Last Christmas, the situation was so different. Arsene Wenger was in the eye of the storm as Arsenal were placed fifth in the Premier League table. '#WengerOut' became a favourite hashtag on Twitter. The French coach, backed by Stan Kroenke (the club's major shareholder), however, resisted the public pressure to throw money at each problem. Despite not being in the running for the League title, last year, Wenger once again took Arsenal to the Champions League. Now, as another Christmas approaches, Wenger's side are leading the Premier League table.
In the same week that Tottenham Hotspurs and West Brom parted companies with their coaches, and Cardiff are about to lose their coach, Wenger will feel vindicated in his methods, about spending prudently in the transfer window and investing in youth. Eight trophy-less seasons notwithstanding, Arsenal remain one of the most attractive sides in world football and have made the Champions League for more than 10 years in a row. It would not have been possible without the managerial acumen of Wenger and the support that he has constantly recieved from the board.
Wenger is old-school and after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement he remains the tenuous link to the bygone era. In fact, the Frenchman is currently the longest serving manager at a single club, having stayed at the helm of Arsenal since 1996, for 17 years now. During the period, he never indulged in 'Kamikaze-spending' and always prided in developing youngsters into world-class performers. Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie are top examples. The Frenchman also knew when to break his own rules, breaking the club record to sign Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil. The German has repaid Wenger's faith, providing the most number of assists this season across all clubs.
But it is a fact of modern football that if Arsenal are to be knocked out by their next opponents, defending champions Bayern Munich, in the Champions League and Manchester City are to catch up in the Premier League, the knives will be out again.
Shamik is a principal correspondent based in Kolkata