Well, for a surprise, this is a surprise.
The Arsenal Football Club just announced the arrival of former Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight coach Arsène Wenger at the helm of the Club, to replace the departing Bruce Rioch.
Despite penning a three-years deal fourteen months ago only and qualifying for next year’s UEFA Cup by finishing fifth in the league, the manager couldn’t keep his job and was temporary replaced by Houston and then Pat Rice.
It’s widely reported that the manager never really got along with vice-president David Dein, who never liked the rather military approach adopted by Bruce Rioch, and saw his requests for additional transfers fund rebuffed by the board – making his stay at the Club virtually impossible.
Additional rumors say that some senior players didn’t like him either but I prefer to think that none of the likes of Ian Wright, John Hartson and others were involved in the sacking of a more-than-decent manager, who brought in a superstar like Dennis Bergkamp and was starting to implement some delightful football – far away from the old kick-and-run approach.
Should some declining footballers’ unjustifiable moans have counted in the process of replacing the Scot, it would really be a disgrace for a glorious football Club still suffering from the George Graham scandal and its echo.
Of course, falling one step away from the League Cup final and infamously losing to Sheffield United in the FA Cup didn’t help his insecure position but the man didn’t really do much to deserve the boot, especially seen the little time he’s been given.
Should the Arsenal aim higher than fifth place? Of course.
We should be fighting for the title and did fall short this time but the premises looked good enough to give the man another try.
Instead, the Club is taking a huge gamble in appointing a man who’s believed to be a visionary, a revolutionary mind who’ll change the face of British football but is – so far – a man who picked up some honours here and there without any consistency.
I am encouraged, yet sceptic, by chairman Peter Hill-Wood words about Arsène Wenger:
“I believe Arsène Wenger is going to be a great success and drag football in this country into the 20th century. There is no doubt in my mind we are blinkered and backward as a sporting nation. Look at the British results in Europe, they were not good, including ours. We keep telling ourselves we have the best league in Europe, but it is not true. We need to catch up with the Continentals and we think Arsène is the man to help us”
With someone like Johan Cruyff in the frame for the same job, wouldn’t the Dutchman – with his legendary charisma and such a proven record – be the right man to change the way football is played in England?
Look at how his Barcelona team played, look at how the Dutch national team plays: that’s a revolution!
Anyway, we’ve read here and there about his attention to details such as players diet and fitness, about the rigour and discipline he wants from his players and how he pushes them to make their own decisions on the pitch so let’s not throw judgments yet: there’s a chance that he is the right man, after all.
He’s rather unknown, I agree, and doesn’t really look like the inspiring, winning figure he’s expected to be but if Glenn Hoddle spent such great words for him – and David Dein pushed so hard to have him at the Arsenal – there must be something with him.
Bienvenue, Arsène – may your career at the Arsenal be long as successful.