Arsenal fans must be thrilled right now. After years of trying The Gunners have finally managed to emulate Barcelona. Having watched the Catalan giants lose their Champions League clash with PSG by four clear goals last week, Arsenal copied it almost perfectly with defeat to Bayern Munich 5-1. Well done everyone. It’s been worth the journey.
It was embarrassing. It was not what Arsenal fans expected and the defeat bought about predictable results: yet more angry shouting from the “Wenger Out” brigade.
A quick glance at the swearing, sweating, 5-mins-of-fame hungry faces on Arsenal Fan TV, gurning their way through a crestfallen post-match interview and spitting vitriol all over YouTube would tell you something we probably already knew. All is not well at Arsenal. The fans want European adventures. They want to hold their own with the best football teams in the world. They want domestic trophies. In short, they want MORE.
The question is: Can getting rid of Arsene Wenger actually deliver more?
Cast your mind back almost 21 years when Wenger fist arrived in North London.
First, I can only imagine the outrage of Gerard-Depardieu-a-like Paul Merson at the thought of a “Frenchie” landing a top job in England. Especially one that has been plucked out of relative obscurity in Japan’s J-League. Surely there are proper home-grown ‘Football Men’ that could have done that job?
Second, let’s look at the impact he had when he arrived at Arsenal. Wenger brought with him a whole new approach to the game. His arrival in England heralded the end of teams in the top tier being run like the “Dog and Duck” Sunday League XI. There was suddenly an emphasis on sports science and “possession football” rather than booting the opposition up the arse at every opportunity and celebrating with a post-match pint… or twelve. His professional, professor like approach saw players such as David Seaman, Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp extend their stay at the top of their game and helped Wenger make an immediate impact, winning the league title after just 18 months at the club. To be fair, he set his own bar pretty high.
Some Arsenal fans would be all too happy to point out that he has since failed to reach that bar since and whilst the first 10 years of his reign resulted in a regular influx of silverware the second decade could be considered “A dry spell”.(1)
The truth is, he has not “faded” at all. The Gunner’s win ratio under Arsene in his first 10 years is almost identical to his second. The big difference has been the emergence of other teams, with big deep pockets who have since become “players” in the Premier League. Whilst Arsene has kept his purse strings reasonably tight others have splashed the cash like Wayne Rooney at a strangers wedding. So is it really any shock that other teams have stolen a march?
What he has delivered, every year, is the Champions League. When the Frenchman suggested himself that a top four finish and a place at Europe’s biggest table was a trophy in itself he was widely derided. Mocked for thinking that being “in the race” for the league would be good enough. BUT… here’s the thing. It is.
No other manager has delivered 20 consecutive top 4 finishes and the place in the Champions League that that brings so consistently. As much as football fans don’t want to admit it. For the board at least, that in itself is more important than securing a piece of Silverware. Sure, the FA Cup LOOKS nice sitting in a cabinet but does it bring in millions of pound in sponsorship cash and TV money? (2)
Football in the modern world is a business and business is about making money (3) and the fact is that Wenger delivers the club massive wads of dirty cash each and every year. It’s nothing to be sneered at. Even if all us fans really want is a decent pie and a good cup run.
After two decades at Arsenal not only has he delivered: 15 trophies, a new stadium and the title of most successful EVER overseas manager but with his regular top 4 finish he’s also secured the clubs long term financial future… not bad eh?
Whereas I agree that The Gunners have looked stale at times this season and that the regular, predictable “Start Strong, fall away in January, finish in fourth” trend has become a cliche. I also think it’s impossible to overlook the good that Wenger has done and the benefits of managerial consistency cannot be overlooked. (4)
It may be time for a change. We hear that Wenger’s future will be decided “by mutual consent” at the end of the season and when has “by Mutual consent” EVER been attached to anything positive? Phrases like “Me and my girlfriend have decided to get married by mutual consent” doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?
Arsene is positive that he will still be a manager next season… be it in North London or be it elsewhere and Arsenal fans could get a nasty shock. The manager may change but the attitude of the board to spending probably will not. A new man at the helm may not mean big money signings and whilst under Wenger they have experienced expansive, possession, and attacking football, under the likes of (for example) Diego Simeone, a very different Arsenal may emerge.
We could well see “Troopz” (5) on Arsenal TV bemoaning the combative, defensive footballing now being played at the Emirates, blud. Whilst a emerging Stoke City, with Wenger at the helm, excite the league and finish, as they always do, in the top four.
Be careful what you wish for Arsenal fans. The grass isn’t always greener and what Wenger offers cannot be underestimated. Plus, he almost thumped Alan Pardew once and he deserves a new contract for that alone.
(1) Only to fans who expect success. If, like me, you support a rubbish football team then the occasion trip to Wembley and a top 4 finish would be welcomed with open arms.
(2) No, the answer is no. Unless you sell the FA cup on Antique roadshow, but that would be frowned upon.
(3) Apart from Rangers and look what happened to them.
(4) Arsenal have had 1 manager whilst rivals Chelsea have been through 17… that means they’ve been through almost as many managers as John Terry has team mates wives.
(5) He’s the one on Arsenal TV that says “Fam” and “Blud” a lot. I have no idea what he’s talking about because I’m far to middle-class.
Jim hosts On The Left Side, the Alternative Football Show. This week he talks about: Barca Being Battered, Un-Ethical Haircuts and Drugged up Scotsmen.