Following in a turbulent few weeks for his Arsenal side, A Different League looks into Arsene Wenger’s position as manager of the club. Is it time the Frenchman packed up his belongings and headed out of north London after almost 14 momentous years or is he still the best man for the job?
Go– The Gunners have failed to turn their potential into results in the last five years. For a club the size of Arsenal, every season that passes without a trophy mounts pressure on Arsene Wenger – disgruntled fans spray internet forums and phone-in shows blasting Wenger’s style, tactics and stubbornness not to spend in the transfer window. The growing frustration to fill the dusty trophy cabinet at the Emirates increased as Manchester United completed a clean sweep of Europe two seasons ago and Chelsea look favourites to land this year’s title. The Gunners have slipped drastically from the glory days of the ‘Invincibles’ of 2004, to a side that is constantly fighting for fourth place and in the process have been labelled a selling club. As soon as Arsenal finally have a side that gels and looks to make for genuine title challengers, they come up short and a key player is sold or leaves at the end of every season which weakens the side. This forces Wenger to rely on youth and the fans to once again wait a few more years before the team can mature into contenders for the final push.
Many believe that this frustrating cycle can be alleviated by Wenger leaving. If the Frenchman is unwilling to change his policies and keep up with the inflated budget of the English game, then is it time for a change in the Arsenal dugout? While Wenger sticks bravely to his policies and tactics, Arsenal will find it hard to keep top quality players like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie who are often targeted by other clubs. The Gunners need to keep up with the rest of the big four who change with the times of huge cash injections adjusting to the current economic climate. Wenger has often told the press he has the funds to buy but won’t hastily spend. His candour of Arsenal’s kitty has further angered fans in the past who ask: “If he has the money and doesn’t spend, why does he tell us?” If funds are available at Arsenal, should Wenger not buy and strengthen the squad instead of waiting for spent forces like Mikael Silvestre and Sol Campbell to sign for free?
Meanwhile, Wenger would be welcomed with open arms at Real Madrid who have been pursuing him in recent years. He has brought an unrivalled football style to this country since arriving in north London in 1996 and if he were to leave or was forced out of Arsenal it would be a sad state to see his version of the beautiful game go with him. But with limited resources, players being hounded from every angle, five barren years and a stubborn policy on spending, will Arsenal win anything further with Arsene Wenger? The Premier League sees managers sacked before being given the time to settle as foreign owners demand instant success, has he taken Arsenal as far as he can?
Stay – A run of 10 unbeaten games saw Arsenal reach the Premier League summit by mid-January. Sunday’s defeat to Chelsea saw them drop back down to third in the pecking order and after losing to Manchester United, blame is falling heavily on manager Arsene Wenger. Wednesday’s victory over Liverpool relieved the pressure a little and gained valuable ground on the leaders but a title charge is still only barely visible. While many argue that the Frenchman’s time is up, optimists can only highlight the positives Wenger has brought to their club. Arsenal without Wenger is almost unthinkable, a student without a master – lost and unstable with no sense of direction. Wenger has forever been a pragmatist and has been forced to defend his ideals on countless occasions, especially at this crux point of every season claiming he will stick with his policies and football philosophy of nurturing young talent rather than spending hastily in the transfer window,.
With the apparent need of a striker in the ranks, Wenger’s transfer policy has never been reflected at a better time. It seems Wenger has opted to wait till Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh’s contract runs out in the summer so he is able to snag him on a free transfer rather than pay for the Moroccan in January and have a proven striker in his ranks for the rest of the campaign. In the recession, as they try to pay off the debt of the stadium and still compete at the top level, Wenger’s famed economic shrewdness is what the club needs if it is to survive and compete with the overpowering element of their Premier League rivals. After the turmoil at Portsmouth, perhaps angry fans need to realise that the man who has the reigns at the Emirates is economically aware and trying to steer the club out of financial difficulties very skilfully. If he is replaced, the new manager would have the same limited resources but not the same economically brilliant brain.
Indeed many could argue that Arsenal have been a success story given the problems thrown at them throughout the season. A huge blow to the season was losing van Persie which was followed by a demoralising defeat to Chelsea at home back in November, leaving them 11 points off the top. After that crushing loss at the Emirates, few would have predicted the side would reach the top of the table by January scoring a plethora of goals to boot. Fans and pundits alike have come to the point of questioning the Frenchman’s methods, but who else would fill the void if a keen Real Madrid came beckoning to Wenger luring him away from north London? Le Professeur has long strived to create a legacy at Arsenal, building effectively his fourth team and his departure would leave a hole in the club and risk half the current squad following their leader, causing an implosion that would be hard to recover from. Wenger has won seven major trophies in his tenure in north London and after four trophyless seasons the board claim to still back him. It is unlikely that the Arsenal board will look to replace him, so it seems the only way Wenger will leave Arsenal is by leaving of his own accord. After Wenger’s years of laying the foundations, it is unlikely Arsenal will look to fire their studious manager and try race to the title without the Va Va Voom they have grown so accustomed to.