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Tuesday 2 May 2017

Arsene Wenger.

While it may not necessarily be the case that the majority of Arsenal fans have turned against our most successful, and longest serving manager, those who have are certainly the loudest. The chorus of disenchantment has been silently simmering in the background for years, slowly swelling like a dim flame burning brighter as more firewood is tossed onto it. The media perception of Wenger has become pity; pity for a man who once revolutionized the sport in the country, for a man whose team played a caliber of football previously unseen in England, for a man who never wavered from the strength of his convictions, for the man who once made everyone question the way they thought about the game ; for a flawed genius.

Wenger walked into every stadium with the arrogance and swagger that left most drooling in jealousy in anticipation of not just the defeat that often followed in those early years, but the footballing lesson that encapsulated the flair, artistry and invention of this once most astute and cultured of managers. Wenger is in every sense a student of the game, aiming to not only play in what many consider the right way, but in his own words, to strive for perfection ;  “I believe the target of anything in life should be to do it so well that it becomes an art..." Chasing fantasies of perfection used to be the Wenger way; the Arsenal way, but now even a strong challenge seems so far out of reach. 

While it now seems likely that the security and comfort of Champions League football, and the now annual embarrassment that sees our exit from a competition we have never truly done much in (One final, another semi final and a couple more quarter finals attest to that) is also out of reach. The wheels are coming off the Wenger bandwagon, with each defeat scarring a former victory.  How far will it have to go before there is no memory of those great Arsene Wenger teams? The answer is subjective of course, but there is, to my mind at least, considerable credit still left in the account. There probably always will be for me, however, that doesn't mean I don't think it is time for change. 

Arsenal football club has become complacent, content with being above average, but nothing more. Or at least that is the public perception. Wenger will argue, and all those who know him will surely attest to, the ambition he has and that he so desperately wants to succeed, and I believe that. I question whether he is now able to make Arsenal successful, with any illusions of being the best now confined to history. However, I don't think that Arsenal as a club are ambitious, or set up in such a way to maximize their huge potential. London's most successful team and one of the richest clubs in the world acting like beggars with an inferiority complex, is not how ambitious clubs act and  it's not how successful clubs act. 

Something clearly must change at Arsenal. In my opinion it is far too simplistic to believe that a change in manager alone will usher in a new era of success. There is a culture of acceptance, a preconceived belief that we cannot compete and will never compete with the madness of 'financial doping', as Wenger himself so eloquently put it. This made sense in the years after moving from Highbury, the mecca for those of us who live in nostalgia and perhaps, not reality. Achieving champions league football throughout those years may yet prove to be Wenger's best work, as he himself has previously admitted, but that time is over. It is time to move on. 

Wenger likes to speak of mental strength and when everything goes wrong, inevitably mental weakness, without taking any culpability in the erosion of confidence himself. Publicly stating that Arsenal cannot compete with clubs for Mbappe, for example, as he did last week sends out the wrong message not only to the fans, but most importantly to the players. It subconsciously sends out the message that Arsenal cannot compete and that seeps out, crating an atmosphere of doubt; feeling beaten before taking to the pitch. Collapsing when the slightest thing goes wrong, just like at the weekend at White Hart Lane conceding two goals in quick succession. How different things are from the days when opposition teams lined up in the tunnel at Highbury already feeling beaten. 

Where is the Wenger that stated he wanted to ' Make arsenal the best club in the world', back in 1996? He might say it again from time to time, but just like when he first arrived no one really believes him; the key difference when he arrived being that results quickly showed his ambition was realistic, now it seems like the desperate whims of a mad scientist struggling to find the right formula.This Wenger you might ask, who is he ?-  Arsene who? 

While this article may come off harsh, I am a huge fan of Wenger. I don't agree with the volumes of abuse leveled at him, and certainly not the vindictive personal attacks that follow every loss. Victoria Concordia Crescit, loosely translated as 'Victory through Harmony' is the Arsenal club motto, and while someone who doesn't like Wenger can certainly claim he is not living up to the 'Victory' side of the motto, can that same fan really say he is living up to the 'Harmony' side? Arsenal as a club have always prided itself on being classy and respectful, if you can't do that then you are just as bad as the players who were slated for being not fit to wear the shirt at Crystal Palace. After all, it is far easier to be harmonious than victorious. 

Arsene Wenger is far from the worst thing at Arsenal and in some ways the more I think about life after Wenger the more I begin to appreciate him. He will never truly earn the plaudits he deserves until he becomes just a name in the history books or cast in bronze outside the stadium. I would also like to highlight that I fear for the time he is gone. Consistency may be boring, and that may be the worst thing you can say about Wenger but it is still limited success. 

Looking at the club from the outside is worrying as it is no secret that Wenger is the only football man with any authority at the club and a big part of me feels that Wenger stands alone in holding the ceiling from caving in entirely. The board remains very stand offish and the majority shareholder merely a ghost. That infamous quote from Sir Chips Keswick, the chairman, that 'When Arsene has a plan we back him, and when he doesn't we shut up' is clearly not a healthy way to run any business, and questionable in every way possible. At the very least Arsene Wenger needs more help, but therein lies the problem; his stubbornness won't allow for it, thus unless he leaves nothing will change and the cycle will continue. The whole structure of the club needs to change. 

While it is time for Wenger to go, I should also highlight that Arsenal are in the F.A cup final and in his darkest hour he may still win a trophy. There is still an outside bet of making the top four, with all hopes surely dependent on a win against Manchester united at the weekend, ironically managed by Jose Mourinho. Can Wenger stir up one or two last great performances? Perhaps, that was the semi-final victory. If Arsenal were to somehow finish in the top four and win the F.A cup then it would be extremely harsh to sack him, but the club needs change. After a successful season, you might ask why I would ask for a divorce. 

The truth is that I don't see Arsenal winning the league again under Wenger, much less challenging for the Champions League. If Wenger stays I only see the situation devolving further, and no one wants that. Arsenal and Arsene need a fresh challenge. Arsenal can be more successful, but I only think that because Arsene Wenger made me think that. Arsenal were a hugely successful team before Wenger took over and the assertion that he 'made' the club is disrespectful to what came before. Arsenal were great and he made them better. The memories of his earliest teams will remain ingrained on my memory, and every great team will always be compared to the 'Invincibles', probably never outdoing them, and that is also the sad irony of it all; we may never be better than we were when Arsene Wenger truly made us great.


  1. Well said lad.

  2. He's already cast in iron inside the stadium*

  3. The board have an awful lot to answer for in relation to the environment that exists and has persisted at Arsenal for sometime. A manager is only as good as the backing he receives from the boardroom and the players at his disposal. Wenger has been left down by some of his top players since January. Generally once the dressing room is lost by the manager its curtains.
    Great point on "financial doping", though worryingly for Arsenal they've spent 80 million more on wages then Spurs! Sadly that has to be blamed on Wenger.