Tomorrow afternoon, Arsenal will announce that they’ve handed Arsene Wenger a new two-year contract; a move which will undoubtedly create a mass divide between the club’s supporters… and send social media into a riotous meltdown.
But let’s be serious, we all knew this was coming.
It seemed unthinkable that after 21 seasons of holding the reigns, Wenger would be willing to walk away, especially as the curtain closes on one of the most turbulent seasons in Arsenal’s history.
The club failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League, finishing behind Liverpool in the race for a seat at Europe’s top table.
They were also obliterated 10-2 over two legs by Bayern Munich, a game which still keeps most Arsenal fans (including myself) awake at night.
Both Alexis Sanchez’s and Mesut Ozil’s futures become more unclear by the day, with numerous clubs reportedly interested in plundering Arsenal’s FA Cup-winning squad.
And with the Gunners set to feature in the less-than glamorous Europa League as of next term, it will be more difficult than ever to attract the sort of reinforcements they need.
Finding the sort of individual who would be willing to take on these challenges isn’t easy, especially with the Premier League’s other elite teams set to break the bank the summer.
That’s why Wenger had to sign a new contract.
Don’t get me wrong, I want Wenger to leave, I want the club to follow in the footsteps of bringing in a new, young and dynamic tactician, a la Pep Guardiola at City, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Antonio Conte at Chelsea.
But Arsenal can’t afford to get Wenger’s successor wrong – not like Manchester United did with David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal.
Arsenal don’t have anywhere near the sort of resources that United have accumulated in recent years, despite finishing above them every season since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
And you can also add to the list that Stan Kroenke won’t sanction the sort of spending that has allowed Moyes, van Gaal and Jose Mourinho to rip up the blueprint and start again nearly every summer.
It simply isn’t financially viable for Arsenal’s majority shareholder, especially with his NFL franchise, the Los Angeles Rams’ set to move into the world’s most expensive football stadium next year.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not making excuses for Wenger.
He’s made more mistakes than I care to fathom this season, allowing the club to plummet to post-Christmas depths that I didn’t think were even imaginable.
Yet he still managed to vanquish a seemingly unstoppable Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday – using their own formation in doing so.
That doesn’t mean I expect the Frenchman to lead the club to the league title next season, in fact, I anticipate the club will be embroiled in its annual fight for fourth place – where no Arsenal fan wants the club to be.
But it’s what Wenger can do off the training ground which makes it so important that he stays, even if it’s just for one more season.
Even if he hasn’t been able to replicate his early success of reaching a Champions League final and leading the club to the title in invincible fashion, great players still want to sign for Wenger.
He’s a legend of the game, a man who’s proven time and time again that he has the know-how and experience to develop a player’s game and offer an unrivalled platform for success.
Wenger can’t compete tactically with the younger generation of coaches anymore – he showed that in worrying abundance this season, as Arsenal’s campaign crumbled around them.
But what Wenger can do is negotiate with the players he has, stabilise the club ahead of next season and hopefully get Arsenal back into the Champions League before a replacement is found.
That would in turn allow the new man (whoever he may be) a fresh canvass, with less expectation and pressure coming from the fans.
If Arsenal are to compete at the highest level again, they have to bring in a new manager with fresh ideas.
Here’s hoping in the two years he has left at the club, Wenger can manufacture the sort of environment in which a new boss can flourish, rather than get eaten alive as he almost was.