Monsieur Arsène Wenger – Deluded or Genius?

As a die-hard Arsenal fan, it is very difficult to write any article about Arsène Wenger without some sort of bias one way or the other. You are either an ‘In Arsène we trust’ fan or a ‘Wenger out’ supporter. Middle ground is difficult… but I will try!

In the last three weeks alone, I must have read every opinion available as to Wenger, should he stay, should he go, who replaces him and so on… Twitter is awash on a daily basis with views, opinions, venomous comments, and utter disgust of how Arsenal Football Club are becoming ‘second rate’. Whatever your opinion, it is hard not to get frustrated or even agree that it is ever acceptable at the so called lack of ambition by a club like Arsenal Football Club to ‘only finish fourth’.

The ‘Wenger out’ suggestion is certainly not a new thing… As long ago as December 2008 I remember very well that a pal of mine, who is Arsenal through and through and rarely, if ever, misses a game, vented his upset and anger following Arsenal’s defeat to Aston Villa when we got beaten 0-2 at home. I was there that day and in fairness Arsenal were poor. Gabriel Agbonlahor taunted the Arsenal fans with his celebrations after scoring the second goal and the fans were very pissed off! – Following the match, my pal was so incensed that the following day he voiced his disdain for Wenger on Andy Townsend and Mike Parey’s Talk sport Radio show. It caused so much consternation, that Des Kelly of the Daily Mail even found it necessary to write an article about it quoting: – “How dare a fat London taxi driver have the audacity to question Arsène Wenger”.

Other brands of massive chocolate bar are available...

Other brands of massive chocolate bar are available…

Five years on, as is ritual, I had something to eat with the same pal prior to the Bayern Munich game last week and we were laughing about it. After the game as we left the ground, my pal, the same not so fat, half the size he was London taxi driver, was full of the same disdain. I have to admit I agreed with him. Bayern were streets ahead and seemed to have three men to our one for each and every ball. Our system last week was completely wrong. Who was that down to? – This time however, knowing it would fall on deaf ears, my pal chose to buy the largest bar of chocolate he could find instead!

You can run any sort of analysis over the Blackburn Rovers FA Cup defeat that you want, (and many have) but the bottom line is we lost and simply weren’t good enough to kill the game off early enough to justify resting the ‘first team’. Yes, every year the FA Cup throws up shocks, but in reality, the FA Cup was Arsenal’s most realistic chance of a trophy this year and we should not have been beaten, certainly not by Blackburn.

Delusion…

This week, following a hard fought out 2-1 win against Aston Villa on Saturday at the Emirates (which we may have lost) thanks to a brace from Santi Cazorla; Arsène Wenger has been quoted as saying “Arsenal can finish in second place behind Manchester United this season”. Really? – 11 games to play and 9 points behind Manchester City… Not sure how he works that one out? – We still have to play the ‘Spuds’ on Sunday at their place, and the form that ‘one man Tottingham’ are in at the moment with Mr Bale single-handedly carrying the team, despite the game being a derby will be a tough ask, followed by a home game with Everton and still Man Utd to come to the Emirates on 28th April.

It is in my opinion a foolish person who is going to be brave enough as to say we will finish second. Why would Arsène Wenger heap more pressure upon himself?

No it is not impossible, and yes, in fairness Arsenal always do seem to have a reasonable to good run at the end of the season, but the task of winning the next game is hard enough, together with the others two key games mentioned above and the reliance that Spuds, Chelski and Manx City will all drop points… and we won’t! Personally, and I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but I would settle for fourth place right now! – Defeatist? No, just realistic!

Since we won the league in 2003-04, Arsenal has not finished outside the top four. In 2007-08 we finished 3rd with 83 points, whereas last year, 2011-12 we also finished 3rd with 70 points (see below)

  • 2004-05     2nd       83 points
  • 2005-06     4th        67 points
  • 2006-07     4th        68 points
  • 2007-08     3rd        83 points
  • 2008-09     4th        72 points
  • 2009-10     3rd        75 points
  • 2010-11     4th        68 points
  • 2011-12     3rd        70 points
  • 2012-13     5th        47 points (after 27 games with 33 points still available)

If we were to win every game between now and the end of the season then we would have a total of 80 points. Is 80 points enough for 2nd place? Probably not!

Genius…

People are very quick to forget the impact that Arsène Wenger has had on the Premier League and the modern game in general. Who had heard of Petit, Vieira, and Overmars? – What about Kanu, the man with a hole in the heart that no one wanted. We all remember how the ball stuck to his foot as though it was attached with glue, particularly against the Spuds!! – Then there was a petulant kid called Anelka and some young wannabe Swedish guy called Ljungberg… oh and yes, a certain Mr Henry!

Bruce Rioch and Dennis Bergkamp

Brucey’s bonus…

Wenger prolonged the careers of Adams, Winterburn, Dixon and Keown for probably two/three years longer than would have been expected, then of course there was the legend and in my books one of the greatest players of all time… Dennis Bergkamp. He played on longer than was expected too… Although signed by Bruce Rioch (master stroke that was…) the longevity and impact all of these players had on our game was all down to Wenger and his regime. Wenger did change the modern day game in this country, and I would suggest worldwide with his diets, methods and influences.

We turn to recent times with the loss of both Cesc, Na$ri and Van Purse Strings… All three are quality players although Cesc in my opinion is the greater talent and greater loss, even more so that Van Purse Strings. Although it sucked how the whole saga continued on and on with Cesc, as it did with Viera and Henry before him (although Henry, the legend in my opinion has redeemed himself), Cesc was always honest enough to say he wanted to go home to his boyhood club, and frankly, you have to respect his desire to return to his roots as it was always going to happen. As for Na$ri… all I can say is that he has no class, let’s just leave it at that! Ironically, as recently as last week, Mancini said he thought Na$ri was only playing to 50% per cent of his ability. Interestingly enough, with exception of a very few, all those who leave Arsenal are never the same players! That must say something for Arsène Wenger.

Van Purse Strings… You are world class, but last season was the first season that I can remember in your eight years at the Arsenal where you truly performed. Does that give you the right to be all self-righteous? – I think not! – Maybe Man Utd are yet to see the effect it will have on them if he is going to be out for a while as recently suggested. Man Utd do have quality players, but again, in my opinion have been totally reliant on Van Purse Strings this year and may not have the lead they do have without him!

And my point? – All players want to win trophies of course, but to be honest, each and every player who has been at Arsenal has a huge debt of gratitude to Wenger for making them the players they have become… without exception! – Henry (legend) although talented was nothing like the player he turned out to be before he joined Arsenal. Tell me I’m wrong!

The Money…

Apart from Mancini at Manx City and Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, Arsène Wenger is the highest paid domestic manager in football. Approaching £7.5 Million per year, so yes, every supporter has the right to moan and complain at his wages if he is not retuning the trophies. However, the financial package he is on is one that has been increased on a regular basis for the last 16 years. Is he worth it… He is if we win trophies… simple as that!

British money

Arsenal’s summer transfer fund

It has been widely reported over the last few days as to the financial situation at Arsenal. With profits for six months to November 2012 falling sharply from £50M in the previous year to £17.8M despite the sale of Van Purse Strings.

Regardless, cash reserves rose to some £123M from a previous figure of £115M. Financial analysts who pour over these figures all day long suggest that doesn’t mean there is £120M plus to spend on players. Personally from everything I have read over recent weeks, I think there is in the order of around £80M to £90M, to buy players, but that means sweet fa, if Wenger doesn’t spend some serious money come the summer transfer window. Frankly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out does it?

Last Word…

Whether you like it or not, the reality is likely that Arsène Wenger is certainly not going anywhere until the end of his contract in June 2014 unless he is sacked. He has NEVER walked out on a contract in his managerial career, so in my opinion, he is not walking out any time soon.
Will the board sack him? As the board stands at present, I think it is not only highly unlikely, but actually given the current financial state of the club and the rewards the directors are receiving at present, coupled with the power Arsène Wenger seems to have at Arsenal, I would lay odds that a change in the managerial department is almost impossible.

Alisher Usmanov

I’m not even going to make a fat joke because this man could possibly have me killed.

There are continual reports of how Uzbek Billionaire Alisher Usmanov would buy the club in a heartbeat. There are other reports that keep appearing of how Usmanov is a baddie etc… I don’t know enough about him or the circumstances to make comment, nor do I particularly have an opinion one way or the other than to say I find it absolutely amazing that any shareholder of any organisation who has in excess of some 29% is not offered a seat on the board, but Kronke and Usmanov just don’t get on, so unless Usmanov increases his shareholding further, a seat on the board is unlikely!

Personally, I think Arsène Wenger misses having David Dein by his side. They are still great friends and it is no coincidence that the lean times have come upon us since David Dein left the club. Wenger ran the team, told Dein what he needed and by hook or by crook it was done! – Will it change? – Who knows!

So, as to the question posed: – Is Monsieur Arsène Wenger deluded or a genius? – I suspect it is a bit of both actually. As to which way I am bias towards? ‘In Arsène we trust’ fan or ‘Wenger out’ supporter? Well, reality is I will always support Arsenal no matter what, and as the managerial position is unlikely to change in the short term, I have no choice but to support Wenger. However, IF things don’t change, then along with every other supporter I am sure we will watch as the pressure becomes either too much for the club or too much for Arsène Wenger.  But I would say this… Wenger is far from stupid, and if he didn’t know previously that things were difficult he certainly does so now. He is also a proud and stubborn man, but I have no doubt he will ‘get his finger out’ and sort it! – If he doesn’t, then he must go!

That saddens me, because despite everything, each and every Arsenal supporter, no matter whether you are for him or against him does owe Arsène Wenger a ‘very huge thank you’ for all he has done for our club!

Let us hope we have something to celebrate soon… starting with Sunday… Come on you Arsenal!

By
Jeremy is an avid soccer fan and life long season ticket holding Arsenal ‘mad gooner’ supporter. Although his bias is towards Arsenal, he is big enough to comment on all teams both here in the UK and Europe… whether good or bad! - He regularly ‘tweets’ on all things Arsenal together with football issues and sport in general. He definitely loves a bit of banter too! - You can follow Jeremy on twitter: @jeremylebor
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