I have been moved by this extensive interview given by Arsene Wenger to Martin Samuels of the Daily Mail, and Matthew Syed of the Times. It delivers an emotional insight into our great manager. It is an interview that many of his critics would do well to read, to understand why their criticism of him is so unfair and unjustified. He is as one might expect a deeply profound individual, with his personality having been shaped by his almost schizophrenic upbringing in different cultures. The franco-german tensions, the emotional neutering in japan and the media spotlight in the Premier League.
There are many statements that could in themselves be the subject of entire blogs. One statement where he says about his relationship with his arch enemy Sir Alex Ferguson
“Now we have a respectful relationship, but that was not always the case. It has become a lot better since we have stopped competing with Manchester United at the top level.”
Every Gooner should shudder and ask themselves in what way have we stopped competing with Manchester United? Is this an admission of defeat? Clearly not if you read the entire interview. I have chosen it to mean, the ending of the kind of hostile rivalry that lead to player fights and pizza gate. But the top level must also mean that they have won the Champions league twice and we have nothing. I for one will never stop competing with Man Utd, I will never stop hating them, and to hear Arsene Wenger’s statement of the facts leaves a bitter taste of anger in my mouth.
So why have we fallen so behind Old Trafford? Clearly it is because we have not strengthened the team in areas that needed it. Yet Arsene Wenger has in effect taken the blame for this by admitting that the price of succeeding with the new stadium project was the youth project. He now feels that to let these youth down by bringing in new players would be a betrayal. He presents at times a paradox and may have contradicted himself, but I shall have to read the very lengthy interview several times to make sure that I do not do him a disservice.
Phrases referring to our stars players like Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry clearly document his admiration of their qualities and professional dedication, however at the same time he freely admits that he has to be overly optimistic so as not to damage the frail egos of some of his young players. He appears to be proud of being able to obtain improvements in some players by encouraging them to analyze their own performances. But the question that every Arsenal fan wants answered was finally put in a wholly respectful and intelligent manner by the journalists…
One final football issue. There seems to have been a change in stance from the board. They seem to have backed away from statements about what a lot of money you have to spend. Did you ask them to do that?
I think they grew to understand that it put me under tremendous pressure, and was not helpful. To be fair, I think they were under pressure when they made those statements, too. We have an economic model that is easily explained. Now we have sold players there is money available to buy.
So you think Arsenal can achieve their aims with the current financial structure, without inviting people like Alisher Usmanov in from outside?
Yes, we have an economic model that is viable as long as we stay at the top. In six or seven years time, it will be very easy financially, but it is not my job to be involved in that. A company works best when everybody does the job he is paid to do.
So you are not pressuring the board to accept outside money?
I agreed on a structure to the club four or five years ago, I believed it could work and we are at the period now when we will see whether I was right or not. That is why this season is so interesting.
There you have it. Money is available now that certain sales have taken place. No longer must Arsenal fans accuse him of lying about funds and the fact that he is determined not to spend money. He says during the interview, that if he had accepted the Real Madrid offer, he would have been spending a lot of money, and he also believes that one should pay the market price if that player is really worth it in terms of greatly improving Arsenal’s team performance. What we are witnessing is the confession of an agreement that was brokered by the Board with Arsene Wenger. How to obtain a new stadium without going into freefall in league positional terms.
The new stadium project and the youth project were created at the same time, in effect to prevent Arsenal going into financial meltdown. It was a promise of jam later, it’s very success depended upon Arsene’s ability to compete with the rich billionaires on a shoestring budget, and still finish the season in the top four with all the riches that would flow from Champions league revenues, and Broadcasting and gate receipts. No one can doubt that he has achieved what he set out to do. But at what cost to his health and sanity? Arsene goes on to elaborate very eloquently how he feels so much pain when the team loses. It is an emotionally moving experience to hear his words. Perhaps now many more fans will give him the respect that he deserves.