Are Arsenal finally exorcising the demons of the latter Wenger era?

Arsenal starting to exorcise the demons of the Wenger era. by Funsho

When milk goes stale, you do not return it to the refrigerator. This was an aspect of housekeeping that Arsenal failed to carry out in the back end of Le Professeur’s tenure. But, oh my-my, what a fantastic manager he was for the club! Arsene created a well-oiled football machine that brought fans memories, but when the machine started getting old, the refusal to put some oil in its moving parts, get some body work done to fix any rust and cracks and tighten lose bolts or get a new part altogether, was initially subtle and later blatant to say the least. As such, the efficiency of this machine dropped progressively.

Now, let’s first frame the foundations. Wenger was the most successful manager at the N5 (well, arguably… as some have said George Graham was equally a hit when you factor in the duration of their tenures), with a story whose plot is like that in a Hollywood romantic movie. Both the club’s and the man’s names almost perfectly matched (talk of things written in the stars), prompting most gooners who started supporting between 1996-2018 to first think he named his club after himself. And listening to legends like Wright, Winterburn, Dixon and Bergkamp, who were present when AW came, enlightens you that everything he did was revolutionary. Little wonder then, that by 2005, he’d won 3 league titles and 4 FA cups, and just missed out on a continental crown in 2006 by the whiskers. Being the final season at Highbury, what a story that would have been!

Then came the Emirates era. The club was cash-strapped, had to be frugal with spending cos of stadium debt, blah blah blah. Y’all know the story. The repercussion was that AW had to be compassionate towards the club cos of the limitations in finance and towards players, cos he was now dealing with kids for the most part. What followed was: a decent contract for most players through the wage cap (cap was too heavy for most judging by performance); unflinching faith in below par players (he said Denilson will come good when quizzed about not signing Alonso; can you believe that?); selling nothing dreams to fans about transfers even when he knew the board isn’t spending a dime on players; refusing to buy players more expensive than his valuation (like bidding £4m for Cahill whereas Bolton wanted 6m; wanting Alonso for 8m when Liverpool wanted 10m, among others); and being blown away by sugar-daddy financed clubs in the transfer market (like almost signing Juan Mata for £17.5m in 2011, but losing him to Chelsea who paid 5-10m extra). I could go on and on. And I’ll let the £40m+1 bid for Suarez slide cos it was said to be Gazidis’ idea. Nevertheless, an idiotic proposal from Classenal!

In the wake of all you’ve read so far, you’d have thought this article was about the many sins of AW, with the writer throwing stones at your football deity (if you were an AKB of course), but it’s not. Wenger is a fine man and was a great MANAGER as well. He wasn’t really a coach, but an architect who knew how to make situations conducive for his players to excel (Tony Adams, 2018). He was an idealist and not a pragmatist, who may have either been tactically naive or too proud to admit his players’ true abilities (making him trust them too much) as Gary Neville once said on Sky Sports when analysing Arsenal’s lack of wins against the big teams a couple of years ago. In fact, while working as a co-commentator in 2015, the retired English right back exclaimed “hallelujah” in seeming relief at Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at the Etihad. Are you thinking, “the team didn’t go gung-ho was why we won that day”? You’re not wrong buddy.

Thoughts of pragmatism and adaptability based on an opponent’s strength brings incumbent head coach- Mikel Arteta into the picture. Oh wait, I seem to have jumped someone, who was probably more so, but with less success. Bingo! Step forward big man-Sir Unai Emery, for your award of being the most pragmatic coach the Emirates has had this millennium. On a serious note, he never looked to be a protagonist (to use one of his favourite words); always looking to nullify opponents.

Long story short, Emery didn’t work, as a lot of factors conspired against him, chief of which was language (GoOd EbEnInG); Freddie couldn’t do much without a proper backroom staff (so, let him of the hook, will ya?) and Arteta was installed as full time manager. MA has been emphasising some of the Arsenal core values, but at the same time restoring law and order like a good Sheriff. Forget the success of the FA cup for a minute, and consider the players’ commitment on the pitch, the convincing of players on the cusp of leaving à la Xhaka and Auba? (oh, and the team doctor-O’Driscoll or something like that), the disciplined culture he’s trying to instil, the ruthlessness in picking or dropping players, the matching up of players based on their qualities with opposition (e.g. AMN instead of Saka in the Cup final), the pressure on the hierarchy to provide funds for transfer, just to mention but a few (yeah, I know! I know that was a lot, not a few).

All seems to be a complete departure from AW’s ways of not persuading players who want out to stay, only setting his team up to go “play their game” rather than exploit their opponent’s weakness, being too dogmatic with line-ups and substitutions and not buying players until late in the window (this fault is more at the board’s doorstep). In short, things had become “too nicey nicey” at Arsenal (a fact recently alluded to by Andre Santos. I know, right? Of all people) that the atmosphere was always the same on the team bus win/lose. Players had become a soft touch on the pitch and an easy target for brash thuggery tactics like Tony Pulis’. Anyway, these were my bones of contention with AW, and he should have left earlier than he did. The board bottled it until things got toxic and fans started staying away from games.

In comparison with the 2nd half of Wenger’s reign, the “Goodfellas” in the boardroom seem to be getting it right: ruthless in letting Sanllehi go (transfer window or no transfer window), giving only decent wages to Mari and Cedric though the length of their contracts is another story and getting active so early in the transfer window. Who would have thought it? The Arsenal only giving Cedric 60kpw, and negotiating for new players less than a month into the opening of the transfer window? Well, as the saying goes: wonders shall never end! Now tell me if all the above-stated demons would not have held back the Scousers and Jurgen Klopp, not to talk of our beloved club de futbol?

In conclusion, it looks like a combination of the new manager, the dwindling of Arsenal’s fortunes money-wise due to the absence of champions league money, the half-decent football on offer on the pitch and that aura of feeling left behind by rivals may have forced the club to finally start exorcising the demons of the latter part of the French genius’ reign. And to that I say, like a father rallying his son in Matthew McConaughey’s voice, “…alright alright alright; go on son… the land’s there for the taking. Conquer in bits until your majestic splendour brings the whole of European soccer (and indeed the world) to their knees.” COYG

Really appreciate you taking the time to read.

Funsho.

22 Comments

  1. Sean says:

    Great Article, nice comparison with the old machine 👏👏

    Things are looking alot brighter on the pitch under Mikel and behind the scenes with Edu.

    Nice start to their reign as FA Cup Winners, Next Targets Top4 and EL winners.

    The targets we are apparently after gives us hope as to that they know what they want to fix this squad and what we dont need. The team spirit is back and feels like it’s now a club all the fans can get behind again.

    1. Val says:

      Yep, i concur great article and refreshing to not have the same piece repeated 500 time in 3 days.

    2. Matthew Shannon says:

      Was stupid to get rid of our whole scouting department!!!
      Cagglio (however you spell his name) found so many of our best talents over the years and won’t be short of job offers with his contacts and skill set. I think letting Mislentat go was a massive mistake to retain Sanlehhi who has now been shown the door. Mislentat is one of the best talent spotters in world football and when we have such limited resources to purchase players we need to be sure that we are finding, signing and developing young talent at all levels. Going to a manager based system of finding talent will end in disaster for us as a club as it will give player managers even more power at the club and also won’t have the clubs future and best interest at heart. I hope Arteta somehow can keep Edu in check and Gets the targets he wants.

  2. Grandad says:

    Excellent article Funsho which sums up very well the best and worst aspects of the Wenger era.Like you I feel we are now on the right track with Arteta at the helm,but until we have cleared the damaging remnants of the past 5/6 years including the costly error of judgement with regard to the Ozil contract, we cannot expect miracles.Personally I think it may take MA at least two seasons before he can put together a squad which can once again compete for the EPL..Patience is not an easy virtue for some young fans to acquire but Arteta can win them over, as he is winning over the Players.There is a new resilience and spirit in the team which augers well for the future so let’s all get behind our Manager and give him the respect he already deserves for winning the FA Cup.

    1. jon fox says:

      Hear hear Grandad!

    2. Matthew Shannon says:

      Have a look at our current squad and see how many young players are in it and coming through that Wenger developed. Those are the players the club wants desperately to keep so how can you say he failed with players towards the end. He wasn’t backed financially for a decade yet managed to drag us up into the champions league every year which only covered up the short comings of those above him. Time and time again we missed out on players because management tried to lowball clubs to save a nickel instead of spending a extra dollar which forced us into buying inferior targets because it suited our budget better. Pep is a great example of what made Wenger great along with Mourinho…two managers that can’t win a thing unless they have endless cash invested into their squads you think either of them could have won under the same conditions Wenger was under? Let’s look at why Klopp was successful at Liverpool? MANAGEMENT!!!!! The club targeted a particular type of player that fit Klopps ideology on how they wanted to play. Most signings were bargains considering the return now and all they needed was 2-3 of the correct signings to turn them into the juggernaut they are now. Klopp also had to get rid of players which took time when all we have done is stockpile them of late due to no direction and failed management from the board these can’t be attributed to Wenger solely. I’m hoping another year or two without champions league will make the Kroenkes sell the club and hopefully we can get new owners with some real business sense that see they need football people to run the football side of the club and the business people to run that side of the club.

      1. Benjamin says:

        Agreed every word.

      2. ken1945 says:

        Hear hear Mathew agree 100% – but that reported £350,000 a week was a complete and utter farcical decision by kronkie, gazidis and AW.
        Great article by the way.

  3. Reggie says:

    When we actually have a couple of seasons to judge, then we can make a decision like that. Its looking brighter but this is Arsenal and the rain is always forecast.

  4. jon fox says:

    An earlier post calls this a”nice article”! A most inappropriate word is our friendly “nice”. Totally inadequate for what I think is one of thetwo or three best ever articles on this hungry site and by a PROPER writer too.

    Funsho paints magical word pictures with a superbly well chosen use of analogy. So THEN, not a NICE article at all but a superb one and there is one regular would be writer in particular on here who would be very well advised to closely study this masterpiece from a master of his craft.
    I salute you Funsho!

    1. Dan kit says:

      Your post got removed yesterday for being aggressive and uncalled for ,but you’re back taking sly digs at Patrick again ,there is no need for it at all ,this writer as done a good piece and why not leave it at that .
      Patrick does his own thing if you don’t want to read it don’t ,no need for the negativity towards a just Arsenal regular.
      I would rather read what he puts out than read your posts TBH ,and I’m sure I’m not alone but we don’t go on about you and your writing skills .

      1. Maxis says:

        Your last paragraph…👌🏾

      2. Dan kit says:

        “This writer as done a good piece “
        If you missed that then Obviously you don’t read through posts properly .
        You need to grab that high horse of yours and take it down a notch.
        For someone who regards themselves as worldly wise you come across as a fool .

  5. Ronche says:

    Am I the only one that wished the article was longer?.. Well written Funsho… Please write more

  6. Eddu says:

    excellent piece,the best read here so far.

  7. Quincy Okereke says:

    Wow.. that header though!

  8. Segun says:

    Thumbs up bro…. Nice right up

  9. Henryiyke says:

    Nice one ❤️

  10. snowden says:

    Hmm! I read what you have written Funsho and I don’t see it as any different from what is posted anywhere else on the internet about Arsenal.

    For me your stale milk metaphor works only in the context of what you have written.

    Supporters like Grandad and those two friendly logger heads Jon and Ken45 go back a long way. They stayed loyal and in great pain suffered the long weary years between 1953 and 1970 – 71. Then again endured the drudgery waiting for the night of nights in Liverpool 1989.

    Most directors of football clubs know very little about the job of ‘Football manager or indeed how to manage a team of players and all aspects of playing football at any level of the game.

    Henry Norris the 1920 owner of the club selected a failure to manage the club and decided the only solution was to
    go after the most succesful manager of the time one Herbert Chapman and the first Arsenal Revolution is well recorded.

    Unfortunately the man with the ability and the drive was made to leave and Arsenal returned to normal director board room fodder no different to any other club. Thus the long waits between being champions.

    The club had to wait until the arrivial of David Dein for next boardroom member with the Henry Norris ablity and vision for the club. I agree with those who say if only he had been the club owner and not just a director.

    Whatever the reasons, rights and wrongs for the falling out it was bad news for Arsenal Football Club.

    Like most on the net you do not mention the corruption that is at the top of English football and which could easily be exposed and acurately recorded but for the blind eyes and paid up mouths of the media wallers.

    Daily they go clap trapping over this or that player instead of dealing with the issues that control and are ruining English proffesional football.

  11. ozziegunner says:

    As well Herbert Chapman died in the position of Manager Arsenal FC.

  12. Kstix says:

    A brilliant article Funsho (omo ilu wo ni e), it was worth the read. And It accurately sums up everything that has been going on at this club. I see some AKBs still exist judging by Matthew’s comments above. These are just prime examples of people who have let realism escape them and gotten so used to mediocrity. I hope that under Arteta, they can be taught again what it means to be a football club with quality players. And they can see the huge difference once more and how they’ve accepted and taken mediocrity as their present day reality. Hope for better days ahead and the restoration of the former glory of ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB. Onwards and Upwards

    1. Funsho says:

      (Smiles) OSUN State.
      Thanks for your kind words Sir.

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