Robin van Persie was invited into Arsene Wenger’s magnificently appointed home in north London towards the end of last season for talks about his future.
It was a tense meeting, a full and frank exchange between Arsenal manager and captain after another trophyless season at the Emirates.
With a year left on his contract, the top goalscorer in the Barclays Premier League wanted assurances that the Gunners were ready to invest heavily in the squad before committing himself to a new deal.
Wenger was indignant and the offer to keep Van Persie was never made.
After winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in 16 years at Arsenal, Wenger still rules the roost. He remains untouchable, even after Tuesday’s shameful defeat in the Capital One Cup quarter-final at League Two side Bradford City.
A team who cost almost £67million to assemble were beaten on penalties by a side costing £7,500, despite boasting internationals from Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Ivory Coast, Wales, England and Poland. Bradford’s two internationals have played a handful of games for Bermuda and Northern Ireland.
For many Arsenal fans this is the endgame, beyond the point of no return.
Wenger’s observations at Valley Parade, when he spoke of ‘pride’ and ‘self-belief’, were a smokescreen for a manager who has been sending distress signals since 2007.
It is time for Arsenal to move on, to do the unthinkable and thank him for 16 years of loyal service and look to the future with another forward-thinking coach.
As charming as he is, Wenger is on the way out as the club’s manager. It is over and an increasing number of people within the game are beginning to recognise it.
Wenger earns £7.5m a year, and is the highest-paid boss in the Premier League, yet Arsenal consistently claim they cannot pay big bucks for players.
They were ahead of the game with identifying the talents of Juan Mata and David Silva but their dithering allowed Chelsea and Manchester City to step in and gazump them.
Even contract negotiations with Theo Walcott, who is expected to be fit for Monday’s Premier League clash at Reading, have broken down over the club’s pay structure.
Andrey Arshavin, a flop since his move from Zenit St Petersburg in 2009, earns £110,000 a week all in. Given the Russian’s pitiful contribution, it is not unreasonable for Walcott to demand a similar contract, yet Wenger is refusing to meet the England forward’s demands.
It was also revealed that players are being asked to agree clauses in their contracts about a 20 per cent reduction in salary if they fail to make the Champions League.
It seems inconceivable that Jack Wilshere, England’s most exciting young player, who is about to enter talks over a new contract to increase his £70,000-a-week package, will agree to such a clause.