At the end of a disappointing week, Arsene Wenger has largely been occupied by off-field matters. Surprisingly, the focus of media attention has been on Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos after their allegedly intentional dismissals, rather than Arsenal’s inability to break down weaker sides or hold on to leads.
Of course, this has become such a prominent issue due to the side’s poor recent form in Europe. Wenger’s men may well face the Madrid giants in the last 16 of the Champions League as Shakhtar Donestsk need only a point to clinch top spot. With a potential tie looming on the horizon, media vultures have been desperate to lure Wenger back into a war of words with his old adversary Jose Mourinho, but so far, the Frenchman has resisted temptation. Wenger was highly critical of Chelsea’s style of play and tactics during Mourinho’s reign, prompting the Portuguese to brand him a ‘voyeur.’ Unsurprisingly, the Frenchman responded with an appropriately pithy remark: “When
Instead, he chose to focus upon the wider impact on the reputation of the game: “It’s always the same. On a football pitch, you want to respect people who pay money to watch a football game.” This stance is typical of Wenger’s time at the helm. Whilst he is clearly driven to succeed, and is a sore loser, he feels an overwhelming responsibility to the club he works for and to the game as a whole. Rather than spend heavily in an attempt to ensure immediate success, Wenger feels the burden of responsibility on his shoulders for the club’s long-term health and stability. The property development initiative to redevelop Highbury may not have been the brainchild of the manager, but he has taken up the standard to be its bastion. His frugal spending has allowed the club to generate a sufficiently robust business model to continue to grow despite the economic downturn, while maintaining a competitive team on the pitch. His campaigning is not merely confined to finances, as he persists with his now well-documented tirade against reckless challenges, despite effectively being a lone voice championing the cause.
In refraining from passing comment on the Mardid scandal, Wenger has managed to bridle the overwhelming urge to speak his mind and give his honest opinion. Perhaps this has caused problems in the past, with media sources salivating at Le Professeur’s open and often uncompromising take on topical issues. His lack of criticism on this issue may indicate that he has learned from his experiences to hold his tongue, yet it can equally be viewed as evidence a fading fire within the manager. For all the suggestions of Arsenal becoming a spent force, they remain in every competition that have entered and are only two points adrift of the Premier League summit. Closing out the habitually poor November in this position would see the Gunners in good shape to succeed, despite the pessimism surrounding the club after a week to forget.