Hey Arsène, how many big pots are we going to win this season?
Why we need to stick to the Wenger Revolution
(And why it is necessary to keep reminding us of this)
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
The beautiful game is seldom played beautifully. Many of us are football addicts and will watch any game however mediocre it promises/ turns out to be, and I am exactly the same. But, we all notice the difference when we watch a truly beautiful game: only then will we express ourselves in superlatives and will even the most prosaic fan become poetic, only then are our needs for the beautiful game fully satisfied and are we truly happy, and only then will a game become engraved in our memories – become immortal so to speak.
Looking a bit closer at how football clubs approach the game, one can see four distinct variants, depending both on the level of success and the aspiration to play football that is pleasing to the eye. These are:
- Strong focus on ‘result-football’, with an inherent low aspiration to play beautiful football, but also with low levels of success: mediocre, uninspiring football by far and large, played by the majority of clubs within UK/Europe.
- Strong aspiration to play beautiful football, but low levels of success: attractive, praiseworthy but naive football, played by a small number of clubs – West Brom under Tony Mowbray, and last season’s Blackpool are some good recent examples.
- Highly successful football, but with low levels of aspiration for attractive, beautiful football:Chelsea under Mourinho, almost every successful Italian club (the exception being AC Milan in the early nineties), Inter under Mourinho, Manchester United in recent seasons, etc.
- Highly successful football that is also very attractive and beautiful to watch: Barcelona in recent years, Milan in the early nineties, Ajax in the seventies and mid-nineties, Arsenal in the late nineties and during the ‘Invincibles’ era.
Of course there are more variants, but out of these four extremes only the fourth one represents the sort of football that people speak about many decades later, the sort of football that becomes immortal.
Arsène Wenger is a dreamer, a Don Quixote, an idealist, and a genius. He somehow wants to win pots by playing beautiful, total football, with a team that is built from within the club, on the affordable but risky concept of combining the development of youth players with the purchase of rough diamonds, that can be made to shine within 1-3 seasons. On top of that, he wants our club to adhere to a self-sustaining financial model i.e. live within our means. I, like many other Gooners – but definitely not everyone – love Arsène Wenger for this highly principled, romantic and yet competitive approach to the game and our club. It is currently unique within the UK and in Europe.
I believe the world is crying out for leaders, in all sorts of professions and sports, who can combine competitiveness – and I will not have anybody say that Wenger is no longer ambitious – with a vision, and a set of principles and virtues. Wenger, more than any manager in Europe, has all of these qualities in abundance. He could have walked away from Arsenal many times, to clubs where he would be free to continue with his philosophy and principles on how the game should be played, and more importantly: where he would have been given an almost unlimited cheque book to sign whoever he wanted, in order to complete his quest for beautiful, highly successful football. I believe he decided to stay with Arsenal to both remain loyal to our fantastic club – during the challenging period of transformation for Highbury to Ashburton Grove – and achieve something truly remarkable, in the hardest way possible.
Arsène Wenger is not perfect, and neither are we, nor is any manager: c’est la vie. I do not believe in the tacky ‘Arsène Knows’ mantra. But, what Wenger is trying to achieve: winning pots through highly attractive football on a self-sustaining financial model is unbelievably important, for Arsenal as well as football in general. He does not get enough credit for this, not from the media and not from the fans.
During the Wenger years, we had more than a good taste of highly attractive, and yet successful, football. We have become accustomed to it, but in recent years we have been famished of success (but not beauty). Yet, this is the time to remain faithful, to breath-in and breath-out, to give Arsene a chance to push us to the next level. Demanding success, even when it has been relatively so long since we won anything, is not going to help. Arsene wants it more than anybody else, so why push him even more? It is counterproductive.
Even if some fans would rather want us to ditch our style/ aspiration to play beautiful football, in order to win something again, there is really no way back. The third variant is not an option for us. We do not have the funds now, and most likely not for the next decade to come, to compete with Chelsea, Manchester Cityand possibly also Manchester United and Liverpool. These clubs will always be better equipped in assembling teams that win cups the ‘calculated way’, without a strong aspiration to play the game beautifully. Neither should we want to have those sorts of insane funds, but that is a discussion for another time.
No, for us it is all or nothing, The Wenger revolution cannot be stopped: the rocket has left the earth’s atmosphere and it is our only chance for success. It will come, maybe this year, maybe in two or three years, and when it comes it will be so good, that not only we, but many generations after us, will still eulogise about it.
In the meantime, try to relax and enjoy the ride: there will be plenty of beautiful football again this season, thanks to the genius and aspirations of Arsène Wenger.
“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.” Robert M. Pirsig.