After 16 years at Arsenal, and what is now 7 years without a trophy, is Arsène Wenger still getting more right than he gets wrong?
Stubborn arguments rage amongst the Arsenal faithful, neither side willing to compromise their staunch ‘belief’, so they end up insulting each other.To make a thorough examination, we can only measure the good against the bad, which I shall attempt to do here, and allow people to reach their own conclusions.
Before Arsène Wenger arrived on October 1st, 1996, he had already instructed the club to purchase Remi Garde and Patrick Vieira, and with George Graham’s back five, Dennis Bergkamp’s creative genius, and Ian Wright’s goals, we finished level on points with runners-up Newcastle, qualifying for the Champions League. The first seeds were sewn on what would be a glorious period in Arsenal’s history.
From the period between 1997 and 2004 Arsenal’s football was taken to a peerless level. We were devastatingly brilliant. A class apart.
Chelsea’s Roubles overtook us in 2005, though we stole an undeserved, but welcome FA Cup from MU. 2006 brought the Champions Lge Final and the heart-breaking night in Paris, plus the heralding of an exciting new dawn, and a seizmic physical and psychological move from Highbury, our home of football for 93 years. And regardless of who the comment is attributed to, the Arsenal fans were told by the hierarchy at Arsenal that the move to The Emirates was essential to compete with Europe’s elite, the Real Madrids, Barcelona’s and MU’s. For those that argue we couldn’t compete with Chelsea’s money, the statement was made two years after Abramovich bought them, and they would have been fully aware of the potential for Billionaires to buy other clubs.
These are indisputable facts: Forbes’ Rich List has Arsenal as the 5th richest club in the world. Arsenal charge the highest ticket prices in the world. Arsenal have the second biggest stadium in the PL. Arsène Wenger is the highest paid manager in the PL.
At Highbury we watched Vieira, Petit, Gilberto, Bergkamp, Overmars, Ljungberg, Romford Pele, Wiltord, Pires, Henry, at The Emirates now it’s Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Gervinho, Walcott, Chamakh and RvP. With the exception of RvP, it is a huge drop in quality. Self-sustainability is all very noble and amicable, but it removes the teeth of competitiveness.
I don’t care whose idea or project it was, it is my humble opinion that Highbury could have been re-structured to accommodate 60,000 fans, and we needn’t have been crippled with a stadium debt. The exciting new dawn has all gone a bit flat, but at least we qualified for the cash-cow of the CL!
The next phase, 2006 to where we are now, has been more defining in examining Arsène Wenger’s managerial abilities, because he and his players have to justify the stadium move. Given how wide the gulf is between Arsenal and the top, at this moment in time, it has been an abject failure at every level.
Arsène Wenger’s transfer dealings have been nothing short of shocking in some instances. The Goalkeeping situation has been a constant source of embarrassment, and for some to say they would prefer Szczesny over Cech shows the level to which we have sunk. If your intentions are to compete and overtake the likes of MU, buying a player they no longer deem good enough is not going to close the gap. It is not an intelligent use of resources.
For all those that claim we had no money during this period, I don’t think Arsenal were ever in danger of going into administration. There was money available to waste on Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, Adebayor, Gervinho and Park, and still plenty left over to buy Ramsey, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Hleb, Eduardo, and pay Chamakh’s wages. There was still more money to waste on bringing Sol Campbell back on loan, a retired Goalkeeper the following season, and Thierry Henry back this year. It probably cost Arsenal as much to bring Henry back as Everton paid for Jelavic. And lest we forget big-money flops such as Richard Wright, Francis Jeffers and Jose Antonio Reyes. So that dispels the myth that we had no money!
Tactically Arsène Wenger keeps getting sussed-out by any manager with half a brain, and yet he won’t change or modify them, even when the whole world is watching it horribly unravel. He allowed Drogba to terrorise us and ruin Senderos’ Arsenal career, without ever considering that something different might be required to counter Drogba’s threat. Changing nothing is either foolhardy, and accepting defeat, or gambling on the same principle that has failed you so many times before. And every time an opponent works us out, we have nothing and nobody that can swing the momentum back in our favour. It is the same reason we have failed every ‘acid’ test. We secure pleasing ‘little’ victories occasionally, against Barcelona and MU, but the war has been lost long before.
Two things have struck me over the last fortnight. The first was on the last Sunday of the season, the contrast between MU and Arsenal. MU were seething with rage at seeing the title go, whereas Arsenal were jubilant at finishing 19 points behind MU and securing third.
The second was watching Bayern v Chelsea. No-one has championed African Footballers more than Arsène Wenger, and Zinedine Zidane, Lillian Thuram, George Weah and Samuel Eto’o are up among the best. But none of Arsène Wenger’s buys, African or otherwise, have ever shown the passion, desire/hunger, and commitment that Didier Drogba showed for Chelsea. There’s not one player at Arsenal who is prepared to put the same sort of shift in that Drogba put in against Munich. The same sort of appetite Rooney shows for MU, but something over-looked or not considered important enough at Arsenal.
How will Arsenal respond to Chelsea winning the European Cup? The rest of Europe’s big guns will undoubtedly launch a response, but with many fans sharing the BoD’s delight at scraping through, Arsene Wenger remains the only manager at a major club with absolutely no pressure to deliver success.
Is it acceptable for any football club to have a manager who is under no pressure to succeed? Do Arsenal supporters deserve it?
Given how divided the fans are, is Arsène Wenger now doing more harm than good, and are we slipping further away from those at the very top?
If you are still satisfied with Arsène Wenger’s overall performance, and the BoD’s ambitions are mirroring your own, this Post is redundant. But it can never hurt to have a clean, open debate about matters that strike at the very heart of our club, even if sometimes I/we are wrong. We are students and teachers in equal measure and I have enough humility to concede I can sometimes be totally wrong.
Love and peace to everyone of the Arsenal family.
Written by Herb