Some interesting information can be gleaned from an article by John Stanton of BBC. He poses some topical questions – is Wenger a reluctant spender? Has his second decade been a let-down? Has he transformed our national game? How will he be judged?
On the silverware front he follows just one manager – Alex Ferguson. Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool have each won fewer trophies At the same time in 10 of the past 12 seasons Arsenal have finished 10 or more points behind the champions. And yet 20 consecutive top four finishes really conveys consistency and quality. It is not an excuse for not winning the title but why is no other manager anywhere near him on this achievement? Another fact of note Wenger has been in his job sixteen years and one month longer than the next longest serving managers – Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche. And how about this – in the time Wenger has been at Arsenal Football Club, Chelsea, Liverpool, City and United have had a combined total of 42 managers.
No question but that Wenger’s introduction of new diets and training techniques prolonged the careers of Adams. Seaman, Bergkamp, Dixon and Winterburn. He had a rich George Graham inheritance but the players did well by him – their careers extended, their bank balance improved.
Now we know the comparison between the first ten years and the second ten years and we are well aware that we have not won a title since 2004 so is it the inevitable conclusion that Arsenal have really fallen away in the second half of Wenger’s tenure. In the first ten years Wenger oversaw 566 games and 563 in the latter ten years but he won 327 in the first ten and 320 in the second ten. Where the figures go against him is that he has conceded 584 in the last ten as against 513 in the first ten. It has proved difficult to repeat the meanness of George Graham’s defence. And yet more goals have been scored in the second ten years (1064) as against 1022 in the first ten. And of course in terms of trophies a big 73% came in his first ten years and just 27% in the second ten.
But of course – and this is where fans go in different directions – for at least half of the second ten years we sold, sold, sold. Our best players left – better terms and stronger teams helped by bigger cheque books weakened us. But there was no alternative. The move from Highbury to Emirates was enormous in terms of time and expense. We did not enlarge or re-build Highbury. We had to move. Now for me for Wenger to hit these statistics while he was annually having to sell his best players makes his achievement all the greater. And remember he was forced to rely on a less skilful squad – not just poor buys but cheap buys and yet we won matches just as regularly and scored goals – even more goals.
Wenger likes stability in his squad. He sells fewer players – he believes in them, shows confidence in them. Now he has funds and the long term future of the Club is assured he can spend – Mustafi and Xhaka to name just two. There will be more but at the same time he has to make room for the youngsters coming through. The future diamonds will go elsewhere – to other clubs if youth players are denied opportunities and that is why Iwobi and Bellerin are a stimulus for youngsters to come to Arsenal. City, Spurs, Liverpool have far fewer players with more than 100 appearances and only United have used fewer players. Wenger likes stability and continuity. He wants players to flourish and develop and I am sure he is disappointed with those that never made it – Denilson, Bendtner, Almunia and others. At the same time such is the quality of the squad that today we always have a strong bench.
OK enough from me – I am trying to hit a deadline for publication. Tonight is so important. Let’s hope we can add another three points. Certainly we looked stronger against Palace.