The Wenger Wonderment – Has Arsène lost his way?

Arsenal have been here before. The Gunners have finished in the top 4 of the Premier League for the past decade, but have not won the title since the 2003/04 season. Through many of these seasons the traditional English powerhouses such as Chelsea and Manchester United have claimed the ultimate prize, but this season was supposed to be different. This is the season where Chelsea and Manchester United are simply not in the title race. Manchester City, despite all their recent riches, appear to have also faltered this season. Logically, this leaves Arsenal with the best chance of domestic success in years. And yet, the red half of London lag in third position an incredible 8 points behind Leicester City with only 9 matches to go.

Arsène Wenger is a divisive figure, particularly among his own club’s supporters. In charge since the 1996-1997 season, the Frenchman has overseen the greatest successes and shortcomings during his time at Arsenal, including a significant transition from Highbury to the Emirates. Where once the Gunners dominated all who dared challenge them, Wenger now presides over teams which tend to play attractive Football which ultimately falls short of any significant silverware come the end of the season.

Dissidents of Wenger’s leadership argue the manager prioritises the financial benefits associated with a top 4 Premier League finish and Champions League position; he is reluctant to spend eye-watering funds to sign players who can make a difference and that, perhaps most scathing, Wenger has been in the same position for far too long and the competition has past him by. In contrast, “Wenger-In” supporters argue that the manager is the best man to lead the club forward; the stability he has instilled in the club is a blessing and that the players must take equal blame, if not more than Wenger, for the club’s inability to succeed in recent times. So, which fan is correct? Well, in this author’s opinion they both are. And aren’t.

What will Arsène Wenger's legacy be at Arsenal FC?

What will Arsène Wenger’s legacy be at Arsenal FC?

Wenger can often be seen as a stubborn individual (or a man who sticks to his principles through thick and thin, depending on your point of view). There are numerous examples where Arsenal have been reluctant to sign quality players, particularly during the January transfer window. Granted, it is difficult to sign the very best players mid-season. However, with many traditional powerhouses faltering this season it was clear that had Wenger spent heavily during this window the Gunners would arguably be in pole position to lead the pack at the time of writing. That did not happen and Arsenal are now chasing the title from a disadvantaged position. Lengthy transfer windows are slightly improved, but Wenger’s shockingly poor attempt to sign Luis Suarez in 2013, a world class striker who wanted to move to the Emirates, by offering one extra British Pound to activate his release clause. Just one Pound. For Luis Suarez? Needless to say the rest is history.

So, while critics of Wenger are justified in some respects, pro-Wenger fans are not wholly misguided in their views. He has indeed provided much needed consistency and prudence in a fiscal environment where rules and regulations appear to go out the window and millions of Pounds are spent on a whim. Arsenal have time and again represented the country on the Champions League stage (but have yet to lift the trophy). There is also blame that can rightly be distributed onto the playing group as a whole, who appear to lack the mental toughness to perform week in week out and pick up enough points over the course of a Premier League season. While the manager is often the first to go when things aren’t going well, players cannot hide away from their professional responsibility.

Supporters on both sides of the argument know that this article only touches upon the surface of the man that is Arsène Wenger. Regardless of your opinions, Wenger’s service to Arsenal FC cannot be understated and he will be remembered long after his last managerial days at the club. However, all things must come to an end and at some point the coaching dugout at the Emirates will be home to a different face with different views of the game. Only then will we realise if the grass truly is greener on the other side.

 

 

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About Christian Longobardi

Christian Longobardi Journalism graduate from the University of South Australia. Die hard Barcelona fan who has a soft spot for tiki-taka. Frequent night-owl watching Barcelona play as early as 4AM. Always willing to discuss all things football, even if you're a Mourinho fan.

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