Is it time for Arsene Wenger to leave Arsenal after another poor season?
It's been a difficult 2016 so far for Arsenal and their manager Arsene Wenger.
With just four wins in 15 games since Jan. 9 -- two of those victories coming in FA Cup ties against Championship sides Burnley and Hull -- the Gunners have dropped 11 points behind shock Premier League leaders Leicester City.
While Arsenal have a game in hand on Leicester, it seems highly unlikely that they are in any kind of form to challenge for a first Premier League title since 2004. Even worse, if the Foxes do not win the league it seems highly likely Arsenal's arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur would do so instead.
And there has been no respite in the cup competitions. Last Sunday, Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup by Watford at the Emirates, while Wednesday they were knocked out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage for a sixth successive season -- this time by Barcelona.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright says it could be time for a change at the club. Here, ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers Tom Adams and James McNicholas debate whether Wenger's time is up in North London -- and there seems to be a consensus.
Should Arsene Wenger leave Arsenal at the end of the season?
Tom Adams: Yes. It's been a legitimate position for a couple of years now but this season must still be seen as a tipping point. Losing in the Champions League to Barcelona is no crime but the failure to sustain a viable title challenge yet again, whatever Wenger says, cannot be justified in a season when the only two teams above Arsenal in the table are Tottenham and Leicester City. Talk about a missed opportunity.
James McNicholas: It feels like time. Wenger has a contract until the summer of 2017 and is unlikely to ever be dismissed by the current board, but even he must be sensing that his reign is coming to a close. With discontent rising among the fans, Wenger should consider leaving with dignity before the atmosphere becomes any more volatile. The deciding factor could be whether Arsenal manage to hold on to their spot in the top four.
What has he done wrong?
TA: Finishing in the top four every season is hugely consistent and in keeping with Arsenal's place in the financial hierarchy, but this season has exploded the myth that money is everything. For Arsenal not to have maintained a title challenge until the end of the season once in 10 years is not good enough and speaks to a fundamental problem. It's the cyclical nature of it all as well. Every season is the same: collapse in the league, finish fourth, get out of the Champions League group, lose in the last-16. It's so deeply ingrained now that it's impossible to see anything changing.
If we are talking specifics, there's the obvious problem that Wenger is too conservative in the transfer market; always leaving the club a couple of signings away from having a great side. And there have also been the blind spots: persisting with Manuel Almunia for so long, asking Denilson to replace Gilberto Silva and, latterly, the inability to sign a truly world-class striker.
JM: Wenger has never been guilty of gross incompetence. In fact, he's been remarkably consistent in his time at the club, regularly qualifying for the top four and reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League. However, the problem seems to be his inability to kick on past that point. Take this season's Premier League: With so many other contenders falling by the wayside, Arsenal ought to have had a free run at the title.
Instead, they find themselves trailing Leicester City and neighbours Tottenham. What's more concerning is that he no longer seems able to get the best out of the players he does have at his disposal. Arsenal have a squad that ought to be consistently challenging for the Premier League, yet they now look like they might end up in a familiar fight for fourth.
What will his legacy be?
TA: He's the greatest Arsenal manager of modern times, possibly ever. His legacy is two doubles, the Invincibles, six FA Cups and some of the best football and footballers England has ever seen. Some scoffed at Wenger's suggestion that he "built" the club this week, but it's only partially false. He did a lot to build this modern incarnation of Arsenal: the squad, the style and of course transitioning to a new stadium and training ground.
His legacy is bringing great intelligence, humour and humanity to the role of manager but also the stubbornness which convinced him to carry on beyond his sell-by date. His legacy will be discoloured by the second half of his reign, but it can't overwhelm what came before. He will always be cherished.
JM: Arguably his greatest parting gift will be the Emirates Stadium -- a glorious arena built to his specifications and partially paid for by his prudence in the transfer market. In terms of what he's delivered on the field, 2004's Invincibles campaign will never be forgotten. Arsenal produced an incredible feat that season that may never be repeated. Wenger has also dramatically changed the perception of the club, as Tom indicates. When he arrived, the Gunners had a reputation for boring football. Under his stewardship, they became the most attractive team in the land. He also fostered a culture of youth development, overseeing significant investment in the academy.
What should Arsenal fans be expecting the club to achieve?
TA: They certainly shouldn't be expecting to win the league every year: it's only going to get harder from this point. But it's reasonable to expect the club to show evidence of forward progress and cutting-edge modernisation. It's reasonable to expect an actual title challenge and maybe going deep into Europe once every few years. It's reasonable to expect that the biggest ticket prices in Europe will be matched by an ambitious transfer policy. Basically, behaving like the "super clubs" Arsenal wish to join. But the whole structure needs a shake up to achieve this, fresh knowledge acquired: it's not fair to just pin it all on Wenger.
JM: Arsenal fans have every right to expect the best. The club has huge cash reserves that remain largely untapped, and that wealth should now be translating to success on the pitch. Again, Tom is spot-on that the ticket prices -- higher than any other set of supporters in England -- demand success. They deserve to watch an elite side who can challenge regularly for the two biggest prizes on the table: the Premier League and the Champions League.
Who is the best replacement if he does leave?
TA: A year ago you might have said Jurgen Klopp; six months ago Pep Guardiola. But Wenger remains in place and those opportunities have now gone. It's probably a bit early for someone like Thomas Tuchel and definitely too early for Eddie Howe, who has been talked about. Mauricio Pochettino would be ideal if he wasn't managing Spurs, but Joachim Low would be a strong contender if he became available in the summer.
JM: That's the million-dollar question. But Klopp's successor at Dortmund, Tuchel, is an astute tactician and he has revitalised a side who were at one stage fighting relegation last season in spectacular fashion. Given his relative lack of inexperience, it would be a gamble, but replacing Wenger will never come with any guarantees, as Manchester United found out after Alex Ferguson retired.
Tom Adams and James McNicholas are ESPN FC's regular Arsenal bloggers.