“You put your whole self in,
You put your whole self out,
In out, in out,
Fill us all with doubt…”
What’s going on with Arsène Wenger?
Is he in? (staying with us until his dotage, when he can emerge from the Emirates elevators like Young Mr Grace and say “you’ve all done very well” to mystified tea ladies and reserve team kit assistants)?
Or is he out, sulking off to Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City like your common or garden Mourinho?
In an interview with a French magazine (L’Equipe) Le Boss stated very clearly that he would be considering his Arsenal future at the end of the current season:
“Will I be there next season? I will be looking at the situation at the end of this season.”
He has not denied the comments or claimed he was misquoted.
So he’s on his way out then?
Well, not necessarily.
After the Norwich game he gave the following quotes to Arsenal.com:
“I wanted just to say that this is the Club of my life. I have a contract that I will honour and the only way I would one day consider [leaving] is if I feel I have not done well enough for the Club. There is no mixed message in there. My commitment and love for this Club is total. The only way I would consider [my future] is if I was not doing well enough for the Club.”
Great! He’s staying with us for life!
Er, not necessarily that, either.
What seems clear is that the best manager Arsenal has ever had has been badly spooked by the failure of the ‘Fabregas Team’ to win any silverware.
In his French magazine article he said:
“For the first time I lost young players who were reaching maturity. I suffered. It’s painful to lose key men you have invested a lot in”.
“What is hard is the feeling something is finishing. For me, we’re now talking short term.”
I suspect that Arsène has had a crisis of faith: both in himself, and in the nature of the modern player.
For five years, like an architect, he constructed a team that he felt would conquer all. Despite the constraints of the stadium move he convinced himself he could produce a squad that would be even better than the Invincibles.
He was wrong. In the end that team let him (and us) down.
It wasn’t all their fault – if Arsène had added two or three experienced professionals to the mix I suspect they would have at least won some cups, but it wasn’t to be.
Then, like a slap in the face, some of his most treasured assets upped sticks and left: Fabregas went to Barcelona ostensibly with Wenger’s blessing, but I believe that AW secretly thought he could persuade him to stay.
Clichy and Na$ri decamped to Abu Dhabi City – the former for a new challenge, the latter for a new Ferrari (every week).
The Na$ri case was a first for Arsène: a player who turned down his arguments about being part of a beautiful team playing the beautiful game in favour of bucket loads of filthy lucre.
For the first time Arsène was faced with losing prized assets when THEY wanted to go, not when HE wanted them to go.
Which brings us to now.
If you deconstruct Arsène’s quotes to L’Equipe and Arsenal.com, some things are clear: he will honour his contract with Arsenal (which means a minimum of two more years). But he will walk if he feels he can’t build success for us again.
Saying that he will be considering his position “at the end of the season” is not the same as saying he is thinking of leaving then. It means that next summer, he will give thought to whether he wants to extend his contract beyond its current bounds.
But by the same token, saying that Arsenal is “the Club of my life” is not the same as saying that “I will be at this Club for life”. Arsenal has undoubtedly been the “Club of my life” for Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, but that does not mean they didn’t play for other teams subsequently.
The well-respected French journalist Philippe Auclair believes there are difficulties between AW and the Arsenal Board. If that’s right, it would further explain why Arsene is prepared to reconsider his position when his contract runs out.
But I have a funny feeling that necessity may be the mother of retention: that we may retain Arsene’s services beyond his current contract because of the love he will develop for the New Arsenal.
For all the sweat, blood, tears and hope he poured into the Fabregas Team, he may well find that the new team that has been forced upon him by circumstances touches his heart in a purer and simpler way.
When you look at how he has turned this 11th Hour Eleven into one of the best form teams in the EPL despite an appalling start, you can only stand back and say that the man is a genius.
He must be loving the intelligence and commitment of players like Arteta, van Persie, Santos, Vermaelen and Koscielny: players who (you feel) have a humility about them that their immediate predecessors lacked.
Frankly I can’t see how he will not come to love them.
I certainly hope so, because if he does decide to leave at the end of his current contract it will be a dark day for our club.
It has been a long time since anyone has trolled onto the Arsenal Arsenal site and appended “In Arsène We Rust” to the end of their ill-thought-out (and usually illiterate) comment.
On other sites, the “Arsène Out” noises are strangely muted.
After five years working with gold, Arsène has started working with iron – and against all the odds, the results are proving more robust and just as beautiful.
When his new creation comes fully to fruition I can’t see him walking away.
Which should mean he’ll extend his contract for five more years.
Thank the Good Lord Dennis.