As the Arsenal boss comes under increasing pressure Khel Now examines the validity of five theories the Frenchman has long propagated..
Arsene Wenger endured a horrific yet uncomfortably familiar rounding of boos from the Gunners faithful at the Emirates as the final whistle blew following the defeat to Liverpool on opening day. As unsavoury as it was, the game provided an eerie resemblance to seasons past and in keeping with the constant the Frenchman’s second decade and beyond in North London has progressed in repetitive cycles that seem to reappear at corresponding times year after year.
The Gunners chief has been a strong believer in his ways refusing to be flustered by growing criticism from the outside. But, as his Arsenal reign and indeed the club itself meander into insignificance, it is becoming clear the former Monaco boss is living in a fool’s world occupied by him alone. Khel Now dispels five myths the Frenchman and his supporters have propagated and lived by for many years.
That he’s a great manager
Let’s examine this claim with a few cold, hard facts. In two decades with the London club Wenger has delivered nine trophies, three league titles and six FA Cups. His long-time sparring partner, Sir Alex Ferguson won 13 Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues and five FA Cups and that’s just considering major honours. Current United boss Jose Mourinho has over 20 titles with different teams across major European leagues. .Whether it is these two giants of football management or other contemporaries like Pep Guardiola or Carlo Ancelotti, the Frenchman’s record at winning silverware doesn’t compare favourable to any of his major rivals.
True, none of them have had to oversee a stadium move and the financial restrictions arising thereby, but Wenger’s inability to deliver tangible success in the second half of his tenure put together with the absence of any major European triumph surely places in doubt his place in the pantheon of great managers.
That he’s been loyal to the club
Loyalty or the lack of it in the modern game is a virtue Wenger has long stressed, no doubt considering himself its greatest embodiment. But, this assertion is questionable. For most of his time in North London the Frenchman has occupied a place amongst the most highly paid managers in the world. Currently taking home close to £8.5m a year he still remains among the top five in the world’s highest paid gaffers.
It is widely acknowledged that the 66-year-old’s services were sought after by European football’s bigwigs, particularly in his prime years in the late 90s and the early 2000s. So, why didn’t he move to a bigger club? Events through succeeding years suggest that far from loyalty it was the comfort of his present surroundings that convinced the Frenchman to stay put.
He was linked with the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona amongst others in yesteryear. However, there is one major difference between all these clubs and Wenger’s Arsenal kingdom. Expectation. At the Gunners the tactician is the undisputed king of the jungle. Almost untouchable, he has previously admitted he enjoys absolute control in the red half of North London. So much so, that even his most ardent detectors would laugh off the possibility of him ever getting the sack. At any of the above mentioned suitors he is unlikely to have had things his own way to this extent. Moreover, he would have been held to demanding standards of delivering major silverware almost every season.
Compared with his current surroundings at Arsenal, where he continues to live off the bear minimum of Champions League qualification this is a change of scene he is unlikely to have enjoyed.
He put Arsenal on the map
Wenger inherited a solid back four from his predecessor. (Picture Courtesy – thethao247.vn
Wenger is Arsenal’s most successful manager and there is no denying that. But, his stature at the club has to be viewed in the context of the length of time he has spent there. The Frenchman inherited a great back four featuring the likes of Tony Adams and others who formed a key part of his early success at Highbury. He was also lucky (as every manager must be) in that some of his gambles in the market with the likes of Patrick Vieira paid off. Therefore, it would be wrong to claim that all of the Frenchman’s success with the Gunners has been entirely his doing. The fact remains that many of Wenger’s triumphs came in a bipolar league where Manchester United presented the only other major competition for domestic honours. But as the league got more and more multilateral he was unable to undo and rebuild successful squads in following generations. In the ultimate reckoning, it is this factor that will likely separate him from the game’s true great.
There is no value in the market
Among the many things that have seemingly passed the Arsenal boss by in his two decades at the club, one is definitely the transfer market. It was not long ago that the Gunners signed German ace Mesut Ozil for £42m and yet here we are barely three years later in a market where Yannick Bolasie has cost Everton £25m, while Jordan Ibe is worth £15m. On the other end of the scale Paul Pogba’s move to United has smashed the world record crossing €100m while Juventus have paid €90m for Gonzalo Higuain.
Gonzalo Higuain was an Arsenal target for many seasons but eventually joined Juventus. (Picture Courtesy – foxsports
Indeed, the market inflation brought about partly by the Premier League’s new TV deal has left the Frenchman feeling like a fish out of water. So, while the veteran boss goes hunting for ‘value’ buys like Thierry Henry, Vieira and others, he is almost at a loss to understand the fact that in the current transfer market the concept of value is merely an idea in his head that does not correspond to reality.
As you read this, Arsenal executives might be busy haggling with Valencia over Shkodran Mustafi, a centre-back who they could really do with and who is highly regarded by his national team coach Joachim Low, but negotiations have apparently hit a snag because Wenger values the defender £10 m short of the selling club’s valuation.
Champions League qualification is a trophy
The Arsenal manager once said he competes for five trophies every season. The league, the Champions League, League Cup, FA Cup and a place in the top four. The premise being that you need to make it to European football’s top table in order to attract the best players. However, as exemplified by Manchester United and Chelsea this summer and by many others in previous seasons this is an assumption that must be taken with a pinch of salt. The Gunners have now made it to the elite competition for 20 years in a row, whilst this is a remarkable achievement; it is hardly something Wenger’s major rivals at other big clubs would boast about. The fact remains, that for far too long the Frenchman has lived off qualifying for a tournament and as much as he may have you believe, the streak cannot be seen as a barometer of success for a club as big as Arsenal.
Sadly though, as Wenger continues to fight the battle between his principles and the modern reality, it is the club that is paying the price. As the veteran manager enters the last year of his contract at Emirates Stadium, his ability to keep Arsenal in and around the upper echelons of English football is his only notable recent acolyte. However, for a man who has always talked about leaving the club in a better state than it was when he inherited it, the irony is he could well leave them worst off. Whichever way the Gunners’ season goes from here, one thing is for sure if Wenger is a great manager he is one from a bygone era.
Comment by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict. You can follow him on Twitter.