’s future, I don’t think there was anyone in football who wasn’t taken aback by yesterday’s announcement. It was apropos of nothing, almost without reason.
I think we can all agree, however, that the time is right, if, indeed, a little late.
For many, the time to go was last summer, on the high of the FA Cup success, but it seems Arsene wanted one last go to see if he could turn things around, a final crack at recapturing past glories. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, but it is positive at least that the Frenchman has recognised that enough is enough that to go on would be futile.
To have battled on into next season, during which the decline could have deepened, would have been a great shame and, I’m sure, not the way Arsene would have wanted it to end.
This way, and with a goal for us all to strive for, there may yet be one, last great moment in an unrivalled career – a Helms Deep moment, with Arsene as the white-bearded wizard riding in to save the day.
The process of finding a new manager for Arsenal, who shares the philosophy Arsene has built around the club, is a matter that begins in earnest for those behind the scenes but is a conversation for another day.
For now, the focus of everyone connected to the club should be on giving the manager the farewell that befits his stature as the greatest manager the club has ever seen, the man that seized the opportunity to transform football in the Premier League, while building the platform for everything we have become today.
In time, and when the dust has settled, he will be remembered as the best and, I’m sure, a statue with his likeness will grace the outside of the Emirates. When at last the divide among fans has eased, and the ill-feeling has assuaged, I hope we will all be able to appreciate those great nights he has given us. The trophies, the victories, and the euphoria will remain, while the disappointments will ebb away.
We will never see his like again.