From reading the comments on JustArsenal, I see there seems to be two trains of thought – those that love Arsene and will stick by him through thick and thin, and those that feel it’s time for a change (AKB vs AOB). I fall somewhere in the middle, I love Arsene and what he’s done for the club, but then again at times wonder if it is time for him to move on. The start of this season was the first time I’ve ever thought he should move on and we need fresh ideas.
However it does appear you can teach old dogs new tricks, based on the difference we have seen this calender year, and the way we have changed our tactics to reflect our opposition. I genuinely go into next season thinking Wenger is the right man for the job. He looks like he has rediscovered that fight and desire to win that brought us so much success when he first took the reigns.
Back to the topic at hand though; Whatever your thoughts on Wenger he does deserve a lot of respect for his loyalty and the fact he kept us in the Champions league, whilst having to balance the books…for those that don’t think he deserves credit for maintaining a mere “top 4 finish”, name me one more manager that could have done what he has done whilst balancing the books as he has? If you want an example of a club sacrificing success to remain profitable you need to look no further to what is happening at Newcastle (I live in Newcastle and have a better idea than most on this site about what is going on there and how the fans feel about it!) Newcastle at the moment are a club with no direction, no heart and have an owner similar to ours who’s main focus is the bottom line figure rather than success on the pitch. The difference between Arsenal and Newcastle is that we have a club to be proud of, we have a style of playing, we have a philosophy, and in the grand scheme of things we have a team that when the chips are down are willing to do whatever to get into that last Champions League spot (which for a long period was our main goal) and this is down to Wenger. To evidence this we only need to look at how we have recovered 2 out of the last 3 seasons from disastrous starts. You can also look at the clubs that have thrown astronomic amounts of money at getting into the top 4 and fell short – just look at Spurs, Liverpool and potentially Man United this season (although it is looking unlikely they’ll miss out this year but this is more to do with how poor Spurs and the Scousers are! Along with how good De Gea has been) to see how big an achievement Champions League football actually is and that our 4th place trophy is nothing to be sniffed at!
**note** I am not saying a 4th place finish should be our goal.
Wenger has lost players he has nurtured and created (Cesc and RVP being the biggest) and had to lose them. You can tell by the way past players talk about Wenger. His relationship with them is more than just a coach and having to sell these players must have hurt him more than it has hurt us fans. However, there was a project in place – that only Wenger and the board will know the details of – and he stuck to this project, and more importantly stuck with us, despite offers from clubs with bottomless stacks of cash. But he has stuck with us and he has performed admirably under these restraints. As a fan I want to see us lift trophies, I want to see us in Champions League finals, however, I would not be willing to risk the future of the club for one League title or one Champions League trophy – look how this worked out for Leeds United. What we have actually done is sacrifice short term success to create a sustainable business that can now compete with the super clubs! We have done this without being bankrolled by a sugar daddy, we have done this through being shrewd with transfers and getting the very, VERY best out of what we have, in some cases the best we have had was Andre Santos!
We are now able to, and are, signing world class players. We are beginning to look like a club that can challenge and what’s more, we have a club that our kids and grandkids can enjoy because we have created a global brand without putting ourselves in crippling debt. Wenger has played a huge part in this. I genuinely feel if anyone else was at the helm during this period of our history we would be a top ten club, and we would be nowhere near as financially stable as we are now. We would be another Spurs or Everton, miles away from the elite clubs in the world.
Wenger deserve nothing but respect for this, whether you are an AKB or an AOB, and I do feel the AOB will agree with this. On our day we can (and have) beat anyone against the odds, with in many cases an inferior squad (Barca, Dortmund, Milan, Munich). This is why it annoys me so much when I hear Mourinho speak about Wenger with so much disrespect. Mourinho is a great manager no doubt. He’s a natural born winner. Could he have done what Wenger has done? No! Would he have stuck with us like Wenger has and sacrificed personal success for longer term goals? No! And this is why his “specialist in failure” jibe along with his recent comments annoyed me so much. Every other manager in the world knows what a great job he has done and respects this – look at Ferguson’s comments on Wenger. Gary Neville summed it up when he said if we start winning things over the next few seasons, now the shackles have been taken off, that “this will be the greatest managerial performance ever.” So far we have an FA cup, likely to be two. We are second in the league despite a crippling injury list for the first half of the season. If Shad Forsyth continues working his magic we have a real shot next season! We are progressing! We are moving in the right direction! As a fan I am finally optimistic going into next season.
So Bruce is right to show Arsene respect and back him over Mourinho. We go about our business on and off the pitch with nothing but class. This is one of the main reasons I am proud to be an Arsenal fan. Mourinho can have the title this season with his negative tactics, his attempted mind games, the gamesmanship he has drilled into his teams and the huge lack of class he shows to other clubs, managers and the sport we love. I know Wenger is not perfect but I’d take him over Mourinho any day.