2017 Prediction: Wenger to leave Arsenal outside top four

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Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger’s contract runs out in six months and the whispers are that Arsenal are planning his successor for the summer. Eddie Howe is reportedly being considered, provided he enjoys another good season with Bournemouth.

Howe is 2/1 favourite with the bookies but this blog believes it would be a mistake to appoint him, due to his lack of experience at the top level. A manager such as Massimiliano Allegri, who has done an excellent job at Juventus and is tactically savvy, may be a shrewder appointment.

Many Arsenal fans will feel it had been time for change a long time ago, yet this year, performances have been unconvincing. While leaders Chelsea have benefited from a settled midfield, Arsenal cannot find stability in that area. Granit Xhaka faces question marks about his temperament while Francis Coquelin’s lack of creativity limits his contributions against the more defensive sides. Aaron Ramsey and Mohamed Elneny have started just seven games between them this term.

Deep lying playmaker Santi Cazorla has been missed during his long-term injury – injuries being a theme that once again threatens to destabilize Arsenal’s season. The defence is hugely reliant on centre-back Shkodran Mustafi, who is struggling for fitness, with Gabriel Paulista yet to convince in his absence. A knee problem hinders Kieran Gibbs, who challenges for a left-back slot in place of a declining Nacho Monreal, who perhaps does not offer enough width. Even Theo Walcott, who has impressed this term with 11 goals from the right, is currently a doubt.

Arsenal’s struggles are made more problematic by the form of their top four competitors. Manchester United are 11 games unbeaten while North London rivals Tottenham have not dropped points against a team outside the top six since October.

The announcement of Manuel Pellegrini’s exit hindered Manchester City’s fortunes last season. If Wenger announces his departure before the summer, or if it becomes increasingly obvious he is leaving, that may further damage the motivation and drive within the team. Change is needed at Arsenal, but it could take finishing outside the top four for that to happen.

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