ARSENAL are today exposed as a club in turmoil, paralysed and divided from top to bottom over the future of beleaguered manager Arsene Wenger
The 3-0 defeat by Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday night saw previously loyal fans turn on the team and on Arsene Wenger as yet another on-field capitulation unfolded before their eyes, leaving them seven points off the cherished top four with seven matches left to play.
Wenger’s relationship with chief executive Ivan Gazidis has meanwhile been damaged by the manager’s refusal to commit to his future, with a new two-year deal still on the table amid weeks of speculation.
And sources close to the club have revealed that Arsenal’s is a dressing room now split between players still backing Wenger, and those who either want away or want a new manager brought in.
Former Gunners striker John Hartson called for Wenger, in charge at the club since 1996, to go, saying: “I worked under Arsene Wenger and I’ve always been in the camp of ‘Arsene Wenger’s great, he’s done fantastic, the Champions League qualifications, the money that he brings into the club…’, but I just think now it’s time for him to go.
John Hartson played one season under Arsene Wenger
“It hurts me to say that because I like Arsene Wenger.
“But last night (against Palace) you would call that performance inept. There was a lack of leadership, lack of togetherness. The players are playing as individuals, they don’t look like a team.
“There’s a lack of fight and that’s four away losses on the trot for Arsenal, that’s the first time in 20-odd years that’s happened to Arsene Wenger.
“There’s a huge expectancy on Arsenal to be challenging but when you look at some of the players who are taking the field for them, I just don’t think they’re up to it.
“I just don’t think they’re at the standard or the level of a team that are capable of winning the Premier League.”
None of Arsenal’s players distinguished themselves at Selhurst Park.
Striker Alexis Sanchez, who has argued with teammates this season, looked an unhappy figure as he left the field, centre-back Shkodran Mustafi had a dreadful match against Palace’s striker Christian Benteke, while midfielder Mohamed Elneny was another who had an evening to forget. Theo Walcott, skipper on the night, was taken off after 70 minutes and later apologised to fans for the performance.
Fans at Selhurst Park sang ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ at their players during and at the end of the game as they also chanted for the manager to step down.
Another former Gunner Ian Wright on the night tweeted: “That dressing room is lost.”
Express Sport understands that Wenger has made his mind up about his future, but will not even tell his closest friends, including some who were involved in bringing him to the club in 1996, what that decision is.
Wenger has worked closely with Gazidis since the former MLS official joined the board in 2009, but relations have become strained with speculation mounting over the manager’s position.
Wenger is also understood to have been unhappy at Gazidis’ words to a fans forum earlier this season that the team’s poor form might be a “catalyst for change”.
Arsenal have already put in place plans for an overhaul of their behind-the-scenes operation in the summer, with a new director of football likely to be recruited as well as additions to the coach staff – changes likely to take place whether Wenger stays or not.
Wenger refused to talk about his future on Monday night in the aftermath of the match, but it is understood that the club have no clear plan yet as to who might be his successor, should the Frenchman decide not to sign the new deal and walk away at the end of this campaign