Arsene who? Following George Graham’s departure at Arsenal in 1996, the Gunners decided to appoint a Frenchman who was virtually unknown in English football. Arsene Wenger, who’s past success came with managing French side Monaco and Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight had got the media and fans talking and thus the pressure already growing.
Doubts whether that Wenger could lead Arsenal to success were dashed when the Frenchman and the club completed the double in his full season, ensuring the Premiership trophy would be coming to Highbury for the first time with the FA Cup following weeks later.
Up. That was the only direction Arsenal Football Club were going under Wenger and he was ensuring they did it in style. Frightening counter-attacks, free-flowing football and short, quick passes where the opposition could only dream of regaining possession. Arsene Wenger had started to change English football for the greater, on and off the pitch.
It was the late 90’s to the mid 2000’s where Wenger showed exactly why he was a tactical genius when it came to the transfer market: buying players for very little value, getting the best out of them and then selling them on for a comfortable profit – a win win for all parties. The Frenchman inherited a solid squad from Graham but still saw room for improvement, thus leading to the signings of players like Nicolas Anelka , Emmanuel Petit and Mark Overmars. It’s always been said Wenger likes to develop a father-like relationship with his players. Over the course of the years Wenger added more and the influx of foreign players increased at Arsenal. His greatest signing was Theirry Henry (1999), that 22-year-old Frenchman who we knew very little about. Wenger saw potential in transforming Henry, who was a winger at the time into a forward. Henry didn’t disappoint. The striker had a spell at Arsenal breaking numerous records on the way to helping the club win several domestic trophies.
It would be three years (2002) until Arsenal and Arsene Wenger would taste success again and boy was it sweet. Another trophy double? Yes please. The Gunners had done it again, they had had won the Premiership and FA Cup holding off United in the league and beating Chelsea 2-0 in Cardiff. Wenger had established himself as one of the greatest managers in the world and teams in Europe were starting to understand why. Not many managers could take their side to Inter Milan and walk away comfortably winning 5-1. Question’s were starting to arise of Wenger’s tactics to field more foreign players than English. Did the fans care? Of course not: Arsenal were top of the pile, winning and playing the beautiful game in the process.
“I’m still hopeful we can go through the season unbeaten – a frightening thought.”– Arsene Wenger, 28 September 2002.
It had seemed that Arsene Wenger’s words had come back to bite him as the following week Arsenal were thrashed 4-1 by Leeds. The media had a field day following the loss and Wenger’s bold statement but no one, absolutely no one could predict the outcome of the following season. The 2003-2004 season would prove to be Arsene Wenger and Arsenal Football Club’s greatest achievement in the clubs history. It would be the season they would become “immortalised”, winning the Premiership for the third time under Wenger and winning it without losing a game. 26 wins and 12 draws, some record for the club to say the least. Arsenal went into the following season by brushing teams aside with ease however it was 49 and out for Arsene Wenger’s team. A 2-0 defeat away to Manchester United had ended the Gunners’ chance of making it half a century. Arsenal would later go on to beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in the FA Cup Final on penalties. 2005 would prove to be Arsenal’s last trophy they would lift for a long time to come.
Fast forwards eight years and what has come of Arsenal? Players like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires have been sold, Dennis Bergkamp has retired, the club have moved stadium and most notably Arsenal have NOT won a trophy in this period. The Gunners lose 2-1 to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final (2006), lose 2-1 to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup (2008) (Carling Cup at the time) and a few years on lose 2-1 to Birmingham City in the same competition (2011). Despite this shocking drought for the club Arsene Wenger still remains. How and why comes to mind, considering most managers would have been sacked long before eight years. What makes Arsene so special?
One of Arsenal’s biggest problems with the failure to succeed was the transitional period moving from Highbury to Ashburton Grove. The Emirates stadium, which cost over £400million to build left Arsenal in debt which meant they were ‘financially restricted’ when it came to signing new players. Another problem is the failure to replace key players. Arsenal have failed to replace the likes of: Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and even Robin Van Persie. The Gunners have become a laughing stock in the transfer window, having their best players picked out and sold on several occasion, becoming a feeder club to their rivals. Fans, former players and the media all know Arsenal lack: an experienced keeper, a class defender, central defensive midfield and an out-and-out goal scorer.
Every season Wenger insists he couldn’t find that ‘top quality’ player for Arsenal. We all know this to be excuses.
Wenger was fantastic at scouting the ‘up and coming’ players in the past but the Premiership no longer allows clubs to ease their youth players in. They must start with a bang. The last five seasons have been a case of awful misjudgement by Arsene Wenger, buying players who have been considered as ‘deadwood’. Players like Chamakh, Arshavin and Djourou.
Arsene Wenger has been a fantastic manager to Arsenal Football Club and a great ambassador to English football. However has the man who earned the respect of so many started to lose it simply because he refuses to adapt to how football’s played today. There’s nothing worse than accepting defeat even when the odds are stacked against you but it really is becoming difficult to defend Arsene Wenger who’s given Arsenal fans some of the best times they’ve experienced. The memories of the two doubles and The Invincibles will be tarnished if Wenger doesn’t change his ways or is it too late? It’s really sad to see a great man fall like this.
Wenger, who doesn’t like being told what to do must have a long and hard think about the future of Arsenal Football club. He needs to understand that if he wants the club to compete at the highest level again he must change his out-of-date tactics, his attitude towards transfers and most importantly listen to the views and opinions of the supporters who come week after week, spending a lot of their money and not seeing the results and performances they were ‘promised’.
Maybe, just maybe it’s time for Arsene Wenger to step down at Arsenal. His 17-year reign at club can be considered a failure as much as a success. He started so impressively, I guess Arsenal fans expected challenges for trophies every season and honestly, they should have been. Wenger’s stubbornness to spend has damaged the club dearly and has made them look ‘tight’ and ‘weak’. Arsenal fans are sick being sold false promises! This summer the club stated they have the ‘financial firepower’ to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Man United and Man City. Arsenal have had bids rejected, strong links and still 90 days have passed and the Gunners have only signed Yaya Sanogo, a young French forward. This is simply no longer acceptable. The Gunners are falling being the top three in terms of football and it’s understandable why players like RVP moved. Even teams like Tottenham and Liverpool are starting to bridge the gap. The club is in a mess and if it’s not dealt with soon it can only get worse for them.
Should Wenger accept he has taken Arsenal as far as possible and now step down? By doing this Arsenal can start fresh, a new era and why not? The ‘British Core’ has been cemented and maybe it’s time for a new man to take the Gunners forward. After careful considerations I believe Dennis Bergkamp would be an ideal replacement. The Arsenal legend is currently the assistant manager at Dutch club Ajax. Since taking his position at Ajax in 2011 the club have won three successive league titles. Bergkamp is still learning the game from the sidelines but he has the taste of being a winner on the pitch as well as off it. However like we’ve seen with player legends like Roy Keane and Paul Ince, if you take the managerial path and are not successful it can have a damaging effect on your legend status.
Arsenal lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa this weekend but the constant ‘Wenger Out’ chants haven’t just started at the weekend. For some fans it’s not one game, it’s been eight years on failing.
The next few weeks are important to Arsenal Football Club, it’s about the club progressing and to do so, it’s imperative they spend money or face dropping out of the ‘top 4’ and face yet another year without trophies. If Wenger fails to deliver in the final stages of the transfer window it could cause problems for Arsenal on and off the pitch.
So tell me, is it time for Arsene Wenger to step up or step down?
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