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Wednesday 17 August 2016

A Hotspur Homage to a Gunner God: Why Wenger Was Right and how Pochettino is the next Prophet.

I have not been active on this blog for numerous reasons and it is, perhaps, the current situation Arsenal have once again found themselves in that has me coming back to it in an effort to scratch an itch that can't be found. Nevertheless, this is an article ( I have a second that I will publish, for those interested) that a good friend of mine wrote and sent to me last year, and for whatever reason I never got around to publishing it. He is a Spurs fan and he uses the word soccer, but if you can forgive him that it is a good read. There is a lot of debate with regards the manager and the need to categorise which side you stand on, so it is nice to take a break from that debate and hear another perspective. As it was written during last season, there are of course, many references to that- note the lack of Leicester! It is quite odd how the mood at a club can change so quickly...


As a Spurs supporter it’s very hard to say, or write in this case, that Arsene Wenger is the greatest manager in certainly the history of the English Premier League, and a revolutionary. However, when looked at rationally and with cold calculus which never lies, it’s rather obvious. Often the prophet or preacher is chastised and ridiculed in pointing the path of piety for a bountiful reward. Only when martyred is he/she revered. Whether its Jesus Christ, Woodrow Wilson, Billie-Jean King or Bill Hicks is only after their life (or after their resurrection, and yes I know Billie-Jean King is still alive with Emma Stone rumoured to portray her in the retelling of the famous ‘Battle of the Sexes’ game) that we come to recognize their virtues.

Such assessments may take the reading of a thousand page book, a League of Nations, a film or YouTube, but Wenger’s achievements can be assessed by the very fact of where Arsenal are right now. Nearing twenty years in English football, he has lead his sides to three league titles and six FA Cups, continued appearance in the top echelons of European football and a stadium that rivals that of the NFL. The forerunners of this seasons Premier League playing enchanting football says it all. Of course, as a reader of an Arsenal blog, you already knew and believe that. Hard for a Tottenham fan to argue against that silverware with a couple of league cups and the prestigious (my word and opinion) Peace Cup in 2005. Though how Wenger managed to achieve this is where the gospel lies and enlightenment ensues.

To me, Arsenal appear to be the perfect ‘hipster’ club, up until Wenger’s arrival in North-East London, the Gunners had intermittent periods of success, enough to sustain the famines that inspired Nick Hornby’s devotion. If Aston Villa is the club of choice for David Cameron and Prince William, the very fact that Fever Pitch follows an Arsenal fan in a singular success for the 1980s, then turned film starred Colin Firth. The man who would be portraying a King for Academy Award glory. At least George Graham’s side was more entertaining than the King’s Speech. Perhaps one could argue that Wenger was the original ‘hipster’.

Wenger was favoured over the mercurial Johan Cruyff for the job. If he was able to out philosophize the Zen of ‘Total Football’, than he was clearly already going to be a success. Not only does he transform the Gunners from dull and dank to the beguiling entertainers of the English game. He reinforces the idea of preparation, more emphasis on diet and nutrition with scientifically timed training and recovery sessions to benefit his players; it all sounds like Roy Keane’s wet dream. Nevertheless, the innovation does not end there. Many articles have been written by the nurturing of young talent and his stringent economic principles that have strengthened an identity, but to my own amazement he assess his player’s mentality on a regular basis. So much for the hairdryer treatment, it would appear that Wenger knew when to show a player the door before a flair up, both Adebayor and Robin Van Persie are perfect examples.

And it’s Adebayor where one can see that the Argentine Mauricio Pochettino is of the same soccer gene pool as the French man. In showing Emmanuel Adebayor the door at the start of the season not only followed Wenger’s assessment but also demonstrated the cool ruthless calculation of the business world that they both apply, to not waste time on hopeless causes. Pochettino’s emphasis on youth (which has been precipitated by the ridiculous divining out of the Gareth Bale transfer fee and with a view to financing of the clubs new stadium…yes, 61,000…1-0 to the Spurs!) has seen figures such as Eric Dier, Delle Ali, Harry Kane and even the expensive Lamela thrive and even flourish. Though the former Espanyol man may not fit the economic-centric dynamics of Wenger, he certainly applies a modicum of it to his own transfer dealings.

When offered QPR’s Charlie Austin as a substitute for Sadio Berahino instead of accepting Levy’s offer he choose not to follow it. Perhaps this also offers him leverage in the future, in not accepting Levy’s way he is not accountable for when it dithers (which has happened to other Spurs managers on too numerous occasions) and with the two Spurs may finally have Ying and Yang. Pochettino’s footballing philosophy, a disciple of Marcelo Biesla (linked with Swansea City, and the hipster manager of them all) with the financial brilliance of Levy stands Spurs well in the future. If you ask me, granted a White Hart Lane worshiper, who were Arsenal’s greatest partnership? I wouldn’t say Henry and Bergkamp, but Arsene Wenger and David Dein. For both of whom the club’s transformation would not have been possible. For all the beliefs in philosophy and reliance on plans, often history is the result of chance by circumstance. However, that discussion would be for another day or judging by this article and the editorial sensibilities of Cosmic Kid cut in its infancy after this post.

The last question I hear you say I haven’t clarified? (One of an assortment of voices in my head), Yes, Pochettino will surpass Wenger as the next prophet. Why? Because he has things in place that Wenger didn’t have back in 2006 when Arsenal left Highbury for the Emirates. Spurs playing staff are on the incline, the trajectory that is afforded youth though not a given is most definitely a positive. The stadium will take care of itself, with Levy in mind I certainly would not have any major worries over it financing. However, the real test is can Tottenham avoid the same path that befall Arsenal over the years that followed. In ’06 Wenger’s Invincibles were on the decline, the side he rebuilt never got the chance with the departures of Flamini, Hleb, Fabregas and Van Persie over the years hindering any near success. Now finally, the verve is back and the Emirates is on the cusp of what could be a great era. The major key is stability which is offered in abundance. The fact that Pochettino’s managerial career isn’t laden with silverware is the very personification of Spurs in the 21st Century, the hunger and desire is there. The two should remain happy bedfellows.
Yet both Arsenal and Spurs have the one thing that a rudderless Chelsea, a hapless United and a lackluster Liverpool lack, an identity. And no amount of money can buy that. The most valuable thing in modern day soccer is time. May both clubs forge further with success…maybe titled in Spurs’ favour. If Spurs could follow such stability, there may be some important derbies to come over the years.

Written by Cian Manning.

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