During Arsenal’s much publicised seven-year trophy drought, Arsene Wenger has received criticism from all quarters.
Fans and football pundits, including ex-Arsenal players, have consistently condemned Arsene for his management of the club, with a particular focus on the club’s cautious attitude in the transfer market.
Undoubtedly mistakes have been made; last summer’s transfer window was handled extremely poorly, Arsenal failed to beat a weak Birmingham side in the 2011 Carling cup final and the club have thrown away strong positions in the league only to end up 3rd or 4th in the years since 2005. Errors in recruitment are also obvious, placing such great faith in players such as Denilson, Andrey Arshavin, Manuel Almunia and Marouane Chamakh have frustrated most Gunners fans.
Despite these, Arsene Wenger still deserves more respect than he is afforded. The ‘trophy drought’ needs to be contextualised. In Wenger’s highly successful first nine years at the club, he established Arsenal as Manchester United’s only domestic competitors for trophies. The level of competition at the top end of the premiership has been far higher since 2005; Chelsea and Manchester City have emerged off the back of rich new owners, even clubs like Liverpool and the less competitive Tottenham have invested heavily.
Whatever the critics say, Wenger has kept Arsenal highly competitive against far wealthier rivals. This has been achieved in an era of board-imposed austerity at the club while the debt for the building of the Emirates Stadium needed to be cleared. The recent game against Champions Manchester City gave a clear idea of what Wenger has been up against. Arsenal generally do not disclose the transfer fees they pay out but if reports are to be believed, the Arsenal starting 11 on Sunday cost around £70million. Yaya Toure (£24million), Sergio Aguero (£38 million) and David Silva (£25 million) all started for City and cost a combined £88 million. Arsenal faced a similar financial disadvantage when they faced Chelsea last weekend.
While Wenger will continue to take criticism while the trophy drought continues; any ridiculing of his achievements in English football is completely unfair. Many Arsenal fans continue to be disgruntled but it is important they take a step back and try to think of another manager who could have done a better job at keeping Arsenal competitive at the top end of the Premier League.