The many shortcomings of Arsene Wenger’s era at Arsenal

THE MANY SHORTCOMINGS OF ARSENE WENGER’S ERA. by Funsho

This is a sequel to the article juxtaposing Wenger’s latter years with Arteta’s first few months in charge. Admittedly, it’s a tad too premature to conclude that Arteta’s tenure will be anything like his former manager’s, but it wasn’t out of place to point out some of the observable differences. Truth be told, if Arsene had left at the time the boxes, furniture and bags were being moved from Highbury to Ashburton Grove, he would have gotten an A+ for shaking English football like a 9.5 Richter’s scale earthquake. “Really,” someone in the crowd seems to be asking with a smirk on their face, “was he that good?” Oh! yeah, he was flawless. He flashed in the sky like lightning, like the Greek god-Zeus (with a resounding thunderous clap following), leaving everyone stunned by the Gunners’ new found audacity. From Ewood Park, to St. Mary’s, to Stamford bridge, to Old Trafford and that nauseating White Hart Lane, ‘Arsene who?’ went on a spree of conquest all over the country.

Accordingly, since Mikel Arteta is just starting, the jury’s out on how he will steer this ship over an extended period of time. But boy, the early signs are encouraging! Trouble is, he’s already set the bar so high that ‘chilled brutal reviews from gooners await his sipping in the fridge,’ if he achieves less from now on. And lest I forget, talking about reviews, for reading through my articles and for the Admins posting in the first place, it’s only fitting to duff my hat to y’all and say: Muchas Gracias!

Before we get into the heart of the matter, let it be known that this writer will criticise Wenger, but not annihilate the man cos of the realization that, “any other coach could have fared worse in those exact situations”. Also, no one really knows the options he had, or his rationale for some of those choices; but even if he made several terrible decisions, let it also be known that, ‘AW’s a member of the homo sapiens fraternity’ like you and I (No, there’s no such frat. I made it up, haha!). So, the gentility of a tiger here will not be due to cowardice, and eyebrows will be raised in the lines following, but behind a pair of lenses of mercy that have beheld human limitations in the past. Without discounting the effects of factors like poor officiating, player requests for transfers and injection of megabucks by other club’s owners (hey, Mike Ashley! Not talking about you. Who’re you kidding?), this article will look at what Wenger could have done differently. By so doing, we’ll be obeying a management principle that’s always right on the money by looking inwards and focusing those Joules of energy on what’s controllable. Which stones then, did he leave unturned?

To start with, ARSENE COULD HAVE REGULARLY INFUSED HIS BACKROOM STAFF WITH FRESH PLASMA AND HAEMATOCRIT FROM THE BLOOD BANK OF COACHES. That Le Boss won FA cups and Community Shields in those turbulent final five years is testament to his managerial class. Even at that, the lingering question remains, ‘Could he have won more trophies in that time period?’ Without mincing words, YES; cos in the midst of the financial embargo, bringing silverware to the Colney trophy cabinet wasn’t unrealistic. And you’re wrong if you think this is a cheap shot at the ‘06 final debacle in Paris, seeing that everything militated against the Goon Army (short story: 5 of us watched that game together, and I was the only Arsenal fan. Imagine my dismay at the final whistle! I did okay in my Chemistry test at school the next day cos I’d studied hard in the days before and thankfully, the Catalan bus-of-disappointment that hit me didn’t shake off the concepts of electrolysis, stoichiometry and electrochemical series from my memory). Sighs! Still hurts; even today.

Anyway, the point here is: Ferguson wasn’t all fatherly at Old Trafford, never stopped dishing out the “hair dryer treatment” and even stopped taking training at a point, trusting his assistants’ (like Queiroz’s) instincts in deciding together who will play based on form. In contrast, our manager took every aspect of training until he left in 2018, didn’t allow his backroom staff to do much (yes! Bould once told Dixon in confidence that he doesn’t take any special sessions with the defenders), became less demanding of players and staff (he told Denilson not to mind criticism from fans who’ve not worked a day in football; and Szczesny & Fabianski said Gerry Peyton never taught them much during goalkeeper video analysis sessions), also seemed to frequently get out-thought tactically by younger coaches. As the end got closer, the style of play, defending of set pieces, substitution time and starting 11 would have been obvious even to blind Bartimaeus. They were that obvious!

Secondly, Le Professeur BORE TOO MUCH CRITICISM FOR THE BOARD. Saint Arsene hardly pointed accusing fingers at the folks above him, but this (though a good trait) made top class signings few and far between for the club. Knowing he’ll always cover up for them may have given the board the impetus to continually take advantage of him IMO. The farthest he went in criticising them was the 2011 jab delivered during a press conference that: “You can’t sell both Fabregas and Nasri and still call yourself a big club.” Shots fired, eh? If you put those words under a microscope, you may conclude that the board sold those players against his wish, all in the name of balancing the books (cos if it was up to AW, he could have convinced the lads to stay; couldn’t he?) While that was important (balancing the books), was it compulsory to sell ALL the players that were sold between 2007-2013, especially during the specific transfer window each sale occurred? Please, consider that carefully.

Similarly, Emery’s complaints about not having enough protection from the board is an eye opener to the good work done by his predecessor in that regard. Still, Wenger was a part of all the plans, right? So, Dear AW, how did you allow all these to happen? How was it that David Dein was not replaced after leaving? How did Kroenke gain so much control? How could Usmanov have so much stake in the club and not have a say? I know you were trying to protect the club, but how did you expect to reproduce your earlier success without investing in top players? If it broke your heart that the board’s focus was only on balancing the ledger, how was it that you kept selling ‘nothing dreams’ to fans at press conferences to cover up for your employers? While these faults were not solely down to you, they all happened under your watch. Your ‘Ozil-like style’ during board meetings may have made it easy for the board to take you for a ride over and over again. Boss, folks are looking forward to how many secrets your book will reveal in October, if any.

Finally, AW STAYED LONGER THAN HE SHOULD HAVE. This ended up spilling blue and black ink on the white Abercrombie & Fitch shirt he was gifted after all was said and done (laughs! I made that up as well). Yet, his past-welcome stay may have even been a gesture to save the sorry ass of an unprepared boardroom. The football suffered. The players struggled. Fans could no longer stomach the mess, to the extent that most gooners had left Wembley at full-time for the Carabao cup final in 2018 vs Man City. The stadium was also half empty for the next home game against the same opponents, and the manager cited Easter celebrations for the low turnout of fans at the Emirates, among others. The writing was on the wall, and soon enough he was gone.

He’s gotten so much stick in this article, but this writer was glad Arsene Wenger himself called time on his Arsenal tenure (as was reported; so, don’t shoot the messenger) and got a proper send-off. Now, on this side, if you eulogise AW, the WENGER OUT BRIGADE will come at you with fighter jets and machine guns. On that other side, if you criticise the Frenchman, you’ll get into a reverse “entanglement,” with the ARSENE KNOWS BEST Infantry releasing the weapon of mass destruction on you. What then? Everyone could do with burying their hatchets while we all applaud the thorough work Arsene Wenger did that has granted Arsenal the worldwide renown the club enjoys today.

Really appreciate you taking the time to read.

Funsho.

48 Comments

  1. ozziegunner says:

    Farewell Freddie Ljundberg. Thank you for your outstanding contributions to the Arsenal, as first a player and secondly as a coach in the Academy and then interim first team coach.

      1. Alanball08 says:

        Admin Pat
        I think freddie practically left the day MA came in and was moved up in to the stands
        Wish him all the best for the future
        But MA is definitely an upgrade on FL since he took over
        Ps
        It was a good read Funsho
        Lots of provoking thoughts for people to mule over but I for one was sorry how it deteritaed over the last few years but was grateful that I had the privilege to be in an era where I witnessed greatness on the pitch during his early reign
        Also weather people lost faith with him or not one thing is for sure
        If he bled it would be red aNd white. Can we say that about all our ex managers
        Thank you for the good years Mr AW

        1. Ba Elkhirsawy says:

          Freddie did not have a fair shot. How long he managed the team, a month.
          He will go somewhere and will gain first man experience and shall succeed.

          1. jon fox says:

            He was never rgoing to be permanent manager and he knew that all along. He was merely holding the fort for a few weeks and he also knew that. Had he been the right quality to be our permanent manager then he would have been appointed. But he wasn’t, so he wasnt!

      2. ozziegunner says:

        Thanks Pat, I am in Sydney visiting my 97yo Mum, with no home internet, so I missed the article.

        1. Sue says:

          97… wow! 🙂👏

          1. ozziegunner says:

            Sue, still lives in her own house and with my late Dad (died at 93 & 7mths) stood on the North Bank in Sept 1977. Both supported me and followed The Arsenal!

          2. Sue says:

            That’s amazing, Ozzie… good for her!
            Your Mum may be our oldest gooner… incredible 👍👍

  2. Danny says:

    Bring in Bergkamp would be a great appointment could have been Santi CAZORLA but hes decided to carry on playing but think he will come back as part of the coaching set up at some stage!!

  3. Adajim says:

    I think AW obsession is on of his weakness and made his stay for too long, probably he was enjoying his ultimate power in-charge, thats probably why he didn’t realize he was staying too long, a legend, and always remain a legend no matter what.
    There is no fault in one defending his employer, I only blame the board for taking advantage of his goodwill and Gazidis for his wastage.
    If there is one thing I’ll fault AW last 10yrs, it’s his over reliance on some players who never lived up to expectations. He was too overprotective of his boys, forgetting they are professionals who earn big and deserve to be held accountable. He like to take the blame for them, that unnecessary fatherly presence was one of his undoing.
    He refused to activate buy back clause in Fab because of Wilshire and Ramsey , he gave the like Walcott too much chances

  4. SueP says:

    For me Wenger did much more good than harm but in the end some of the good unraveled. I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes but there was only so long I could be a be careful what you wish for person – which I was until the last 2 or so years. David Dein and AW were very close and he was a great loss. It seemed to upset the balance.

    Looking at Arteta, so animated on the touch line compared to AW and the blank expressions on Pat Rice and Steve Bould’s faces is an interesting feature of how different the two managers are. Whether Wenger was perplexed watching on, I have no idea but it affected my perception of what was happening on the pitch at least. He looked tired in the end.

  5. David Rusa says:

    The article is well written but it lacks an analytical angle to it. It is not enough to mention Wenger’s shortcomings in his later years without talking about his earlier success which made Arsenal a worldwide household name. Cataloguing failures without discussing possible causes is grave injustice to Wenger. One needs to look at Wenger’s principled stand which made him stay put when he could have left for other clubs that would have guaranteed him more trophies. He chose principle over instant success and loyalty over expediency. Thus no one can appreciate Wenger unless one looks at the broader picture. What should determine one’s choices: conviction or calculation, values or benefits? Wenger felt he owed Arsenal a bright future and strived to achieve that at the expense ofhis own reputation. Such people are only appreciated by those who understand what it means to sacrifice for a noble cause! Yet despite this Wenger kept Arsenal in the Champions league for twenty consecutive years. Many people mocked Wenger for prioritising top four and even sarcastically called it the “Wenger trophy”. However now the same people are yearning for top four! That is what human nature is! Many people realise the value of certain things when it is too late. Most fans wish we can get top four yet that time Wenger was being blamed for an empty trophy cabinett. This year Arteta won the FA trophy but many people wish we had got top four instead! That is the irony of life! Whatever the case Wenger will always be an Arsenal legend whom Arteta should emulate and then go a step higher and achieve what he failed to.

    1. Siamois says:

      👏👍

    2. ThirdManJW says:

      Although I agree with some of what you have said, one should also point out just how lucky Wenger was. Arguably the luckiest manager ever at a top club.

      He was given carte blanche at Arsenal, something almost every manger can only dream of, and kept on as one of highest paid managers in world football, despite an extremely long period of regression. No manager survives 9 years without a single trophy at a top club, let alone 14 years straight of not even being competitive in the league, especially after 3 league titles in the previous 6 years.

      Wenger is a legend, not just because of what he achieved at Arsenal, but the affect he had on English as a whole, with the diet, and a new a style of football, etc. Nothing will ever take that away. That said, I think it’s fair to say he stayed 8/10 years too long, and Arsenal would have been far better off if he left around 2010 at the latest.

      The club suffered, and Wenger’s reputation suffered so much with each passing year, that we became a banter club, even amongst Arsenal fans. Before a ball was even kicked each season, we all knew we wouldn’t challenge for the league, and that the transfer window would be yet another joke!

      Wenger is a legend, that overstayed his welcome.

    3. Dom says:

      Well put. Please write an article and post as I’m sure most on this site would really appreciate the read. Great unbiased knowledge of our club with true facts. Very refreshing read.

    4. RSH says:

      “Many people mocked Wenger for prioritising top four and even sarcastically called it the “Wenger trophy”. However now the same people are yearning for top four!”

      Competion has increased, we yearn for top 4 because we have all seen the standards drop and drop UNDER Wenger. You are forgetting that it was AW who fell out of the top 4 originally too. You read the article but did not understand it. You were only creating a defense the entire time while reading it. Nothing you say negates what was written.

  6. Siamois says:

    The qualities that make people like AW great are usually also their weaknesses like stubbornness,pride….an example what made Maureen a very good manager years ago is now his downfall,not realizing that players today are nothing like the Drogba,Terry,Lampard..and need to be treated differently and similar to AW sticking to his tactics and not moving on and being left behind tactically,and contrary to what I read in the comments,I don’t think the reasons he didn’t like to delegate or stayed is because he enjoyed the power but he was so emotionally invested that after Dein left he didn’t think or trust people to do a better job and it’s not me making excuses for his shortcomings, sure he made some bad decisions but I believe it was always with the club’s best interests at heart.feel free to disagree.

    1. SueP says:

      Fair comment Siamois

  7. Samuel Akinsola Adebosin says:

    Let us wait to see what number of goodness times in finishing in the top-four place in the PL and winning titles that Mikel Arteta will bring to Arsenal to us during his own tenure whose tenure’s longevity will be predicated on how many successful time he will have in winning titles for Arsenal, which can turn to hungry for the Gooners if he stopped to continue to win. Because stopping to continue to win turn to becoming hunger long after eaten. Hmmm. Antonio Conte and Jose if to mention a few. But has Arsene Wenger not performed and ended his own drama on the stage for Arsenal, and the curtains had long been drawn that allowed taken his exit? Which he has taken. Could us Gooners leave the past to the past for the past? But now focus on Arteta to see if he’ll bring celebrations to us next season for us to celebrate.

  8. jon fox says:

    Another wonderfully in depth article – and more please – from this excellent WRITER and boy, can he write! So much welcome proper analysis and context of the Wenger years and I found nothing of substance on which to disagree.

    On a minor style and technical point though Funsho, you might be well advised not to overdo that flowery language. Football fans are, by and large, less impressed with flowery words and more impressed by straight talking. A certain amount of flowery phrases gives important style but do not overdo it. Hope you take this comment in the helpful way it is meant and I speak as a man who writes professionally.

    You are a breath of fresh air on here Funsho and I am an unashamed admirer.

    1. Dom says:

      Spot on Jon

    2. Funsho says:

      Noted Jon.
      Thanks for letting me know.

  9. Samuel Akinsola Adebosin says:

    Could us Gooners wait a bit longer to see if other goodness that includes to finish in the top-four place in the PL next season will be added to the FA Cup win which Mikel Arteta brought to Arsenal last season. And see whether hell follow that win up next season to further make Arsenal to finish in the PL top-four place finish and also win titles for us during his own tenure. But whose tenure’s longevity will be predicated on how many successful time he will have in winning titles for Arsenal. Which can turn to hungry for the Gooners to start feeling if he stopped to continue to win. Because stopping to continue to win do turn to becoming hungry long after eaten. Hmmm. Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinoh if to mention a few despite the remarkable successes they’ve had are typical examples. But has Arsene Wenger not performed and ended his own drama on the stage for Arsenal, and the curtains had long been drawn that allowed him took his exit? Which he has taken. But Could us Gooners leave the past to the past for the past to remain in the past? But now focus on the present and Arteta who is at Arsenal to see if he’ll bring celebrations to us next season for us to celebrate.

  10. Top Gunner says:

    Wenger managed to play champions league with a tight budget, when the team was still paying Emirates stadium. Wenger’s team played interesting football. The old man was patient with academy graduates. Don’t be too excited about Arteta who made us finish No.10 on the log. The guy has not done anything spectacular that we should be signing praises for. Don’t be brainwashed by media and pundits

    1. Dan kit says:

      8th
      Could someone screen shot the league table so Topgunner can see where we finished

    2. SueP says:

      I can hardly say that Arteta made us finish 10th when a) I thought we finished 8th and b) we were staring at next season in the Championship if Emery had stayed. Blame the deteriorating relationship between him and the team which Arteta has had to rebuild- not only bringing in new players but rebuilding confidence in the likes of Xhaka and Mustafi to be able to be useful again He also won the FA Cup which I think is a brilliant achievement. I for one think MA has been a revelation so far

      1. Dan kit says:

        👍👍

        1. ozziegunner says:

          The big plus with Arteta is that the team put together enough good knock out games to win the FA Cup.
          As far as Emery is concerned, when he was sacked, Arsenal sat in eighth position and that is where the Club finished. To say that if Emery stayed Arsenal would have been relegated, is making too many assumptions.

          1. SueP says:

            Ozziegunner
            I know that you have supported Emery insofar as he didn’t get the players he hoped for, but for me although Arteta hasn’t improved the league position from where Emery left us, I genuinely believe our league position would have been considerably lower if Emery had stayed. Yes, it is an assumption but it would have taken a monumental turnaround from the players IMO to have lifted themselves for him

          2. RSH says:

            I agree it’s an exaggeration, but things were only getting worse and worse. Emery completely lost the dressing room in November, so 99% chance we would’ve only fallen more and more down the table.

      2. Dan says:

        We lost 10 prem games , 5 with Arteta
        Lost in Europa League
        I like arteta but idea he can’t be responsible for our worst finish in two decades isn’t true

        1. Dan kit says:

          Worse finish because he took over a team in the worst state we have seen in years then to have to go through the pandemic would have taken a miracle to get us higher in the league .
          What he’s done in the short space of time is absolutely brilliant in my book
          The blame lies with the people who gave Emery the job in the first pace .

          1. Dan says:

            We needed a miracle to beat Brighton ? Villa ?
            Spurs? Leicester ? Cherries? Sheffield United ? Palace ? Burnley ? Olympiakos ?
            Why would that have taken a miracle ?

        2. RSH says:

          None of his players, club at the lowest point morale-wise since… i dont even know. The 80’s?? I dont like the idea that if a manager doesnt hit the ground running he is no good. It was not an ideal situation for any manager to come into. He got us European football and a trophy. This was a disaster season and we still did a lot better than many expected. Well done Arteta.

          1. Dan kit says:

            👍

          2. SueP says:

            Agree totally

          3. ozziegunner says:

            I haven’t disagreed regarding Mikel Arteta. Just disgusted that so called “professional” footballers at the Arsenal downed tools on their head coach.

      3. wendy green says:

        So do I Sue. The season was well underway when he came back to us. He has the players believing again. Watching us beat City and the Pool at the end of the season was an eye-opener and a glimpse of what might be. Our new signings look quite good and if Pierre stays, I am already looking forward to the next season. Something I haven’t done for years now.

  11. David Rusa says:

    We should give credit where it is due. Arteta deserves credit for winning the FA trophy against Chelsea which humiliated us in the Europa finals last year. However the verdict is wide open on Arteta. Will he become a successful manager or not? Of course we all want him to succeed and the way he has started is promising. We hope he will take the team a step further and win the Europa league next year and then the Premier league the year after. There is nothing impossible in this. Antonio Conte won the PL and then the CL. Leicester won the PL in 2016 against all odds. We can even win the PL next year if we maintain the recruitment tempo and the team spirit.

    1. Dan says:

      Recruitment tempo ?

    2. Sid says:

      Did Conte win the CL? I dont think he did.

  12. Andrew Elder says:

    Funsho, great article and an interesting analysis on the Wenger era at AFC. You asked how Kroenke gained so much control and Usmanov, with such a large stake(30%) not having a say. Maybe I can answer that:

    In my opinion, around nine years ago AFC was at a crossroad and, in hindsight, took the wrong turning. In April 2011 Nina Bracewell-Smith sold her stake of 15.9% to Stan Kroenke who already had a stake of 29.9% triggering a mandatory take-over bid for the club set at 30%. He now owned nearly 46% putting him in the driving seat and close to a majority holding. Although Usmanov still held a 30% share he had little say because he was not a board member. You can draw your own conclusions why.

    In August 2013 Nina Bracewell-Smith was quoted to saying ” What a shame the board recommended a Kroenke takeover, and how deeply I regret selling to Kroenke. If making money was the motivating factor surely there are better ways. Football is a business of passion and Stan Kroenke has no passion for AFC. Kroenke shows he cares very little, why he wanted to be part of AFC I do not know”. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh!! The rest is history, would AW have done better with Usmanov as owner and David Dein incharge? Who knows?

    1. ozziegunner says:

      Andrew, in my honest opinion, there is no doubt in the world, that the Usmanov/Dein/Wenger triumvirate would have been an outstanding winner at the Arsenal.
      David Dein/Arsene Wenger was a unique symbiotic partnership. The demise of Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal began when David Dean was exiled ftom the Club.

  13. RSH says:

    I dont think it’s too complicated. Wenger failed to evolve, stuck to his principles even if it meant his demise, and did not know when to call it quits. He revolutionized the English game, but thing is that people will build on what you have created and if you don’t keep evolving yourself, you fall behind.

    1. SueP says:

      Eloquently put

  14. Kobin says:

    Let’s give Mr Mike Arterta some due credit. The man beat Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City and Covid 19 all in one year. Legend

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