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Does Arsene Wenger Really Know?

When a massive football club like Arsenal goes without a trophy for eight years in a row and players like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Aliaksandr Hleb, Alex Song and of course, Robin van Persie leave the club, the fans have the full right to question the Club’s ambition and in some extreme cases, even the manager’s mental health.

Cesc Fabregas in Barca jersey. Via BBC Sport.

Cesc Fabregas in Barca jersey.
[Photo: BBC Sport]

Wenger was appointed as the Arsenal manager in 1996 and had big boots to fill,     walking down the path conquered by legendary managers like Herbert Chapman and George Graham, and was welcomed by the English media with headlines such as, “Arsene Who?” but he has more than answered that question as can be seen in this article.

“If you don’t believe you can do it, then you have no chance at all.” – Arsene Wenger.

While the condemnation of the state of affairs is a part of any organisation, the fans need to realize the environment in which football clubs are currently operating and try not being armchair managers.

Having said that, as an Arsenal fan I’ll try to list down the common complaints that Arsenal fans have regarding the current reign of Arsene Wenger:

  • Obviously, the most common criticism is that Arsene does not spend much in the transfer windows in spite of always being in the market for a ‘top top player’.
  • Another common criticism is that the Arsenal board does not spend on the fat paycheques that the current crop of football ‘stars’ now demand in spite of having around £ 60 – £ 70 million cash reserves.
  • Some fans also have complained that Arsene is tactically inept and that he is past his prime after the 2005-2006 season.
  • Lastly, Arsenal always sell their players to their rivals when they are at their prime and thereby making it a ‘selling club’ or a ‘feeder club’.

Fans are bound to be dissatisfied but that does not call for knee-jerk reactions especially now, when sometimes a wrong decision can eventually decide the very existence of the football club.

There are two types of fans, one set who believe and judge a football team / manager by the statistics and the other that judge them by facts. For the statistically inclined, after Arsene Wenger took over in 1996, Arsenal have never finished out of the top four and have never finished out of the top two from the year 1998 – 2005. Also, going an entire season unbeaten in itself is an enormous achievement, especially when you compare the shoestring budget Arsenal are granted when compared to clubs like Manchester United and more recently, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Obviously, finishing in the top four is not the same as winning trophies, but with the funds that are available to Arsenal when compared to the other big clubs in England, it most definitely is. At least till the economic bubble bursts.

Another favourite question is, why not sign a few a quality players (read: expensive players) and make the club competitive again, since we have £ 60 million in the bank. But the most important question is, is that THE solution? Generally, the buyout clauses and the price of ONE quality player along with their salaries for four-five years will take up that money. And as it has been proven time and again that there is NO guarantee that the player will be a success. Fernando Torres, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, etc. immediately come to the mind. Can a club like Arsenal, who don’t have a sugardaddy like Roman Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour, or the commercial capabilities of Manchester United take that big a risk?

Players groomed and backed by Arsene Wenger through their tumultuous times, rising out of injuries or their personal lives, have not repaid his faith in them and have left for greener pastures. Whether that is lack of loyalty, sheer greed or wanting to win trophies with other teams (with fatter paycheques), one can only speculate. But the fact remains, had players like Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, Aliaksandr Hleb and Alex Song stood by the manager and shown the loyalty, the way he has shown the club, in spite of lucrative interests every season from other clubs / international teams, there wouldn’t have been such scrutiny on the man. It is a pity that a player like Cesc Fabregas who was the fans’ darling and in whom Arsene had so much faith had to go on a strike (from what we can gather from media reports) to let his transfer go through to Barcelona. This may have weakened or reduced the eventual transfer price, for which again, Wenger was criticised.

Chamakh

Things haven’t been rosy for the likes of Chamakh. [Photo: news.uk.msn.com]

The transfer dealings done (or not) by Arsenal are scrutinised heavily in the English media and Arsene Wenger has been criticised for signings such as Marouane Chamakh, Park Chu Young, Andrei Arshavin, and Sebastian Squillaci, but it is never pointed out that when Arshavin was signed, he was one of the best players at the Euro 2008; Squillaci was the pillar of Sevilla’s defense and Chamakh was on a scoring spree at Bordeaux. Although, there cannot be any defence for signing Park Chu Young. It is funny that the scrutiny by the English media on the signings that Sir Alex Ferguson has made that haven’t lived up to the hype or expectations, such as Juan Sebastian Veron (bought for £28 million), Diego Forlan, Kleberson, and Eric Djemba-Djemba,  pale in comparison. Is it because the media is scared that Sir Alex Ferguson will ban them from interviews like he did to the BBC? Again, one can only speculate.

In the latest transfer windows, Arsene Wenger bought Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and more recently, Nacho Monreal. Lukas Podolski is a German international with a 100+ caps and that is ‘quality’ for you right there. Santi Cazorla has, in such a short period, become one of the best midfielders in the league and whereas it is too early to judge Nacho Monreal, from what the Spanish media have been reporting, it cannot be too bad too.

After having labeled Giroud a flop and compared Robin van Persie’s eighth season’s performance to Giroud’s first eight months in a new country, in a new league, the fans and the media have started to notice his capabilities and after having scored 14 goals already, they have started to appreciate the signing. Also, that he cost less than 1/4th of what Fernando Torres cost Chelsea, clearly vindicates Arsene Wenger’s philosophy of judging players on their abilities and not their price tags.

Younger fans are fickle. Hypothetically, had van Persie signed an extension for say, three years and would have immediately been injured for a long time, Arsene would have been reprimanded for giving him an extension. For fans that have seen Arsenal in absolute mediocrity, will vouch that Arsene is the best man to take Arsenal forward, but it’s the current crop of Arsenal fans that want glory at any cost and are calling for his head. Who then to replace him? Ancelotti? Moyes? Or I dare say, Benitez? If observed, there aren’t many replacements who can ably replace Arsene. And if Arsene Wenger has ‘lost it’, then why are big teams still trying to lure him?

Lastly, clubs like Portsmouth, Leeds, Rangers, and so on, with huge fan bases are in a terrible condition and are on the brink of being insolvent because of managerial instability and absolutely risky transfer dealings.

Arsene Wenger has a degree in Economics, he isn’t called Le Professor for nothing. HE KNOWS.

This piece was written by Kairav Parikh. Follow him on twitter @kpisagooner

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