Having gone without silverware for six years, it would be easy for fans of a club to call for a manager’s head. When it comes to Arsenal though, the knowledgeable will know that may not lead to instant success and a road paved with gold.
Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal so far will go on to be reflected on highly, long after he eventually leaves, he completely changed the footballing culture of the club changing them from ‘boring boring Arsenal’, and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’, to the team who only the great Barcelona ‘apparently’ play better football than. Wonderful movement and intricate passing doesn’t guarantee trophies, but a certain element of respect has to be given for the level of play and how easy on the eye it is to watch.
Looking back at Arsenal’s history, though George Graham won titles as Arsenal manager in ’89 & ’91 the press tore into his team as the years went on as being boring. With a strong no nonsense back four that Wenger later picked up (via Bruce Rioch) of Dixon, Winterburn, Adams & Bould, the team outside of club legend Ian Wright struggled for goals. In the 1995-96 season Rioch took over from Graham but his reign was only for a season. Gooners fans will thank him for signing another Arsenal folk hero Dennis Bergkamp but not much else, now it was time for Wenger.
Not everyone had heard of Wenger when he took over, but as Wenger did not take charge right at the start of the 96-97 season, he still remains the first manager to win the ‘newly named’ Premier League in his first full season in 97-98. Indeed in this first season he also won the FA Cup, beating Newcastle, thus making him also the first overseas manger to win the domestic double. Winning the league in ’98 meant a temporary halt to Manchester United’s dominance of the English game. Arsenal’s glorious football wasn’t quite yet in place and people continued to have pops at them branding them as ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ chants partially continuing over from the Graham era. This was in comparison to a United team that was high scoring and made for great entertainment.
Wenger again repeated a double in 2002, edging Liverpool to the Premier League and stopping United winning a fourth consecutive title. Almost as important, the pretty football was coming into place, the likes of Robert Pires & arguably Wenger’s finest buy Thierry Henry, dazzling with their touch and grace on the ball. Surely, Wenger’s greatest accomplishment was leading Arsenal to being undefeated in the 03-04 season, an unprecedented feat. Not only was it record breaking but some of the football produced was scintillating, they passed teams off the pitch at Highbury and ripped into teams on the counter attack away from home. The main away wins that come to mind were against Manchester City and Leeds, were some of the counter play was breathtaking. Their unbeaten run stretched to an amazing 49 games, gaining them the tag of ‘The Invincibles’. It was only stopped at Old Trafford after Wayne Rooney took a hop, skip and a jump to gain a penalty, when Sol Campbell clearly had not touched him. United added a second but only as Arsenal pushed several numbers forward to chase the game.
Wenger’s last trophy was an undeserved FA Cup final win over Manchester United on penalties in 2005, it was here they probably used up their luck, as they have not had much luck in any of their finals since, maybe something frustrated fans should take into consideration. In the 2006 Champions League Final Arsenal took the lead after being reduced to 10 men against Barcelona and looked like they may be able to hold on until late goals from Belletti & Samuel Eto’o. In 2007 a very young side outplayed Chelsea in the Carling Cup final only to be beaten by a brace from Didier Drogba. In this years Carling Cup final it took a special effort it seemed at times by Ben Foster in the Birmingham goal to prevent them winning. So they still remain trophyless since 2005.
After Arsenal’s recent 8-2 humiliation at the hands of arch rivals United, the club have offered fans who travelled to the game a ticket for a forthcoming away match. A lovely gesture but it will be taken as much of an attempt of appeasement as the fact that they have not won the league since 2004 but always qualify for the Champions League. This creates though another almost oxymoron as they have only been to one final since Wenger was in charge.
One thing I agree with some fans about is the fact that they may view Mr Wenger as being stubborn. Time and time again you watch Arsenal and think there’s not much wrong if certain areas were addressed. Stuart Robson a former Arsenal player said at the back end of last season on sports channel ESPN that Wenger still doesn’t employ any defensive drills in his training sessions. Understandable when you see the kamikaze errors produced at times. They on too many occasions seem to beat themselves, as very few teams are able to get the ball from them for sustained periods.
Arsenal looked in a great condition to win the title in the 07-08 building a healthy lead at the top before falling away seemingly after the horror of Eduardo breaking his leg away to Birmingham. That season inparticular the young Gunners seemed to peak too early. To many times in recent seasons this has been the case though that they fall away at the most crucial time, gaining the tag of being ‘bottlers’. Being in command in the 02-03 season will also not be forgotten to quickly allowing United to come back & claim the Premiership after Arsenal had a large lead at the top.
Wenger has to be praised though for too many things for fans to want him out. Over the years he has bought and developed players. Cesc Fabregas though now moved on became an outstanding player, Patrick Vieira the same. Emmanuel Petit was ridiculed in French football before coming to Arsenal and became an integral part of the ’98 double winning team. He along with Marc Overmars was moved on to Barcelona for a fee that savagely amassed what they were bought for. Profit is another area where Wenger has excelled Nicolas Anelka was bought for peanuts and was sold for over £20 million to Real Madrid. Vieira was sold on to Juventus for profit, even just recently Samir Nasri was sold on to Manchester City for much more than he was bought for and he was in the last year of his contract.
It should leave Arsenal fans satisfied but instead they feel that money should be used for new players, and they have a right to, but over the seasons it very rarely has. This is though Wenger before every transfer window seems to assure fans that there is money for new acquisitions. Of note the only fees Arsenal have paid out for players over the years that made you look have been for Jose Antonio Reyes in 2004 & maybe at a push Andriy Arshavin. Compared to the money spent by other clubs though they were not gloriously expansive. So this could show his prowess as not an incredible amount is spent but they qualify for the Champions League every season and though not winning the title challenge for it nonetheless, but that is not good enough for Arsenal fans.
A new manager may not be the answer for instant success for Arsenal, they may for instance disguard all the system of bringing young players through that has been built by Wenger. Thus meaning they need time for their new system to take place and gel to be great. If trophies are wanted now, then that doesn’t guarantee them. Out of the teams who on paper will finish at the top of the table, Arsenal have the youngest squad, this squad could indeed go on to be highly competitive in everything they compete in for years to come.
Students of the game have cried out for a combative midfielder at the Emirates and young Emmauel Frimpong may be the answer there for years to come, which could save money though I think Wenger may still buy there. Many cried out for a goalkeeper to be bought but last season saw the emergence of Wojciech Szczesny whose height and aura are reminiscent of a young Petr Cech. Jack Wilshere already looks like he should start every game for Arsenal and England and his still a teenager.
Wenger’s transfer day dealings left a mixed reaction; some were satisfied whereas some were for some reason expecting a huge name to be bought. Looking at Wenger’s transfer policies throughout his time at Arsenal why would they expect this when he left himself a few days to operate properly. I personally thought he bought quite well, Mikel Arteta & Per Mertesacker were finally bought after both being linked for at least the last three years. Loan signing Yossi Benayoun will bring skill & goals from midfield, I haven’t seen much of Park Chu-Young though his strike rate doesn’t draw you out of your seat, he is apparently a hard worker, which will give Arsenal something different up top. Also anyone that knows me knows I was raving about Andre Santos during the recent Copa America, whilst playing for Brazil. These signings along with the earlier bought Gervinho who looks like his been there for years, will add a bit more experience to what is there, providing a better mix than before.
Arsene Wenger can be frustrating but for every apparent fault or weak point there’s a positives aspect that can counter it. Over time he has changed Arsenal’s culture into one that is admired by many around the world for its ‘pure football’ and though not recently he has won trophies applying it. He has made even the most ardent British xenophobe appreciate the European game more by bringing a more blatant passing game to the Premiership. So in my opinion anyone who thinks Wenger should be sacked, until Arsenal doesn’t qualify for the Europe’s elite competition you are indeed ‘Talking out your Arsene’.
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