How to Lose Titles & Influence People – The Arsene Wenger Story
It’s not often in modern-day football that a manager can go 8 years, 9 months and 27 days without winning anything and still keep their job. But that’s precisely what Arsene Wenger has done, as he embarks on his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal this weekend.
March 21st, 2014
You have to hand it to Arsene Wenger – for a man who hasn’t won a trophy in eight years and seemingly has a transfer policy of buying unknown, young, raw players and teaching them the ‘Arsenal Way’, he’s certainly done well to hold down a job at one of England’s top clubs. With managers getting sacked for spending too much (Malkay Mackay, AVB) and winning too much (Roberto di Matteo, Champions League, anyone?) it’s interesting to see that the Frenchman’s influence at Arsenal is so great that year after year he avoids the sack, despite not producing the goods on the field.
Of course there’s no mocking a Champions League place every year – as a fan of a lowly Championship side, I can certainly appreciate how good an away day at Plzen must be – however after seasons of great success, including ‘The Invincibles’, I feel Arsenal fans would have expected more over the past 8 years. Arguably, they now settle for 3rd or 4th and think that’s acceptable. It’s only since Spurs have started to mount a serious challenge for a European spot that Arsenal fans have actually sat up and realized their finishing positions simply aren’t good enough.
There’s no doubt Wenger produced some fantastic results in the late nineties and early noughties, but we have to remember that he inherited a team of fighters in the likes of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and David Seaman, who gave Wenger the perfect mix of experienced hard men to mould his French youngsters around. The likes of Patrick Viera, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires joined the club for relatively little money and helped them capture a double, all whilst remaining unbeaten in the league. However once these players either moved on or retired, he has failed to build on that success.
It’s not that he didn’t sign quality youngsters – however signings such as Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, and even Robin van Persie left the club in controversial circumstances. I find it hard to believe that money was the overriding factor; these were talented, dare I say some are world class, players who wanted the success Arsenal couldn’t provide them. With money playing an ever more important role in football, I believe Arsene Wenger is behind the times. Transfer fees over £20 million are ever more common, and yet it would appear that aside from Mesut Ozil, Wenger still thinks it’s 1998 and he can pick up players for £500,000 and an autograph on a tissue.
This unwillingness to change his ways has no doubt cost Arsenal, maybe not financially, but certainly in terms of success. Unfortunately there is now precious little time to develop youngsters in an industry that has become a) more competitive and b) more dependent on short-term success, and yet Wenger’s policy has remained unwavering – buy young, develop them.
The facts don’t lie – a club like Arsenal should not have had such a long spell without a trophy. With their season seemingly spluttering to an inevitable top 4 finish, I applaud Arsene for his staying power – there aren’t many managers who remain at a club as long as he has nowadays. But there might be a good reason for that. Maybe, just maybe, the best thing for Arsenal Football Club would be to have Wenger gracefully bow out, and be replaced by somebody who’s a little more up-to-date. He has continued to stick to his guns, which is admirable, but times change – Wenger hasn’t.