The Roman Empire was perhaps the most famous in history, but as we all know, its rise decline and fall saw a city state expand to conquer what was then the whole of the known world, before its rulers allowed the barbarians to infiltrate the Empire, emulate its own tactics and finally destroy it.
Are we now seeing a similar fate befalling Arsene’s Footballing Empire?
Arsene Wenger became manager of Arsenal in 1996 with a revolutionary philosophy of building teams that were to become famous for their desire to entertain, not just Gooners, but every other football fan throughout the world with an over-riding emphasis on attack.
Wenger’s purist style of management saw him buy and develop only players with absolutely sublime technical ability, allied to speed of thought and an athletic speed and grace to match. His immediate acquisition of the relatively unknown Patrick Viera to join the already established genius, Denis Bergkamp, marked his intention to mould his first Arsenal team into one of the best and most stunningly graceful attacking teams of all times.
The advent of this brilliant managerial philosophy, together with equally gifted players, soon saw the explosive rise of Arsene’s Empire, as his attack minded vision saw him quickly acquire other players such as Titti Henry, Mark Overmars and Robert Pires, who all had the requisite specialist, technical skills which enabled Arsenal to strive for, and reach, the very zenith of footballing achievement in England.
League and FA Cup Doubles in 1997/98 and 2001/02, and other League and Cup trophies, heralded the success of his policy, and with his ‘Invincibles’ team also redefining defensive cohesiveness he seemed to have set the seal on many triumphant years of success stretching into the future, with Wenger being raised to the apotheosis of his profession.
This fabulous attacking style was in absolute contrast to the dour and pragmatic philosophy of other English clubs, with their reliance on clod hopping defenders and resolute ‘defend until the last man’ attitude, and this only served to underline the extent and influence of his coaching, dietary and man management skills, and Arsenal rapidly became the ‘second favourite team’ for fans of other clubs worldwide.
Then came what many have seen as the beginning of the decline of Arsene’s great footballing empire, caused initially by the pressing need to move from the old, much loved Highbury stadium to the newly built Emirates stadium, still oddly lacking in atmosphere and which has yet to carve its own chunk of history, while the attendant astronomical costs of that venture are still hanging heavily over the club’s ability to fully compete with the other top clubs in financial parity.
Substantial monies needed to continue Arsene’s philosophy of acquiring top quality players for his grand team rebuilding designs dried up, and this, together with the arrival of Abramovich, and the other no mark oligarchs who then proceeded to lavish obscene and apparently unlimited amounts of money on their own clubs’ transfer targets, and in upgrading
their training facilities and scouting systems, saw Arsenal lose ground against them, slowly at first, and then at an ever increasing rate, which saw our club incrementally drop from being a ‘top 2’ team, to a ‘top 3’ team, to a struggling ‘top 4’ team, and this year – who knows?
This astronomical rise and subsequent slow decline in the fortunes of Arsene’s empire was compounded by changes in the attitudes of some of our most gifted Arsenal players who began to question the vision and desire of the manager, and opted, instead, to leave and pursue their careers elsewhere by joining our closest competitors, driven by both a lust for money, unbounded by well meaning ‘socialistic’ limits, and also for the trophies that have persistently evaded Arsene for many years.
So, you might ask, was that all it took to bring about the reversal in the fortunes of our club?
No, that is not quite right!
A change in absolute, mutually agreeable, shared ownership, occasioned by a savage internecine bout of warfare, between previous friends David Dein and Danny Fizman, eventually saw the equally fractious acquisition of the majority shareholding in the club by ‘Silent Stan’ Kroenke, who swiftly lived up to his name by becoming an absentee landlord/owner, who immediately delegated the running of the club to his appointed managers, with Arsene Wenger quickly asserting himself as the real power behind the throne.
The ability of absolute power to ‘corrupt’ absolutely, is evident in Arsene’s apparent reluctance to delegate material control of first team coaching, or the acquiring or firing of youth team players to either Pat Rice, or Steve Bould when he was Youth team coach, as has been reported by a number of Arsenal ‘sources’ naturally reluctant to be named.
Be that as it may, Arsene has also proudly spoken of his own direct involvement in every aspect and stage of the new stadium’s design and building plans, not as an auxiliary adviser, but as a principal and administrator.
In addition, and of particular concern to many fans, frustrated by Arsenal’s transfer policy and salary structure, is the admission by Mr Wenger that he is personally responsible for Arsenal’s ‘socialist’ salary structure, as well as the enforcement of the transfer budget; the calculation of the transfer value of potential recruits; the salaries to be offered to them; and the final, often fatally protracted, decision as to whether or not to buy and when that should be, which has apparently caused failure in acquiring certain players.
In effect, if all these observations turn out to be true, Arsene has effectively, and primarily, subverted the authority of the Chief Executive who is powerless to retaliate, and Gazidis has probably calculated, correctly, that Kroenke, in any dispute between himself and Wenger, will take the view that it is easier to replace Gazidis than Wenger. Incidentally, this may explain some of the vague and conflicting quotes attributed to Gazidis.
Whatever the cause, your correspondent believes that a tipping point is rapidly nearing, where the future of our great manager will be decided, either by the rapid fall of his Empire, with the concomitant premature ending of a visionary manager’s career, accompanied by a
quickening descent of our club into mid-table mediocrity or a near miraculous change in policy will be needed to save the day.
Any student of management would surely agree that Arsene needs to relinquish his ancillary control of the club, however competently an economics graduate might feel he is doing, and allow others to oversee and manage club finances, and to delegate coaching and day to day footballing matters to those such as Steve Bould, and entrust the minutiae of transfer dealings to Gazidis and Laws, and single-mindedly focus, exclusively, on his footballing vision for the club he has done so much for, and almost singlehandedly transformed, over the years.
All the intellectual power, sheer brilliance and force of personality of Arsene Wenger will be needed to stabilise the current decline in our footballing fortunes. He will need to regroup and reassess the club’s footballing needs and the resources necessary for the building of yet another legendary, trophy winning team, and just leave finding the funding wherewithal for this latest project to others, and he will then undoubtedly succeed in leaving a fitting legacy for a truly exceptional man.
There is a clear choice to be made by both Arsene Wenger and the club management, as outlined above, and, depending on which option is taken, could decide the future footballing and financial success of our club, or result in a huge setback from which it might take a lifetime to recover from.
Emotions are already running high amongst many fans, and a growing number are beginning to mutter about the merits of the forced retirement of Arsene Wenger, but I am confident, that the right decision will be made for the benefit of the club, and this will soon herald the dawn of a new era in the club’s rich history.
The Rise, Decline and RISE of Arsene Wenger’s Empire, is within reach, he must grasp it!
Written by Red Arse