<
>

An Arsene Wenger exit wouldn't solve all the problems at rudderless Arsenal

play
Why would Wenger want to stay? (3:03)

ESPN FC's Julien Laurens assesses the reasons Arsene Wenger might want to stay at Arsenal. (3:03)

In the wake of Arsenal's humiliating 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday night, further questions have been raised about Arsene Wenger's future.

The Frenchman's contract will expire in June, and although there's a two-year extension waiting to be signed, it would be less and less surprising if he decided not to renew.

That Wenger is the one who will decide speaks to an incredible imbalance within the football club from a board that has long absolved itself of the responsibility. Back in 2011, chief executive Ivan Gazidis signalled its intentions by saying it would be fans who would decide on Wenger's future, not the board.

"Arsene is ultimately accountable to the fans," he said.

"They ultimately make judgment. If you are seeing the relationship between the fans and the manager break down over time, that is unsustainable. But I don't think we are anywhere near that."

Not only has that Gazidis quote contributed in some way to the increasingly noisy culture of Wenger criticism, it's an almost unprecedented situation in topflight football where the manager is the master of his own destiny in this way. It also highlights just how much influence Wenger has at the club and what an enormous task Arsenal have when the time comes to replace him.

The 67-year-old is one of the last legacy managers -- he manages the entire club. He's the head coach, the one who picks the team, the man who calls the shots on transfers. He's involved in player negotiations regarding contracts and salaries; he's the sporting director, the director of football and more.

The modern coach does not want to fulfill all those duties. These days, you'd say it would be foolish to even try -- such are the demands from the playing side of things. To be distracted by business that could, and should, be carried out by other men seems self-defeating.

So, Arsenal need to put those people in place. They have to completely modernise the footballing structures within the club to make themselves ready for an era in which managers/coaches move around with much greater frequency. Three or four seasons, then it's off to somewhere new. Right now, they're not in good shape in that regard.

The other thing they must begin to deal with, as a matter of urgency, is the dearth of football knowledge and experience at board level. Compare and contrast with Wednesday night's victors, Bayern Munich.

Their chairman is Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, an ex-player with a deep understanding of football and the club. Arsenal's is Sir Chips Keswick, a merchant banker and little more than a figurehead. Bayern's sporting director was Matthias Sammer, until he left in 2016. Inspirational captain Philipp Lahm has been tipped to take over the role when he retires at the end of the season. Arsenal don't have an equivalent role at the club.

They have Stan Kroenke, a billionaire businessman with no sporting ambition, and his son Josh, who knows as much about Arsenal and English football as he does about performing complex spinal surgery on bats. There is a shortfall here that must also be addressed if Arsenal, as a football club, are to progress.

Ken Friar, a true Arsenal man, has seen many changes down the years, but at 82 he is not, with the greatest of respect, a man for the future. And then we have Gazidis, a well-connected and a competent administrator but, as illustrated previously, someone lacking either the conviction or authority required for a role of his stature.

When Wenger goes, he will leave a vacuum, and there ought to be alarm bells ringing all over the Emirates at that prospect. The idea they can just get a new man in to do all the things the current man does is beyond ludicrous.

Unless they start putting in place the structures they require straight away, the impact of the Frenchman's departure may be even more significant than people think.