Home and Away

Defeat for Arsenal by Hull City could see Arsene Wenger chased from the Emirates Stadium

Gunners manager is under pressure, particularly from Arsenal Fan TV, as the will he or won’t he discussions about the Frenchman’s future rumble on

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 1:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 10:55pm

Saturday is an away day – not to the edge of the Premier League universe to watch spluttering Southampton take on rejuvenated Sunderland, but instead to the Emirates to watch Arsenal play Hull City.

The match is a component of a 50th birthday bash for a Gooner associate. Needless to say he has aged greatly in the past few weeks, torn as he is – along with thousands of other Arsenal fans – over Arsene Wenger’s future.

Another China-based Gooner messaged to say history could be witnessed this weekend if an improving Hull claw out a victory against Wenger’s hit and miss charges; surely after back-to-back losses against Watford and Chelsea, rendering all title hopes all but dead in the water, another loss against a lowly opponent would sound the sacking bell for the French legend.

At least that is the sentiment. Some of the Arsenal faithful have been taking to the airwaves and digital highways to express their often expletive-laden indignation.

A popular venting flume is Arsenal Fan TV (AFTV), a niche You Tube channel that has been enjoying notoriety thanks to its crude coverage of fandom straight from the streets.

AFTV producers take to the crowds on match days and stick a microphone under the noses of supporters to gauge the atmosphere as they leave the ground, both on home and away days.

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The immediacy and potent rants are addictive. Fans are seen licking their wounds in between vicious snarls of frustration. These raw emotions are amplified again and again in the online echo chamber.

AFTV began broadcasting in November 2012 and enjoys around 10 million views a month on YouTube alone, and is growing. The venom it captures and shares on social media is highly contagious.

Watch: Arsene Wenger has to go, says fan

The red and white malcontent movement is adding members by the day, the banners are emblazoned with ever bigger font and directness, and the jeers and derision become ever louder.

There no escaping this tumult for Wenger as AFTV even penetrates the dressing room because among the audience are some of the squad.

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After the Gunners’ defeat at Chelsea last weekend, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain quickly retracted his ‘like’ of a Tweet from AFTV linking to a video of a fan calling in no uncertain terms for Wenger to leave.

The man behind this social media monster, Robbie Lyle, now fears he has made a Frankenstein. He insists his channel is not fuelling fire to force Wenger out the window.

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Lyle instead claims most fans have so much respect for the long-serving manager, they want him to leave of his accord or moved upstairs; they do not want him hounded out.

Either Lyle has been unlucky in his random selection of interviewees for his show or he is in deep denial, because the vast majority of those he quizzes are gaskets who grab the chance to blow their top in the public sphere.

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Judging from these street therapy sessions, maybe it’s already too late for Wenger. He insists the title race is not over and that there is still much to play for.

He went on the offensive at the pre-Hull press conference, goading Gooners to behave more like Tottenham Hotspur fans and unite behind the team through thick and thin.

Either The Professor was deploying some reverse psychology to win over hearts and minds or he secretly wants the boot.

Wenger has been Gunners boss since 1996 and has won the Premier League three times, though Arsenal last won the league title in 2004 and the 67-year-old’s contract expires in the summer.

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Sympathetic fans want him to stay and see where Arsenal end up in May before deciding to join the lobby to cast him adrift, but many are impatient with the same old, same old with one respected newspaper online poll suggesting 79 per cent of fans want Wenger gone now.

With a 12-point gap between Arsenal and leaders Chelsea, beating Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years will offer a lifeline.

The first leg takes place next week in Germany, and if Arsenal can go on a run into the knockout stages, then maybe Wenger will again escape the noose and be offered another contract.

But for this scenario to play out, Arsenal must get past Hull. There are protests arranged for the game where Wenger will be among the supporters, sitting in the stands as he serves his ban from the dugout after shoving an official.

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For neutrals, the prospect of a Hull victory to spark a mass rebellion at the Emirates is a mouthwatering prospect.

It will certainly generate some noise in what many away fans declare a library, and even for one weary Gooner celebrating another year on planet football, such an embarrassing defeat to seal Wenger’s fate might in the long run be the best birthday present ever.