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Men's Allen Iverson Swingman Navy Blue Adidas Jersey: NBA Memphis Grizzlies #3 Road Picture the scenario. Arsenal are at home to mid-to-low ranking Premier League opposition at the beginning of next season. They concede and, try as they might, they cannot find the equaliser. It is a match that has been played out plenty of times over the second half of Arsène Wenger’s long tenure – the shock Emirates Stadium defeat that is, actually, not that shocking. Do the fans: a) Take the phlegmatic view that these things can and do happen? Or b) Boo the team off, lose themselves in a pit of existentialist despair and blame Wenger? There would be many who chose option b and, if Wenger is honest, the proportion would be significantly higher than the “1%” he spoke about on Saturday night – the guesstimate he put on the dissenters after the FA Cup final victory over Chelsea. Alex Smith Authentic Jersey As a part of the same topic, it is worth revisiting Wenger’s pre-final comment about those fans. “The lack of respect from some has been a disgrace and I will never accept that,” he said. “I will never forget it.” It is unusual to hear any top manager slating the supporters of his club – however small the perceived number – and it is without precedent for Wenger. The first thing to say is it is not a good look, even if the sentiments expressed were understandable in the light of the pummelling he has taken in recent times. More importantly, it is not something that tends to end well. Wenger is looking ahead to yet another cycle at his club, the one he has shaped as a 21st century entity, but it does not feel like a brave new world, rather a combative one in which hostility teems under the surface. It has long been said Wenger is only ever one defeat from an Arsenal crisis. Why should it be any different next season? Those who have campaigned to oust him are unlikely to be ready to shrug off a defeat like, say, Watford at home. The looming confirmation that Stan Kroenke, the club’s majority shareholder, has decided to stick with the status quo does not feel as though it has the capacity to fire a surge of excitement. The upbeat reading on the continuation of the Wenger saga relates to the theme of reinvention, which he has spoken about lately. It is usually said the 67-year-old will never change his ways, even when something new is needed, but, since his switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation at Middlesbrough on 17 April, his team finished the season with nine wins out of 10. Wenger had not played with three at the back since his first season at the club, in 1996-97. Some of the players have spoken about how the system has provided them with greater security, in the wake of the destructive run of seven defeats in 12 matches in all competitions. “You can lose the ball but still have seven guys behind the ball,” Per Mertesacker said. Authentic Andy Pettitte Youth Jersey “We have had a lot of players in the important zones of the pitch. We’ve had five plus two [midfielders] protecting the box without the ball, and three guys up front doing their thing – a great balance.” It has hardly been revolutionary stuff, given how Antonio Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation in September was the springboard for Chelsea’s title push, but Wenger deserves credit for adapting in times of crisis. Will it remain his modus operandi next season? Moreover the Cup final triumph, in which Arsenal outplayed the best team in the Premier League, offered a tantalising glimpse of what might have been and what could yet be if they were able to bottle up the performance and uncork it throughout a season. It provided a genuine note of optimism and those with their glasses half full will want to overlook the fact the club have tended to finish seasons strongly. Wenger believes he is only two or three top-level players from making the team competitive at the top of the table and there are plans behind the scenes to streamline various structures around the manager. Yet this has been heard before. For example, Wenger began this past season with what he described as his “most mature” squad in years, after adding strength in key areas. “It’s the first time for a long time I’ve had a team of what you can call men, ready to compete,” he said. That soundbite has lost its sheen. The bottom line for Wenger is he must win the title to arrive at vindication, because second place – as we saw in 2015-16 – or lower, is not enough. That runners-up finish was surely the most underwhelming in Premier League history; there was only finite enjoyment for the fans in being able to laugh at Tottenham Hotspur, who they jumped above on the final day. Manchester City have hit the ground running in the transfer market before next season and it has long been accepted Arsenal cannot compete with either Manchester club or Chelsea when it comes to fees and wages. As an aside, Wenger’s recent record of digging out unpolished gems does not bear scrutiny, although Alex Iwobi has been a hit and Rob Holding has shown promise.

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