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Some have grown frustrated, some still keep their faith. But the reality is that a time will come for Arsene Wenger to step aside from Arsenal football club. Andrew Thompson writes of the realities of such a move that need to be kept in mind.
In the wake of yet another pasting by legitimate opposition, it seems that some Arsenal supporters feel that Arsene Wenger’s time at the club needs to come to an end, or that it needs to come under massive amounts of scrutiny at the very least. While I can affirm that I have firmly placed myself in that camp, it still must be realized what that could potentially mean for the club moving forward; it may not be all apple pie and dandelions like so many are expecting.
I can honestly say in all truth, that what Wenger has done at Arsenal is nothing short of magnificent. The Alsatian philosopher did not have the brightest of playing careers (just sixty-seven appearances that spanned twelve years), but his managerial record and achievements have been exemplary. First taking charge of AS Nancy-Lorraine in 1984, Le Prof would then go on to manage AS Monaco, Nagoya Grampus Eight and then Arsenal. It’s been a brilliant spell on the touchline for the man from Strasbourg, one that has lasted thirty years, which is literally the span of my lifetime.
Over this time frame, Wenger amassed four league titles (one with Monaco, three with Arsenal), eight domestic cups (one with Monaco, two with Nagoya, five with Arsenal), five FA Community Shield trophies and an extensive list of personal accolades, which even includes Officer of the British Empire in recognition of his achievements.
All told, it’s been a fantastic career that has spanned three nations, 1,454 matches in charge and an overall winning percentage of 53.78% (he has only lost 347 times in his managerial career). But what if I told you that it is Wenger’s list of accolades, respect in the footballing community and his status as a demi-god at Arsenal that makes him incredibly difficult to replace?
Think back to when Sir Alex Ferguson retired from management at Manchester United – it was as if the world stopped spinning. The appointment of David Moyes (with the full backing of SAF, mind you) ended up a complete disaster. United finished seventh, missed out on Europe completely, and had their worst showing in the Premier League since its inception.
Think on something for a moment – what happens when a visionary ruler passes away, does his/her kingdom or empire not go through a period of turmoil, confusion, uncertainty and potential internal struggle? Like all great rulers, the aforementioned pair were the only ones that could achieve the things they did for the empire they were at the head of. While the eventual end of Wenger’s reign in north London will not be earth shattering on a global scale, it certainly has every potential of shaking the very ground on which the current Arsenal hegemony stands.
While Sir Alex and Wenger had their differences both on the touchline and off it, one quality they will forever share is that they are generational managers. It is without question that SAF is the greatest manager in Red Devils history, and while Wenger has some competition for that same claim to his status in Gunners lore, the truth of the matter is, the pair of them are the only ones who could have achieved what they have.
Life after Wenger will not be easy, and while so many of us feel it’s the moment in time where we need to move on from him, we cannot forget the potential struggles that lay ahead in trying to properly replace him.
You can certainly say what you will about Wenger, but good, bad, or indifferent, every single Arsenal supporter can all agree on one simple fact; Wenger has given us and maintained a stability to the club that you will rarely ever find, and it is that same stability that could well be thrown into the fire once he leaves. The truth of the matter is, when you try to replace a manager like him, one that has been as influential on a club from top to bottom, it could take quite some time before the right manager walks through the doors who can fit into what the club either want at that moment in time, or what the long-term picture will be.
Currently, we have a club that has been more or less single-handedly shaped by Wenger – he helped envision the Emirates, he has carte blanche in many if not all respects, his footballing ideologies are at the very core of the Arsenal spine, and most of all, he has the love of the fans, even the ones that have become frustrated – the next manager to take on the task of Emirates headmaster will have his work cut out for him.
I will not sit here and pontificate about who should be the next manager in, as this is not what this article is about. The point here is, that the decision on who Wenger’s successor is will arguably be the biggest choice the club has ever made – how do you replace a managerial legend?
Truth be told, whomever does come in next, must be a manager who is forward thinking, passionate, one who builds relationships both on and off the pitch, but most of all, a manager who wants to not only uphold the Arsenal tradition, but bring it to another level. Yes, as stated before, Arsene Wenger is certainly a generational manager, but with the generations now beginning to change, the need for a person who can ring in the next period of growth and success on the back of the framework laid is of the greatest of importance.
Phillip of Macedon laid the framework for Macedonia to become a superpower in its day in age, but he was not meant to be the one to bring it to new heights – that man was Alexander the Great. While Arsenal will never march from northern Greece to the Indus River, we certainly can storm the top of the domestic table and have a go at European glory.
Just like Macedon, who had all the pieces laid out by Phillip for Alexander to take control of and mold one of the greatest empires in the annals of history, whomever takes up the sword to lead the way at Arsenal will have been afforded the pieces all being in place – a club that truly is ready to make that extra leap.
Right now, Arsenal are very much a “nearly club”, just on the outside of where it’s longing to be. When Arsene Wenger does call time on his tenure, it must not be any manager that takes his place; it must be the right manager. The right framework being laid does not guarantee success for the next person that comes to the club, only the right person will have his own set of personal traits and tools to take that frame work and build on it further.
So if you are sitting at your office desk, in your dorm room or walking to a lunch meeting and wondering if Wenger needs to go, just remember that everything he has achieved for us will be undone if the club fails to make the right choices after his departure – we need our own Alexander, else we risk a Moyes-type regression akin to events at United that we may not be able to fix so easily.
Written by Andrew Thompson
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