Being a top level manager in football does not simply mean that you put out cones, hand out bibs of differing colours or merely guide a group of eleven men for ninety minutes. Managers are figureheads for entire communities. As the world gets bigger and is increasingly accessible with the internet, those communities can number in the millions and cover every nook and cranny of this Planet. It is the manager’s responsibility to care for the interests of these communities and ensure that they are as happy as possible. This comes in the form of winning games and trophies.
This is the dilemma faced by Arsenal’s long term manager Arsène Wenger. The bespectacled Frenchman has guided the club for two decades and in that time it is easy to divide his tenure into two categories. The first half being the period where Arsenal were consistently challenging for top honours, playing dazzling football and forever reinventing and updating their squads. Towards the end of the 90’s and the beginning of the 00’s there was not a manager in world football who had a better reputation in regards to their conduct in the transfer market. Arsène Wenger cultivated an aura of an almost supernatural understanding of a player’s value. Petit, Overmars, and Viera were all sold for huge profits after making a hugely successful stint at the club. None went on to enjoy similar joys in any of the clubs they would later turn out for. Perhaps the best piece of business ever recorded by Wenger was the transfer of Anelka to Real Madrid for around £22million, less than twelve months after signing from PSG for roughly £500,000.
The second half of Wenger’s rule has seen the man characterised as a frugal, penny-pinching, miser who puts more stock in the wealth of the club’s finances than he does in the trophy cabinet. Seen by many as a coach who has all but set up permanent residence in fourth place. While a huge reason for this change in mindset stems from the costly construction of the magnificently modern Emirates Stadium, with each passing year this is becoming less and less of an excuse. The new TV deal, a colossal £5.1billion to be divided between Premier League sides across the next three seasons, has made it easier than ever to improve every aspect of a club, most notably it’s on field playing staff.
Alas, Wenger has time and time again failed to capitalize on the veritable smorgasbord of loot available and mount a credible title challenge. His reluctance to dip more than a toe into the transfer market has caused a civil war within the stands inside Emirates – the stadium he all but built. I have to admit to feeling a large degree of sympathy for those disgruntled fans. Fans who are paying some of the highest prices in world football to follow their side are being milked dry and in return are not seeing their club become as successful as they could be. Wenger’s negligence to reinforce his squad is becoming dangerously close to criminal. Arsène knows that his squad were in need of a top quality centre back towards the end of last season. Has he gone out with a ruthless efficiency and signed targets early allowing time for player to acclimatise to their new surroundings? No. Instead in the campaign’s curtain raiser they played host to a rampant Liverpool side with the much maligned Chambers and newcomer Holding operating as a makeshift pairing. No wonder regulars are becoming incandescent with rage. The overreliance on the erratic Olivier Giroud was visible for all to see, but instead of immediately capturing a talent in a similar manner to the true elite of European football Arsenal dithered. A number of news sources have reported that after West Ham had a bid turned down for Lyon’s Lacazette, Arsène Wenger put forward a bid a few million less than the Irons tabled. Lunacy!
With every other club investing considerably, standing still does little but allow rivals to race away from the North London club, until they are but miniscule dots on the horizon. After conceding four quality goals to Jürgen Klopp’s energetic side, Arsène Wenger looked visibly shaken. He looked like a man who had been turned from his home, with no spare clothes, no dispensable money and no idea in which direction to travel.
No while I feel Wenger is in need of condemnation for his lackadaisical attitude it is quite dispiriting to see a living legend reduced so drastically. It is hard to watch an intelligent, articulate, erudite man continue to tarnish a legacy, that should be perpetually pristine, with inexplicable fecklessness. Despite all the good will in the world is seems as though Wenger either lacks the will or the ability to change his mind-set and deliver the two or three top-drawer players needed to turn his Gunners squad into the breath-taking collection they undoubtedly could be. And that is the real point of contention for fans. It is one thing for a fan to know that success is intermittent at best, but for Arsenal fans to be within snatching distance of all their dreams only for them to be snatched away time and time again leaves them in a special type of hell.