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.