Can a meme end a coaching career?
Maybe you’ve seen them around. At Wrestlemania. At a rugby match in New Zealand. At a Coldplay concert in Sin
gapore. At a protest march in South Africa. No, not Taylor Swift and her latest boyfriend, but actually the “Wenger Out” banners that have appeared worldwide over the last couple of months. No, seriously.
The banners started as part of an effort by fans of Arsenal Football Club fire the club’s manager, Arsene Wenger. Arsenal is one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs, and Wenger has been manager for over 20 seasons, leading the club to unprecedented success. But Arsenal hasn’t won a league title since 2003-2004, and is currently limping toward its worst finish since 1995. Wenger will go down as one of the sport’s great managers, but there are legitimate questions about whether the game has passed him by. Florida State football fans will find this a familiar topic.
The “Wenger Out” movement started innocently enough: A banner at one of Arsenal’s home games sparked a few of those being seen every game. And maybe that was something small enough to be dismissed by the club. But it grew from there, and in today’s hyper-connected society, it’s easier than ever for something like this to travel far and travel fast. The location of those signs I mentioned above? All true.
Sure, Arsenal could still blow this off as the work of a few disgruntled fans and maybe some global pranksters trying to get their picture out there for all to see. But that would be a mistake. The Premier League has spent tons of cash to appeal to those around the globe during the last 20 years, and Arsenal has played matches around the world during that time to boost their image and bring in more revenue. Not taking this meme seriously would mean the club is ignoring the commercial realities of the way the world works now. (And given the fact that Arsenal’s majority owner is Stan Kroenke, that’s a legitimate fear. The mere mention of that name should send shivers down the spine of any Rams, Nuggets or Avalanche fan.)
Perhaps it’s not the meme that will bring Arsene Wenger’s time as Arsenal manager to a close. But what if the meme is just reflective of a greater anger—and more importantly to the club itself, a greater malaise—on the part of Arsenal fans? The warning signs are there: tons of empty seats at the team’s last home game, and just this week, an Arsenal fan in London received an application to purchase season tickets for 2017-2018. Two years ago, this same fan claims that he was around 14,000th on the waiting list. And that’s no laughing matter.
Written By: Scott Morris