Alan Smith: Arsene Wenger Should Have Left Arsenal After 2014 FA Cup Glory

Tom Roddy

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith believes the club’s 2014 FA Cup triumph was the moment Arsene Wenger should have bowed out at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger is in the final year of his contract at Arsenal, the club he joined in 1996, and his future is uncertain with some fans in north London calling for him to leave.

Smith, who retired in 1995 and scored 86 goals in eight years at Arsenal, says Wenger’s demeanor after beating Hull City at Wembley three years ago suggested the Frenchman’s time was up.

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“It’s alright speaking with the benefit of hindsight,” Smith told Newsweek , “I think when he won the FA Cup against Hull and they nearly lost that game, there was such a relief on his face that day. I’ve never seen him like that when he was up in the stands lifting the trophy. He seemed exhausted by it all and maybe that would have been a good time to say farewell.”

Smith fears that Wenger, whose record includes three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and six Community Shields, will see his legacy tarnished by fans calling for his departure and the recent stagnation at the club.

“It already has been to a certain extent,” Smith says. “Nothing is going to change what he has achieved, you can’t take that away from him, but you don’t want him to be hounded out of the club. And there has been an element of that of late.”

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Wenger Protesters
Wenger Protesters

Protesters against Arsene Wenger at Emirates Stadium, London, April 2. Some fans have called for Wenger to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season and Alan Smith says the Frenchman should have left after the FA Cup triumph in 2014. Reuters / John Sibley

Some have suggested Wenger could move upstairs, into the boardroom as a director of football, guiding a younger manager into the job. Smith doesn’t believe that is an option. “You need a clean break,” he said. “He’s been there 21 years. You need a new man to come in who would be a powerful manager, who would want to do things his way, whether that is with a director of football, which I think is something the club are looking at, to take some of the weight off the manager’s shoulders. But no, I think if he decided to step down he would have to walk away from the club altogether.”

Smith says Arsenal will not struggle to attract the best managers in European football, but doesn’t think the club should steer too far from the style of football Wenger has brought to the club. “You want to have attractive football,” Smith says. “Many people are advocating [Atletico Madrid manager] Diego Simeone. I think actually that would probably be going too far the other way. He produces winning sides [but] I think the Arsenal fans would find it a bit hard to stomach that style of football.”

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Smith mentioned Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri, Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim and Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel as potential replacements and added that it may be too soon for 39-year-old Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, who has been tipped as a future England manager.

“Those are the boys,” Smith added. “[It’s] a very attractive job to come into a club like Arsenal: You win the league and you're a legend having had those ten or 12 barren years, so it's a club that should be able to attract the best players, they can pay big money, and the fact it's a London club is a big attraction to foreign players. They wouldn’t be short of quality candidates.”

Sky Sports will show the biggest games in the Premier League run-in, including Chelsea v Manchester United and the North London and Manchester derbies.

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