By ‘ABW Guest Blogger’ Dean (@DeanLDN22)
Let’s make one thing clear – Arsène Wenger is arguably the greatest manager in our history who has given me and many other Arsenal fans memories we will take to our graves. He’s a guy who has been managing at the top level for 30 years and has won titles in numerous countries. He doesn’t need anybody to tell him how to do his job. His ability as a manager is not where the problem lies and you can’t question his intelligence. He is a football genius and a great man. But with geniuses come flaws.
Many make a lot out of the money he earns – I have done in the past. But the fact is he probably does more than any other manager to earn his money – commitment wise. He is first into the training ground and last out of it. He puts out the cones for each session. He carries the bibs and assigns them to players for the typical 10v10 session that finishes of each session. He doesn’t delegate like many modern managers, sitting in an office whilst their first team coaches take the sessions in the freezing rain. You cannot question his commitment – but it’s also a snippet of the issue (he does everything – too much control?).
Up until a few years ago I was an adamant Wenger backer. I felt we were completely hindered by external forces out of his control (which we were to a point) and that was the reason of our 4th place malaise. And let me make it clear – between 2006-11, keeping us in the top 4 was a magnificent achievement all whilst playing some truly magnificent football. We were close to the league a few times, made a few cup finals and semis. All though it always felt we were 2 players short, we could pin it to our financial constraints and accept it because we were ‘there or thereabouts’.
But things started to change for me a few years ago. Problems that I used to put down to the money other clubs had and we didn’t, I started to pin towards the manager. Similar defeats at the hands of the same opponents started to irk me more and more. The manner of our performances in big games and the fact we were so predictable had me questioning: where’s the fight in our teams? And why are we always two players short? I’d always accepted we played one way and one way only, but before we had the personnel who earned the right to play that way first. Now? It’s not the case and we were no longer competing for the big honours. Surely he’d address our lack of physicality I said to myself? Surely when we get more money he’ll buy what we clearly miss? But it just hasn’t happened, year after year. And it’s not because he’s an inept manager.
The reason is his principles. He is a man who is stubborn and loyal to his beliefs, and will stick by them no matter what. He’s not one to change his mind every time the wind blows – and for that, I admire him. It takes a lot of mental strength and character to carry on doing what you believe even if the evidence suggests you may need to change. He has my utmost respect for his strength, but I feel it’s exactly that which is holding us back.
He is loyal to his players much like he is loyal to his principles – once he invests money and time into a player, he will stick by them to the point where it can become detrimental to the team – and I have respect for that. If I were a player, there’s nobody I’d love more to be my manager than Wenger – someone you know will invest total belief into you. But it’s costing the team, and ultimately that’s our interest. Exactly the same in regards to the style of play – for example we have been going to Stoke for 7 or 8 years now, and not once has he tried to match up physically because it’s not in his belief. It keeps costing us and sadly I have now become resigned to the fact that it will never change.
Arsène Wenger has given me some of the best moments of my life as an Arsenal supporter and has helped set Arsenal up for the next 100 years with the Emirates Stadium. For that, we should all be grateful. Seeing the abuse he gets isn’t nice but I wouldn’t worry – it will go straight over his head, as he’s too mentally tough to pay attention to it. But moving ahead, I think I’ve given up on him every straying from his principles, which once made us the best, but now lead to us falling short year after year.
At 23, it will be weird seeing another manager. Wenger is all I know when it comes to Arsenal but I think it’s finally time for some new blood, new errors and hopefully some new successes.
Up The Arsenal!
By ‘ABW Guest Blogger’ Dean (@DeanLDN22) – go give him a follow!