One man, one club, one vision…Arsenal fan base is currently embroiled in a major dispute threatening to culminate in the ignominious dethronement of one of the club’s icons. Wenger overtook the club’s reigns from Bruce Rioch in the year 1996. At the time plucked from the obscurity of Japan, Wenger’s appointment provoked the coining of a now infamous phrase “Arsene who?”.
Wenger entered the managerial arena in an environment dominated by the cunning Sir Alex Ferguson. Expectations were low, demands were high but none of this seemed to phase Wenger who began his tenure approving the signing initiated by Rioch of a certain Dennis Bergkamp preceding the signature of the perceived flop Patrcik Viera. Subsequent to Manchester United achieving an historic double in the year and several closely contested encounters with his newly formed arch nemesis.
Arsenal proceeded to achieve several accolades in the ensuing seasons up until the year 2003-2004, which will remained ingrained within the mindset of Arsenal fans world wide as one dominates by the invincibles. This proved to be the penultimate trophy under Wengers’s tenure the final being the FA cup the following year.
Within this span of time features latent to the footballing world continued to take place within the confines of Ashburton Grove as on field success breeded greed and dissention within the board. Of course there remains the pride of establishing the newly formed Emirates Stadium but the widespread ramifications entailed consequences eluding the general Arsenal fan base. The most pertinent of which witnessed the departure of the influential David Dein, a close ally of Wenger, citing “irreconcilable differences”.
Football remains to the incumbent hierarchy a business as they manipulate and mannouevour their way to satisfying fans whilst fulfilling their financial ambitions. On field success resonates in conjunction with off field success…to an extent! It is gauging this extent that is in the eyes of Arsenal’s hierarchy the present task at hand. A great deal of assumptions supported by evidence of Wengers’s infertile years as Arsenal manager as opposed to his actions in his current predicaments serve as a dichotomy enforcing my argument.
Indeed Wenger had a vision for Arsenal, a vision to revolutionise the club into a global powerhouse of football. He eschewed the advances of the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, overseen the development of Arsenal’s academy unto one comparable to the elite and engineered Arsenal’s unexpected success when he burst onto the scene of football.
The myth that Wenger refuses to spend is refuted by the pure frenzy by which he splurged considerable resources on the likes of Ljumberg, Henry and Overmars as he aimed to rekindle the clubs glory days and fuse it with on field football pleasing to the eye, casting a spectacle mesmerising the footballing purists. Whilst the figures may pale In comparison to the figures being flaunted about In the modern era of football, inflation must be considered in the equation rendering Wengers transfer dealings of considerable expense.
The ‘sugar daddies’ of the current era entered the field determined to emboss their authority on the premier league expounding Wenger’s task of success. Irrespective of Arsenal’s financial impetus it posed little threat to that of Chelsea and Manchester City. Coupled with the overbearing obligation to pay off their debt, Arsenal’s financial vulnerabilities were left exposed and exploited. No longer are they at th forefront of financial mega deals as Wenger was left financially crippled and from what I can infer fed like lambs to the slaughter at the behest of those blessed with superior authority.
Faced with adversaries anew, Wenger resorted to the last means available to salvage Arsenal’s status in the present climate – the academy. The academy has always been a source of great pride for Wenger who valued the principals of football and its most fundamental level and now it was Wengers last viable means of remaining competitive. The splurging came to a halt as resources were diverted towards bargain hunting and youth. Wenger’s renown scouting abilities and adroit dealing within the transfer market came into play as talents boasting the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Aleksander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini were purchased for prices bellying their true potential. Despite this, such talents were flogged off to the highest bidder on an annual basis crippling Arsenal’s ability to remain competitive within the financially care free environment of the English Premier League. In such an enviorment, Wenger sustained the critical achievement of clinching Champions League football on a consistent basis hence facilitating paying of stadium debts and reinforcing Arsenal’s global appeal in addition to attracting talents world over.
The most recent transfer window indicated a gradual reversion to a more balanced approach as Arsenal sealed the services of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Arsenal’s stadium debt is due to be paid of by the year 2014 giving vent to a more active financial approach. However to ever consider Arsenal as possessing the ability to compete on par With the likes of Manchester City would be naive, in order for Arsenal to remain competive within the upper echelons of the footballing community, the academy will be imperative.
Wenger does to an extent suffer for obstinacy and may at times appear over committed to his philosophy of attacking football but recently I have witnessed a gradual shift as Arsenal appear more inclined to execute a variety of plays lacking in previous Arsenal teams. This may be partly due to the dearth of talent relative to previous years but also due to the persistent demands for trophies consuming Arsenal’s fan base. Whilst Arsenal haven’t achieved tangible success in terms of silverware, they are within touching distance of challenging on all fronts as a consequence of shrewd business dealings off the pitch. To deprive Wenger of the satisfaction of delving into the soon to be accessible financial resources he himself sowed the seeds of to begin with would be cruel indeed. Fans obviously care about the on pitch success but to suggest Wenger has sacrificed that particular aspect of football for altruistic reasons of tenacity would be paying little heed to the distress and passion one associates with Wenger throughout the course of his distinguished career with Arsenal and the other clubs he has managed.
Even if you disagree with everything I’ve said up until this point the least Arsenal’s fan base can do is show a modicum of respect by refraining from jeering the man responsible for creating the modern day Arsenal and afford him the honour of stepping down with dignity.
Written by Ahmad Jatoi