The comments on Part I are appreciated and I say again that it was only an aggregation of the views held by many others – NOT my personal view on Wenger. I would like to point out Mr. Victor Thomson as one of the most civil people I have ever had a disagreement with. Sir, I do not agree with most of what you say but you are the kind of person whose right to present their views I will champion at all times. I must, jowever, refute your view of Wenger staying put because he has a deal with Kroenke… I do not think that is the sort of person Wenger is and neither would you if the team were winning.
What has Wenger ever done for the club? Firstly let me provide you with some reading you may find interesting on the matter. These are some of my favourite pieces debating very near to this topic. Not all of them are unbiased and some of them are very old but all top notch and worth a read. Take your time to look through them please.
• What has Wenger Ever Done For Us? (by Poznaninmypants)
• Arsene Wenger: Martyr of Islington (Originally from Eight by Eight magazine)
• We wear the white hats (by Poznaninmypants)
• The legend of Arsene Wenger (Featured in the Run of Play)
• Arsene Wenger at 1000: Arsenal manager’s epic and anachronistic run (featured in The Guardian.)
Most of those pieces have taken very different looks at the man and his achievements here at our beloved club and all have both bad and good things to say. I covered the bad in the Part I so this will mostly be about why I still want him at the club.
First and foremost, it must be said that Arsene’s is one of the only footballing philosophies currently operating in the world. Although being a philosophy it is at times impossible to play out and doesn’t always get the result needed, but in him we have a man of gigantic footballing stature. One whose ideas have transcended cultures to impress people, even in England, where functional football is more the lay of the land. Having him at the club means we have a recognition for it worldwide, and that helps both the fans and the club in that we are proud of our image and we can attract the best players in the world. They come to play the beautiful game: the slick, technical, intelligent and intricate game that our teams play year after year despite not having the best results to show for it.
Think of this for a second: 6-7 years down the austerity period, if Wenger had caved in to every doubter and the team started playing more functional football (read: defensive and/or danger free – a la LVG), would we have been able to sign the players we did even without trophies? Would Mesut Ozil have come to us? Would Alexis Sanchez have come to us? Heck, would Santi Cazorla have come to us?
And in the austerity period we played that way with a less talented squad (to say the least). For example in 2011 the team that lined up against Barcelona and won had the following starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Walcott, Nasri, Van Persie. Subs: Almnia, Rosicky, Denilson, Squillaci, Arshavin, Gibbs, Bendtner. The scoreline that night was 2-1 to Arsenal, and that goes on to show the magic of Wenger’s man management and also his ability to make a team whose sum total was much greater than the sum of its individual parts. That is an outstanding achievement for any manager and we have done that again and again with Bayern Munich too. It has become expected that Arsenal can beat the big guns but falter at the final hurdle. People only see the faltering at the final hurdle, they do not see the fact that beating a super heavyweight requires much more from the team than they would usually have and that extra comes from none other then Arsene.
Sports teams are expected to perform linearly, which is why champions are touted as favourites (HAHAHA. Chelsea) the next season; and players are selected right from a young age based on what growth they can show under observation (Jackie Wilshere) – linearly, that is. Whether performances can be sustained, or even growth can be kept on track, is impossible to foresee. However, Wenger has made a habit of producing non-linear results, whether a shock win against Bayern or a shock loss at Southampton (which should not be a shock really, it is not that bad a team). It also works the other way around – but then I can tell you that football teams do lose and since nobody has gone entire seasons unbeaten consecutively in modern day football, we can say that expectations are not always met. It all depends on what your expectation from the club is. My expectation is that the club keep playing a certain way and keep the class they have always had, which allows all of us to have the faith that we support a club that believes in doing things right.
The trophies he has given us are known by everybody, but nobody understands the magnitude of his achievement. This is the man who gave us The Emirates Stadium, the man whose brain and tactics kept us in the fray of England’s top clubs at a time when money was just starting to make its way into the PL. He has foreseen the inflation of fees and the Emirates is the only reason we can still compete for signings with the big clubs and from next season, with basically all 20 teams in the league with the crazy TV money going in. When all clubs can give players the same wages, what do you think would pull them to a club? If you answered history then I must tell you that Liverpool are not doing well at all with history alone – and neither are Manchester United at the moment.
I have never supported the Arsenal for trophies, simply because they did not win too many when I started watching them. For the first 8 years of my support they won absolutely nothing and I had no complaint about that. Supporting a team is being part of a narrative and I believe that our part in the narrative is that of the good guys. The guys who play fair and play for perfection, without any oil money and without ridiculous wages. We stand up for our own with the likes of Diaby and Wilshere, and although even I would say it was foolish for us to carry them on for so long, it speaks to a certain mentality from the manager. Arsene Wenger is a man of his word and has brought honour and repute to the club in a way that nobody else has in the past few years that I have known football. No other manager apart from Alex Ferguson is so easily identifiable with a club as Wenger is, and he wasn’t always well known in the good way.
Let us get this clear, I am not saying we should not want trophies or that fans who want Wenger out are wrong – but just that I would personally rather have him at the club than have a David Moyes-like situation occurring here. People who believe Wenger should be gone believe that we are stagnating under him and that the same things keep happening year after year. While I do not subscribe to that view I understand why it makes sense to such a large contingent of supporters, but I should also point out that if you think results are stagnating then that cannot always be blamed on Wenger. Players underperforming cannot be down to the manager all the time. If the Arsenal juggernaut derails every year and you think it is because Wenger doesn’t have the winning mentality, just remember that this is the same man whose pursuit of perfection was such that he said an entire season unbeaten was possible, and then went on to make it possible.
I have felt the need to respond to some of the comments on the last post because they deeply injure my image of Wenger as a man. Especially those suggesting that he has made a deal with Kroenke to keep quiet and earn his millions on the sly. I am sorry to say that such claims disrespect and defame our manager in ways that nothing else would. I understand people are more attached to the club than to Wenger but he is part of the upholstery at Arsenal now and will be even after he retires, one cannot make such accusations without cause. Wenger loves this club and it is fine that he takes a huge salary, because one can do both without a conflict of interest. He is running an enterprise worth $1.4 Billion and it must have its perks, one cannot expect him to be earning peanuts. For comparison both Pep Guardiola and Mourinho charge much more than what Wenger does. Tell me after two seasons of Mourinho, is it worth it? Is Pep Guardiola as good with the A grade teams like us as he is with AA teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich? I do not think so. No manager could have done what Wenger has done for the club and kept quiet about it at the same time. When we needed CL qualification to stay financially safe, he did not pressure the fans with that knowledge, he kept it to himself and took the bile from all angles. Even with Kroenke at the helm, he has managed to spend big on players when he has needed to and if the claims in the comments section were true that would not have happened.
For all of us there comes a time when we realize some things are simply not working out, and some of us make that realization faster than others. Whether it is time for another round of renewed success at the Emirates, I think he knows, Arsene Wenger, that if there is a time to go, it is now. Whether it is time for his team to go ahead and win him some vindicating titles, or it is time to walk into the sunset himself. It is best to leave the decision to him and worry only about supporting the team.
In the end it all comes down to what you think Wenger stands for. Is it money, greed, lust for power and inability to walk away from the past? Or is it sportsmanship, fair play, class, the pursuit of perfection and the right way of doing things?
I, for one, believe that for Wenger himself it has always been the latter. The possibility of turning sport into art appreciable by all society, to bring a smile through the very mention of the team he loves and has built up through hard work, that has driven him on for so many years. He will never be Ferguson with his 13 PL titles. He will always be Arsene Wenger, the man who believed that in sport it is not always about winning.
I say, Wenger In.
If you missed Part 1 which put the case for Wenger out click here