If Wenger stays, Tottenham win
Arsenal will fall behind rivals Tottenham for years unless Wenger retires
Arsene Wenger said Tottenham had to finish above Arsenal eventually, as if this was a one-off, a blot on an otherwise pristine landscape.
But the 2-0 north London Derby defeat yesterday morning (Singapore time) could be the beginning of a slow, painful decline that might last for years.
The only person standing between the Gunners and perpetual decay is the same man who once elevated the club to greatness.
If Wenger stays, the club die, as least in their current form.
Only the most blinkered of Wenger apologists would fail to recognise that Tottenham's easy victory was so much more than just another three points.
For the first time in 22 years, a rising starlet sees white rather than red. A global superstar now thinks of Tottenham first and Arsenal second.
The FA Cup means next to nothing to a generation of European and South American footballers raised exclusively on the Champions League.
Sepia-tinted images of the old twin towers of Wembley resonate about as much as replays of Alan Sunderland scoring a last-minute winner against Manchester United.
It's the uplifting anthem of European's premier tournament that stirs young souls.
Wenger is an FA Cup man living in a Champions League world.
“This is a north London derby, you know? I still believe in the owners, but something has to be said. The silence is deafening.”Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright urges the owners to end the speculation over Arsene Wenger’s future and make public their plans for the future
As it stands, a footballer of Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Oezil's international prestige, reputation and talent no longer joins Arsenal, certainly not based on the tepid display at White Hart Lane.
He has eyes for only Tottenham. He sees the fast and muscular interplay of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, the creative industry of Christian Eriksen and those indomitable midfield bouncers Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier.
He recognises a back four without equal in the English Premier League, a reliable goalkeeper and a solid bench.
“Whether I believe or not, the gap is there. That is often in the final part of the season, that can go one way or the other without really reflecting the difference between the teams. But I know it’s a good subject for the media.”Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Based on the north London Derby, Kyle Walker and Mousa Dembele could swagger into Arsenal's first XI, but they can't displace their own teammates.
Most damningly of all, potential transfer targets would see the intelligent, enigmatic and pioneering manager that Wenger used to be.
The qualities that once encouraged Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry to join Arsenal may now convince today's contenders to join the next-door neighbours instead.
Mauricio Pochettino has the dynamic template, refined at Southampton and fine-tuned at Tottenham. At 45, he's blessed with the anarchic zeal of youth, a quality that has slipped from Wenger's grasp.
And Pochettino and Spurs finally have the complete financial backing of a board that once sold Gareth Bale, but is now in the market for the next one.
Wenger and Arsenal's majority shareholder Stan Kroenke remain content to balance the books. Pochettino and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy are more focused on balancing the dressing room.
Tottenham have always benefitted from their London location, which has attracted second-tier mavericks like David Ginola, but the best went to Arsenal and Chelsea.
That'll change now in north London. A straight choice between Arsenal and Tottenham is not much of a choice at all for a potential game-changer, which is the most far-reaching fallout from the Gunners' limp performance.
Spurs won in third gear. A brief, five-minute spell of counter-attacking was enough to kill off Petr Cech's resistance, the only Gunner to acquit himself.
Tottenham's victory was predictable and easy. Arsenal offered nothing, from the pitch or the bench.
Instead, Wenger muttered to himself in the dugout, rocking back and forth like the clueless drunk in the town centre waiting for the last bus that left an hour ago.
He's out of time and out of touch with the reality around him.
Now the question is not whether Arsenal continue to stagnate under Wenger, but how swiftly the decline occurs, how fast they spiral towards irrelevance.
Tottenham have a superior manager, squad, recruitment policy and boardroom.
Arsenal have Wenger, a fallen giant content to prop up his money-grabbing bosses at the expense of a once great club.
When Spurs eventually finish above the Gunners for the first time in 22 years, it will be no fluke, but an inevitable transition of power that has been years in the making.
For a while, the Arsenal faithful were in denial, blinded by sentiment and the distracting allure of FA Cup trips to Wembley, but that can no longer be the case.
Only one hardcore group of followers retain support for the Frenchman.
At White Hart Lane, they held up that trusty sign: In Wenger We Trust. They were Tottenham supporters. Arsenal's humiliation is complete.