Arsenal crash out to Chelsea – but will Wenger stay put?

Defeat to Chelsea ends League hopes for another year, but Gunners bean counters don't care

Hector Bellerin
Arsenal's Hector Bellerin has his shirt tugged by Chelsea's Marcos Alonso 
(Image credit: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal's sound thrashing by Chelsea ends any lingering hopes the more deluded of Gunners fans – and there are still a surprising number – harboured of winning the Premier League title.

For those of you with elephantine memories, the last time Arsenal won the League was 2004, eight years after Arsene Wenger arrived in north London. In the 13 years since then, the Frenchman has managed just three FA Cup wins.

For a club of Arsenal's standing, it's a sorry tally, and yet according to the Sunday Times, Wenger's reward for steering his club through another season where only the FA Cup remains a serious silverware possibility is a new deal.

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The paper claims the Arsenal board have invited him to extend his current deal, which expires in June, until the end of the 2018-19 season.

Never in the history of the Premier League has mediocrity been as cherished as at Arsenal, where finishing in the top four is all that really matters.

Such a placing ensures qualification for the Champions League, and the revenue that brings, so who cares if the Gunners haven't progressed beyond the quarter-final since 2009?

Bean counters and not goal scorers are the most important people at Arsenal, and if the accountants are happy, the owners are happy. And for the moment there are enough gormless Gooners willing to hand over vast amounts of money – don't forget, Arsenal season tickets are the most expensive in the Premier League – to watch their heroes lose at home to Watford.

The most stubborn of supporters refuse to countenance any criticism of their manager, parroting "In Arsene we trust", a slogan as empty as the Arsenal trophy cabinet.

"Arsene Wenger has some really serious thinking to do at the end of the season," said Ian Wright, the former Arsenal striker turned BBC pundit. This is partly true – he has serious thinking to do now.

At the end of September, Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates, the same day Wenger wrote in the programme that the club "feels as though we are on the way up". In fact it was the Blues who were on their way up, and they've lost just one Premiership game since that day.

Arsenal, on the other hand, have lurched from one chaotic display to the next, so that they now lie 12 points adrift of their London rivals. Meanwhile, there's been the annual injury crisis, the annual disappearance of Mesut Ozil when the heat is on and the annual Gallic whine.

On Saturday Wenger complained about the first Chelsea goal and the challenge of Marcos Alonso on Hector Bellerin, a player who at times this season has made Jack Wilshere seem tough. The Spanish defender was muscled out of the way by Alonso in an aerial challenge that was robust but nothing out of the ordinary.

Chelsea deserved their three points – a win illuminated by the brilliance of Eden Hazard's goal – and Wenger will know that. Whether he knows it's time to step down is another question, but the longer he stays the more mediocre Arsenal will become.

"For Wenger to continually say getting into the top four is good enough, that spreads through the club and on to the pitch," said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. "When you watched Arsenal play at Chelsea, they probably thought: 'It's not the end of the world if we lose, we'll probably still get in the top four and that's good enough for us.' That was never good enough for Arsenal when Wenger arrived and I don't know why it is now, it should never be good enough."

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