Written by Reece Nicholson.
Edits by Saptarshi Rakshit.
Arsene Wenger took over as Arsenal boss in October 1996 replacing George graham.
At the time Arsene Wenger was unheard of in English football, then Arsenal star defender Tony Adams thought Wenger was a science prof. when they first exchanged a look.Not many gave Wenger a shot since foreign coaches were hardly the ‘cool’ thing back then. But if there ever was any doubt of Wenger’s ability to adapt to the fast-paced passionate nature of the English game then winning the double in his first full season in charge certainly sent a clear message to any doubters of Wenger and what he could achieve.
If you ask Foreign footballers what is different about football in England compared to other countries they would say the physicality, speed is much more obvious compared to for example Italian football where the defense play out calmly from the back with slick movement in the final third, whether you’re an experienced manager or new in the dugout you have to have your own identity, the most successful managers in the world have a clear image in their mind of how they believe football should be play whether you have the charisma and arrogance of Mourinho or the wise strategic man manager that is Pep Guardiola.
So, where would Arsene Wenger fit in? Wenger brought in a new approach to the game, Back then teams in the top division would play the game much more physically, It was kinda ‘English’ way of playing back then. Wenger brought with him a new approach to arsenal a calm methodical approach in fact. His teams played slick passing football, Wenger would send Arsenal into the heights of English and European football the unknown man would go on to make history
.Wenger won the title for the 2nd time 2001/02 season in a year of pure brilliance dubbed “the invincibles” as Arsenal went through the entire season unbeaten claiming a staggering 90 points from 38 matches the gunners claimed the premier league title for a third time under Wenger. As a matter of fact, Arsenal also went 49 matches unbeaten.
The Frenchman went on to win the FA Cup 6 times and was voted manager of the year in 1998,2002 and 2004, i also think what puts him into the legend category is the signings that he made, over the years Wenger has signed over 116 players including Sol Campbell from arch rivals Tottenham hotspur, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and The clubs record goal scorer fans refer to him as “the king” of Arsenal, of course referring to Theirry Henry. Wenger built a reputation of having a sharp eye for talent, He brought in these players for cheap and then sold them for a good value, which helped pay for the Emirates stadium. Wenger’s genius lies in the fact, that while Arsenal shifted from their Highbury stadium to the Emirates, He cleverly managed his finances to both pay for the stadium and also keep Arsenal if not ‘elite’ of the premier league then at least within the fringes of the top 4, which meant the club routinely qualified for Champions League, The money coming from playing in the Champions league didn’t hurt either. Although Wenger won’t exactly be remembered for his European exploits, Arsenal did reach the finals once, only to be beaten by Barca even though they had led the game thanks to their talisman Henry.
When Wenger’s Arsenal were cool, their players built up some intense rivalries a personal favourite would have to be Roy Keane an old school no-nonsense central midfielder up against arsenals gangly steely-eyed skipper Patrick Viera. Although they’re friend’s today, You could bet your bank balance they hated each other back then.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were not the best of friends for a long, long time, regularly seen exchanging heated words on the touchline, two giants in the English game coming head to head Manchester united v arsenal, that was my favourite game growing up because it meant so much to both teams. It’s quite a good thing that the ‘two’ have reconciled their difference and have plenty of respect for each other presently, with Fergie labelling Wenger as a ‘fantastic’ manager.
I’ve mentioned above the brilliance of Wenger above and whoever one supports one has to admit of Wenger’s class over the years bringing world class players to arsenal and taken the club as a whole to the very top but I will now move on to where I personally believe Wenger has let himself down somewhat over the last 10 years or so and i will reiterate the following is my opinion but that’s what makes football beautiful everyone is entitled to an opinion.
In my opinion what Wenger has struggled to do over the last decade give or take is adapt now that’s a vague term on questioning a legend of football but I have seen the might of arsenal slip away from title after title to 4th placed not quite good enough, that is down to several factors, one factor is arsenal has lost key members of the club due to retirement and transfers and Wenger has struggled to replace those areas. You won’t find hard-men like Patrick Viera, or even Emmanuel Petit in Arsenal anymore, While a team needs creative geniuses like Cazorla or Ozil, it also needs these strong personalities who make the tackles and get the job done, Arsenal have been pretty guilty of being overly nice sometimes, I also believe Wenger’s biggest mistake was selling robin Van Persie, our then club captain to arch rivals Manchester United in august 2012 for 24 million, it was said that RVP refused to sign a new contract with arsenal, but Wenger could have done more to keep him at the club as he admitted in a press conference some time after, for instance offering some more cash but Wenger was adamant and losing a top class striker is one thing but to lose a club captain is disastrous.
Another bizarre Wenger episode was in July 2013, Luis Suarez, perhaps the sharpest forward in the world at that time was rumoured to be unsettled at Liverpool and this was Wenger’s prime opportunity to sign a world-class forward, who is now easily the best at this position, typically Wenger tried to be clever offering Liverpool 40 million and 1 pound for the striker releasing is clause in his contract where if a club matched 40 million or more he would be allowed to discuss a transfer, those talks never took place and what really happened is a bit of a mystery, but if Wenger would have put in a larger bid he could have got the deal done and dusted. Liverpool co-owner John Henry asked sarcastically ‘What exactly they are smoking at Emirates’ after this fiasco.
I could reel off several stories of Wenger’s mistakes and missed opportunity’s but I could sum it up by saying Wenger for me looks lost in the modern game, he doesn’t act, he reacts or at least it seems that way. We get ourselves in good positions in the table where it looks like we could win a major trophy we seem to fall short with silly errors on the pitch and Wengers one dimension approach tactically, what i mean by that is arsenal can play lovely football with the majority of possession in games but if they come up against a physical team who is hard to break down I worry for arsenal in those games, we don’t have enough players who will get stuck in if needed in those must win away games in the pouring rain that’s where arsenal go missing. Again, the same phenomenon of choosing style over substance no matter what the situation screws Wenger over, I mean we all love style, that’s why we watch football but when you need to win, you need to be pragmatic.
In summary, Arsene Wenger will go down not just in arsenal history but English football as a whole as many clubs, Most managers come and go but Wenger has remained at Arsenal for over 20 years. Having said that I wonder the direction the club is going under Wenger at the present-day some fans might think I’m crazy questioning Wenger after all he has done for the club but we need to look forward instead of back, In my opinion we need change of manager a different approach a no-nonsense manager who will get our team keeping clean sheets being hard to play against and winning trophies! If it was down to me i would go for Diego simeone, a hard man who will do whatever it takes to win, to take over after Wenger when the day finally comes.