Arsene Wenger – Book Review by Dan Smith
As you can imagine as a person who loves football, reading and writing, I received lots of Football Autobiographies for Christmas. I thought whenever Arsenal are a little bit light on news, I would review various genres you might want to digest while we all remain in Lockdown.
I have finished reading Arsene Wenger’s book, yet you might be shocked by this review. As many readers will know I respect Mr Wenger and feared for years that only when he left would we truly appreciate what a job he did, and how hard it is to work under the current owners.
Unfortunately, I have been proven correct as the club continue to go backwards since he departed.
I still feel that thanks to the rise in social media, a section of our fan base disrespected the Greatest Manager in our history, which was once unthinkable. I maintain that those gooners who sacrificed our club’s long-standing values for the sake of subscribers deserve the current decline.
Shouting the loudest and swearing into a camera doesn’t make you anymore knowledgeable as a supporter, and many have lost credibility for not admitting they educated a next generation wrongly; the grass has not always proven greener.
While Mr Wenger is too respectful to rub our nose in the dirt and flat out say ‘ I told you so ‘ I was disappointed he wrote his memoirs like a politician. Recent equivalents from the likes of Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson taught us that this would be a breakdown of what he really thought about particular players and staff.
Maybe it’s the faith the man has in his own convictions that he doesn’t feel the need to tell any sensational stories, but my advice would have been, if that’s your stance, don’t agree to the project. It’s not like he’s desperate for the money so why participate if you’re not willing to tell your audience new information?
You have to assume that anyone purchasing your work is familiar with your career so why only give information that a customer will already know?
I could have written this book, but worse; there were answers to long standing questions I was curious about. Instead we got a safe journal, where the priority seemed to be being diplomatic, so he didn’t upset anyone. In fact it’s almost like it’s assumed that the reader will be knowledgeable about the subject so why fight it?
For example, the assumption is everyone would know the true details about the rumours that the press put out about his family when he moved to England. This would have been a chance to give a chapter not familiar with most, instead we just get Mr Wenger repeating how sad and angry he was about an article lawyers have squashed.
I’m not asking anyone to use their personal life to sell a product, but either give context or don’t mention it at all.
Maybe legal reasons are also the reason he doesn’t want to offer his version of the French Match fixing scandal?
Old enough to know it happened but that’s it, this should have been one of the highlights. Instead we get a few lines where Mr Wenger, being the purist he is, explains losing faith in the game, hence why he moved to Japan. He didn’t want to divulge anything else because he’s over it and that would be looking into the past. Which is a positive way to live, but how can you write an autobiography without digging up the past?
That’s why we get a scan of his life but nothing more.
He’s always managed to protect his wife and daughter from the limelight. Apart from saying how proud he is of his child and accepting his loved ones sacrificed a lot for his passion, he chooses to leave out his personal life.
Again I’m not asking for gossip about his marriage, but he must have a few Harry Redknapp/Sandra antidotes for a laugh?
Without reading it, Jose Mourinho is quick to conclude he’s not mentioned due to his superior win/loss record over the Gunners.
In reality Mr Wenger doesn’t pick a fight with anyone. There’s no behind the scenes breakdown of transfers, no (like he promised) proof of ‘countless’ offers from other clubs and even those you think he wouldn’t care about upsetting (Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew, Anelka’s brothers, Adebayor, etc ) he avoids any confrontation. Again that shows what a person he is, but doesn’t work in the confines of what you’re writing.
One thing he isn’t shy about disclosing is the impact building the Emirates had on Arsenal’s finances. This is the closest he goes to defending the perception that he failed in his second half of English Football.
If he were on trial, the facts and figures he offers would be good evidence that he was working with a hand tied behind his back. Yet it is clear in his wording that he saw the challenge as big as winning the title.
He really did realise that qualifying for the Champions League with limited resources was an achievement.
He was maybe naive to think that while he might find that criteria a fun task for a man with an Economic Degree, fans would start to get impatient.
That’s one of the new things I did learn. I often wondered why Mr Wenger would tolerate a lack of ambition from his employers where other managers would not? I figured it was his love for the club and an element of being comfortable at a work place where he had a lot of power (and of course the 8 million a year).
Yet it’s fascinating that Arsenal was not his only place of work where he was conditioned to manage a club’s money like it was his own. He first was part of a coaching staff at Cannes where he was responsible for developing youngsters due to a lack of funds.
His first job as full-time manager was at Nancy which he said he enjoyed the idea of succeeding with a lack of investment.
At Monaco, he couldn’t compete with the likes of Marseille and PSG in terms of fees and wages.
Combine that with his degree, the man was simply brought up to be fascinated by money, so I truly believe he will view leaving a club stable financially just as crucial as how many trophies he won.
I’m not sure he meant to, but he did a brilliant job of reminding people what Arsenal looked like before and after he was in North London.
It’s become fashionable for some fans to feel the need to say that Arsenal existed before 1996, normally those who have own agenda so can’t admit he did a good job.
Of course we were a big club for decades before Mr Wenger moved to England, but he reminded me of where we stood in the middle of the 90’s. There was a drinking culture in the squad, we had a stadium that was too small in line with how many names were on the waiting list, and incredibly we were using a University for our training ground. It’s unthinkable that a top-level cub would have to be asking their local University ‘can we borrow your balls please’?
So, it might not be what you want to hear, but a state-of-the-art training ground and the Emirates is his legacy.
Truthfully, it’s not worth buying this book. Anyone who knows their history of Football will not learn anything you don’t already know, which for me is not the point of an autobiography. If he didn’t want to be controversial there were stories where you could have given us more meat to the bone.
How did Anelka behave?
Did he force Adebayor to leave?
The Battle Of Old Trafford?
How his exit unfolded?
Unless you’re a younger fan who maybe didn’t live through the Wenger years, this isn’t for you. Even if you are, they assume you already know what they are referring to.
My rating 2/5
When I heard Arsene was writing the book, I listed the questions I wanted answered by him. Sadly he let me down…
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