Arsene Wenger. He is such a topic of debate for Gooners at the moment with some feeling so strongly that he should leave, and others that he should stay, we are seeing fights in the stands between our own fans! Why is a manager that has won 15 trophies in almost 21 years subject to the kind of dissent that he is receiving from sections of supporters? My aim here is to analyze Wenger’s reign in charge of Arsenal and try to look at both sides of the coin with a view to coming to some sort of conclusion on whether Wenger’s dissenters have a point, or if Wenger himself has distorted their view of what Arsenal should be able to achieve.
The First 10 Years
When Arsenal appointed Arsene Wenger in July 1996, he was met by an extremely underwhelmed British media and Arsenal fan base who were asking ‘Arsene Who?’. His last management job had been with Grampus Eight in Japan and he had no experience of management in the Premier League, so the trepidation was understandable but Arsene got to work changing the player’s diets and training regime which culminated in the Gunners winning the double in his first full season…so far so good.
Wenger then set about selling Nicolas Anelka whom he had bought for 500k and bringing in Thierry Henry who ended up being arguably Arsenal’s best ever player after the 1998 World Cup held in France. Henry was initially a winger but was converted into a striker by Wenger and ended up taking the Premier League by storm scoring 175 Premier League goals in total during 2 spells with the Gunners.
In fact, in those first 10 years in charge, Wenger won 11 trophies, winning the Premier League title 3 times which were all special. He won 1 league title at Old Trafford and 1 at White Hart Lane which was also the season of ‘The Invincibles”. I can’t praise Wenger and that Arsenal team any more for going a whole Premier League season unbeaten in 03/04 and I’m not sure that it will ever be achieved in the Premier League ever again. It’s a piece of history that belongs to Wenger that nobody else can take away.
So Wenger is one of Arsenal’s most successful managers in history so why would anyone be stupid enough to want him out of the club? Cue act two.
The Second 10 Years
I feel like the best way to sum up these next 10 years is to use a quote from the big man himself “The first trophy is to finish in the top four”. Wenger said this after the Gunners were eliminated by Sunderland in the 5th round of the FA Cup in 2012 and was very heavily criticised and its clear to see why. Arsenal had not won a trophy for 7 years at this point and the tide was slowly beginning to turn on the experienced Frenchman. There were murmurs that Wenger wasn’t looking high enough in terms of expectations and the doubt started to spread amongst the fans.
The fact remains that even now, never mind in the second 10 years, it has been 12 years since Arsenal last won a league title. Wenger has only managed 2 FA Cups during this time and as a result Arsenal seem to have become a laughing stock on social media due to their inability to sustain a title challenge all the way to the end. I do feel that the social media element of football today plays a massive part, watching people on ArsenalFanTV slate Wenger week in week out and the memes etc just ramp up the pressure.
Despite this, the fact remains that Wenger has won 2 FA Cups and 2 Community Shields in 12 years and based on his first 10 years in charge it has to be deemed as a failure. The question really for fans is, has he used up all of his time that he earned at the beginning? Or does he still deserve time to win a final league title before he retires? You’ll find pretty tasty odds about Arsenal winning the Premier League this year, if you fancy having a bet at latest free bet offers you can get 66/1 at Bet365 and a £200 free bet to get started!
Can you be grateful to Wenger but still want him to leave?
I hear a lot of talk that wanting Wenger to leave is disrespectful and means that you want the club to be like Chelsea, who have had 17 different managers since Wenger took over at Arsenal, but is that actually true? Can you be appreciative of everything Wenger has done for the club and the infrastructure he has built at Arsenal but concede that his style of play is now a bit stale and his teams don’t have the grit of a Mourinho, Klopp or Conte team?
Wenger’s record in the big matches is common knowledge and the 3-1 defeat against Chelsea on Saturday was almost inevitable. The team, as usual, didn’t have the belief and bite that Chelsea did on the day and it felt so familiar.
The flip side of the coin is that Wenger has finished in the top 4 with Arsenal every season in charge so far which is mocked by some quarters but based on how competitive the league has become in recent years, it’s actually quite commendable, especially when you consider Manchester United have been in 6th place this season for months and Pep’s City are also being questioned at the moment.
There is also the question of whether Arsenal should bend to the fans whim again? For years the fans were asking for Wenger to spend some money instead of looking for bargains. He finally did with £40 million spent on Mesut Ozil , £38 million on Granit Xhaka and £36 million on Alexis Sanchez and Arsenal are still unable to challenge the bigger teams when it matters. Is this Wenger’s fault or are the team now full of mercenaries?
To answer the question above, I do think you can believe that Wenger’s time is up at Arsenal and his style is no longer as effective as it used to be but still have the utmost respect for what he has achieved in his time at Highbury and then the Emirates.
To conclude, I feel that I must give my opinion here and choose a side of the fence for you to debate. What I will say initially is that it is a really difficult question for me because I have seen the direction Manchester United went after Sir Alex Ferguson left and the idea of that happening to Arsenal is worrying. There is also the question of who you bring in to replace Wenger? Is it Simeone? Is it Eddie Howe? The fact is that it is a risk bringing in someone new who doesn’t know the club or the league and all of the top managers seem to have clubs at the moment.
My opinion is that Wenger probably won’t win another league title now and that could result in the likes of Alexis leaving the club which would hurt Arsenal more. I think Wenger is one of the best managers to ever grace the game but he has stayed at Arsenal a little bit too long and Arsenal should start the process of looking elsewhere quite soon.