Doesn’t it seem strange that there is no Arsène Wenger statue outside of the Emirates Stadium? Despite all of the sacrifices, hard work and achievements at Arsenal, Arsène Wenger has never been properly rewarded or acknowledged for his 22 years at the club. His Arsenal legacy has not been appropriately respected.
Arsène Wenger is Arsenal’s greatest ever manager. The Frenchman spent 22 years at Arsenal, winning a great deal of silverware, guiding the club through the difficult transition period of moving into and paying off the new Emirates Stadium whilst rejecting approaches from Real Madrid and other top clubs along the way.
If you look at how other clubs have treated their legends, Sir Alex Ferguson has a stand named after him at Manchester United, Real Madrid have named their stadium, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium after the influential Santiago Bernabéu and Ajax have named their stadium the Johan Cruyff Arena to honour Johan Cruyff.
A common criticism of the Emirates Stadium is the corporate nature of the stadium’s name. It’s not directly related to Arsenal, in fact it’s not Arsenal at all. The Emirates Stadium as a name is as soulless as Stoke City’s renamed bet365 Stadium. What happens in 2028 when the Emirates naming rights expire?
Do Arsenal sell their name out to the highest bidder? It would be much more suitable and practical to instead honour and acknowledge Arsène Wenger’s loyalty, commitment and sacrifices involved whilst paying off the new stadium.
Forced to sell some of his best players along the way, Arsène Wenger promised to the banks that he would stay. In the very words of Wenger himself: “When we built the stadium the banks demanded that I signed for five years. Do you want me to say how many clubs I turned down during that period?”
The many footballing sides over the years that were built by Wenger, consistent Champions League football, trophies and the memories he has left Arsenal fans deserve be honoured. At the very least a statue should be built. Along with much needed statues for George Graham and Ian Wright.
Alan Pardew who shared some bad blood with Wenger in the past, had this to say in 2014, “The stadium should be named after Arsène,” “The job he did with that move across from Highbury, when he had all that debt and had to be very careful with his transfer budget, was incredible. It was a miracle that he kept them in the Champions League.”
Prior to the naming rights being paid for by the Emirates, the stadium was known as Ashburton Grove, meaning there are currently three names for the stadium, “The Emirates”, Ashburton Grove and Arsenal Stadium (which is used for UEFA Competitions).
Re-naming the stadium would install a unanimous name and resolve any issues over what the “real” name of the stadium is or should be and guarantee continuity.
Having the stadium’s name linked to a significant person in Arsenal’s history, would connect more with the supporters rather than that of a sponsor or a location. A step closer to regaining the soul Arsenal has lost since the move from Highbury to the Emirates.
Other managers, coaches, key figures in football and fans can see the impact Wenger has had on Arsenal. Yet for some reason, at Arsenal itself, those who run the club have deemed issuing Wenger a suitable tribute for everything he has done for the club, not important.
If you glance back to 2013, Arsène Wenger stated in a press conference that “You will miss me when I’m gone”. The passion, frustrations, the good times and the bad will be missed. The love he had for Arsenal. Even in his final years when things were going wrong, Wenger still believed he could turn the sinking ship around.
Once the current deal for the stadium’s naming rights expire, the stadium’s name should be changed to that of Arsenal’s most successful and longest serving manager. Arsène Wenger gave his all for the club, he was totally dedicated and the best way to honour his time at the club is to rename the Emirates Stadium after him.
A young writer who dreams of seeing Arsenal back in the Champions League. Particularly interested in the psyche, mentality and mental health of players – their motivation, the harmful effects of social media, and how the football world affects them.