Arsene Wenger could leave Arsenal this summer if his faltering team fail to win the Premier League, according to former Gunners striker Ian Wright.
Arsenal have drifted off the pace set by leaders Leicester and are also six points adrift of second-placed Tottenham, their local rivals, albeit with a game in hand.
Wright, Arsenal’s star striker when Wenger came to the club in 1996, now sees little prospect of the Frenchman staying if Arsenal finish the season without a trophy, and believes most fans also want him to go after almost 20 years in charge.
That prospect was made increasingly likely with Wednesday’s Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona, when a 3-1 win at the Camp Nou sealed the Spanish club’s path to the quarterfinals 5-1 on aggregate.
Wright, Arsenal’s record goal scorer until he was eclipsed by Thierry Henry, told BT Sport: “Especially with how it’s going with Leicester and Tottenham above them and Arsenal coming out of the Champions League and FA Cup… if they finish third or fourth again, I think the natives have turned and there’s more there who want the boss out than want him in.
“I’m not sure if he will still be there in the summer, if they don’t win the league. It’s a very tough one for me, but I think change is a-coming.
“At some stage it’s got to happen and I think something’s got to happen this season with what’s happening with Arsenal, especially if they don’t win the league.”
Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon, another Arsenal player when Wenger came to England, agreed that the time may have come for the Premier League’s longest-serving manager to leave.
He said: “I played under him and I am a big fan of his but I think there needs to be a change.
“They [fans] say he’s very stubborn, but he’s changed before. His old team was built with strength and power with players like Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva, [Emmanuel], Petit, [Sol] Campbell at the back.
“Now he’s changed it to this tippy tappy, very skilful side, lots of smaller players, quick. He completely changed the way the team plays.
“I believe he can change but unless he adapts that change… he may leave this summer.”
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane was the most scathing of Arsenal’s current state, saying too many players in the squad lack the character to represent one of English football’s most successful clubs.
He said: “They’ve got a weak group of players, who can’t seem to lift themselves for certain games.
“A lot of pressure seems to have got to them over the past few months. For players at Arsenal Football Club, if you can’t deal with the pressure, well you shouldn’t be there.
“Tonight, the damage was already done in the first game. There’s no shame in losing 3-1, sure. The effort was there, Barcelona had switched off.
“But it must be hard for the manager and for the supporters when they see the players lifting it for certain games but then can’t do it for Watford at home or Swansea at home. They’re cheating the supporters in that sense.
“They seem to have a lack of characters there. Technically they are very good players but where are the leaders of the group, to get a grip of these players when they don’t seem up for it?
“Clubs are obsessed with recruitment. They’re looking at technique and fitness levels, but where are the characters? There seems to be a weakness running through the whole club.”