Last week I talked about how our targets for next season would pan out if we were to lose the title this season, and as promised in that piece I am back with another question that is soon going to become pretty big in the ultra-divisive Arsenal fan circuit: Do Arsenal need Arsene Wenger to renew his current contract at the club or should we look to stop here and get someone in to move us into the future?
I have always been extremely pro Arsene, many times to the point that people think I worship him. Therefore, I will not be presenting only one view in this piece (because I personally want him to stay) and will try to look at both sides of the argument and be as unbiased as possible. When I began thinking about the question in depth I realised this was not to be answered in one blog so this will be a two part series so here we have this week’s piece.
Part I: Arsène Out
The kind of stay Wenger has enjoyed at our club is more than gracious, let us not kid ourselves otherwise. No manager anywhere else in the world has stayed for as long as Wenger has in his role with the number of trophies he has won and the huge gap between trophies at times (‘the austerity period’). Now a wildly pro Arsene Gooner would jump at me with the example of Sir Alex Ferguson at United but they wouldn’t have read the above statement fully. I added the caveat of number of trophies won, and looking simply at the hard and cold facts Wenger has underperformed in that respect. At any other club this in itself would have been enough reason for him to be out on his ass after the first couple of trophy less years. He has simple overstayed his welcome.
Next we come to the football that Arsenal have been known to play for the last two decades with the Frenchman at the helm is legendary by now. Slick passing combined with vision and technical ability like never seen before have been the hallmarks of Wenger’s play. In recent times one could contend that Arsenal have not been playing consistently brilliant football. What happened to the Arsenal which beat Barcelona in 2011, the Arsenal which was hailed as ‘little Barcelona’ in many parts? Arsenal have regularly slumped to defeats against opposition who can hardly be talked of as world class and in recent years that has happened with alarming frequency. The run of games in January this year is threatening to derail yet another title challenge.
We have players of the highest pedigree such as Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech and even Per Mertesacker (You don’t get into one of the world’s best national teams if you are not world class) and even now we are faltering in a season where we should have been running away with the title. If the players are there, the only component which is not working in our set up is the manager right? Wenger’s tactics have been walked over and found out by even lower level opposition. All the hubbub about the league being ultra-competitive is hogwash, Wenger is just not the man he was and his methods have not sufficiently changed with the times. His stubbornness and inability to change have cost us, his pursuit of perfection is doomed and his passing games hit the snag of a low 4 man defensive block far too often.
The scouting of players which brought Wenger so many laurels has now been turned into a farce. We bought Krystian Bielik for about 2 mil and Leicester bought Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez both for less than that amount! What’s Wenger doing all day sitting on his ass? Even the Spurs have a team built around youth and stand above us in the league while we have a manager who is famed for being youth friendly and still players are not given as many chances as you’d like. Why have we been investing more on youth this entire season than we have been on actual squad players? Apart from Mohamed Elneny we have not signed any outfield players and while Cech was a master stroke, we can ascribe that to the fact that he himself wanted to stay in London and apart from Chelsea we are the biggest club there is.
He has won the FA cup a record six times and the EPL three times but that is it. The other cups are arguably not worth mentioning plus the solitary Champions League Final appearance is simply not enough to suggest that Arsenal have been given the impetus to challenge in Europe by Wenger alone. Before he came along we were a functional team and after he came we were a stylish team but we lost the fight we had in us. The titles before him were won through grit and fight and we have arguably lost that part of our game. 1-0 to the Arsenal may not be a pretty final scoreline but we would take that any day over 8-2 to United, and 1-0 every match would arguably lead one to the title which our current scorelines do not look to be doing.
Being an economics major he may well know the lay of the land as far as money and spending goes, and it is very apparent that he can predict trends in the market such as the blown up transfers fees that we see today. However, you can argue that if he is in the know about the inflation, why does he not spend big one summer so that he can get as many signings he can at the same rate of inflation?!
Leicester’s rise to the top of the table has been a big thorn in the side of everybody like me who has always said that it is tough to succeed in the league without money. What have they done with their players is an absolutely remarkable feat. Claudio Ranieri has around the same experience that Wenger has and had arguably lesser resources than we have had, yet they have signed youngsters who have gone straight into the team like Demarai Gray and the manager before him who brought them up to the Premier League signed talents such as Mahrez and Vardy. We sign players who spend years in our reserves and never seem to get to the quality we require.
Another finger that is pointed at Wenger relates to the way he has continued to keep faith in injury plagued players such as Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and most spectacularly Abou Diaby. While many also point the finger at Wenger’s mismanagement of players as a reason for their frequent injuries I do not think the injuries can be linked to Wenger or his coaching because other people in the squad are fine and seem to recover from injuries as they should. What happens inside a player’s body is not Wenger’s responsibility but because he has such a high level of control at the club it is his responsibility to see that the club’s resources are not wasted. Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby all wasted a considerable amount of our money not just on their wage bills but also on their medical bills which I believe would have been substantial. If they were found to be injury prone, why were they not discarded at that point of time?
Also, since we are talking of money spent on players we should also talk about the money spent on the manager himself. A quick Google search will tell you that Wenger is supposedly on £8.30m a year. That is big money, especially considering the fact that it equals out 150k a week. Wenger is supposedly among our top earners and that has been the case for quite some time. Even before he broke our wage structure to accommodate Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. So do we question his ethics? The man who speaks of a low budget and tightened purse strings gives himself a feast from the same purse? If he were truly all for a successful Arsenal maybe he could have lessened his own salary and signed a player.
All the thoughtful, intellectual interviews and the class are fine and well appreciated but we are a football club and a big one at that, so success in the game must be the number one priority for anybody at the helm. We might be better known across the globe because of Wenger but if the revenue from marketing deals and shirt sales across the globe is not translated into investment on players then what is the point of it all? What sort of person speaks about excellence and perfection all the time but does not shell out the cash to buy it when said cash is at his disposal?
To be continued…….
Sohum Sen is a half Bengali-half Gujarati Gooner from Kolkata, India. He lives the highs and lows with Arsenal and has a soft spot for Wenger. The things he loves most in the world are as follows- his little sister, his girlfriend and the Arsenal. Always available for a good debate, he fancies himself as a bit of a philosopher and as a tactician. He happens to be studying for a degree in Electrical Engineering, while simultaneously dreaming of writing a blog. He hopes to be a ST holder one day.