When talking about Premier League football, one person that springs to mind probably more than anyone else is the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. No matter how many times he has been belittled by the Arsenal fans, there is no mistaking that he is the one who has revolutionised the way the Premier League is seen in the modern world. Not only did he completely change Arsenal’s playing style, he trail-blazed the way for other foreign managers to work in the top tier of English football. His is a journey filled with memorable wins and devastating losses. One loss that dwells in everyone’s memory is the 8-2 drubbing his team received against Manchester United back in 2008. It is probably etched in the mind of every Arsenal fan. The backlash that Wenger faced after that loss was enormous. But this article will not focus on Wenger’s bad moments. Rather, what I wish to emphasise is that even in the increasing regularity of these kinds of defeats in recent years, he is still in charge.
So what makes him so special? And most importantly, despite these defeats and repeated failure to win the Premier League in well over a decade, how come he is still the manager of Arsenal?
Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin… these are just few of the players who are the making of Arsene Wenger. He not only shaped them into the world-class players they are today but also incorporated them into the Arsenal style; one that in its day could completely baffle the opposition with its domination of possession and aggressive attack. This play has earned Arsenal the reputation of being one of the most entertaining English clubs to watch. But it can also be taken as a rather risky approach because of its tactical naivety, allowing other teams to break apart the high defensive line with ease through the counter-attack. This has been especially noticeable in recent seasons, where this tactic has gone completely wrong and has led many to believe that Wenger does not really know what to do concerning the team’s defensive stability. Regardless, this way of playing has been adopted by many teams now including Bournemouth, whose manager, Eddie Howe is one of the latest proponent of Wenger’s strategy and is one of those tipped to replace him.
Now, coming to the second question: how exactly has Wenger been able to survive all this criticism? Perhaps the board does not really want to take a risk by removing someone so experienced and who has been running the club for so long. You need look no further than rivals Manchester United and their former manager Sir Alex Ferguson. After his retirement, the club could not maintain their standard of winning even by spending a lot of money on players. Football fans get excited by change and it is very necessary for any club to avoid getting stagnant and complacent, but this change should come with continuity and stability. The new manager should incorporate the old style of the previous successful manager and be allowed time to adapt to the new environment. It is true that Wenger has not been really successful in terms of trophies but he is very consistent and loyal towards the club which are some of the values that the board really wants from a manager even through the same cannot be said for the fans. Another reason for Wenger’s survival is his skill in being able to shape and develop an inexperienced but talented prospect into a world-class player. Theirry Henry, Robert Pires and, some would even say, Theo Walcott are some of the names that we think of when talking about Wenger’s ability to man-manage and produce. It seems as if he creates an environment that not only motivates a player to work hard for themselves but also to contribute towards the overall good of the club.
Even though there has been a lack of success recently, one cannot deny that after his retirement, he will be viewed as someone who contributed massively towards not only the Premier League but football as a whole. People might not like what he does or says (I am talking about the multiple excuses he makes after every loss) but his dedication towards the game should always be respected. Yes, being an Arsenal fan it is very frustrating to see them not being able to lift the Premier League trophy but at the same time, I feel it is not right to blame Arsene Wenger for this, as there are no guarantees that a new manager will win Arsenal the league. But this article is to celebrate Wenger’s time at Arsenal. Though it might come to an end after this season, his legacy will live on and he will always be regarded as an Arsenal legend.