Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Arsene Wenger - Time to change policy or time to change job?

Played 5, won 1, drawn 1 and lost 3. Scored 6 and conceded 14. Sitting 17th in the table. Yes, we are only in September but these stats make quite awful reading for Arsenal followers.

Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury in 1996 as rather an unknown. He came from Nagoya Grampus Eight looking much like ‘The Demon Headmaster’.  Those who do not remember the school principle that terrorised young audiences in the late 90’s can inspect the image below. In fact, ‘The Demon Headmaster’ first hit our screens 1996 as well. Coincidence? I think not.

All jokes aside, not many would have predicted the successes that Wenger would bring to North London. The Gunners have won the Premier League thrice since 1996 and the first two of these successes included an FA Cup double. Arsene’s finest moment though came in 2004 when his ‘Invincibles’ went the entire season without losing a league match. Something Sir Alex amongst others cannot match.

In terms of trophies won Arsene Wenger is Arsenal’s most successful manager. So why now are some pundits and fans asking (perhaps demanding) for the Frenchman to move on? The reasons I am afraid are plentiful.

Since the Gunners amazing triumph in 2004 things have somewhat gone downhill. Apart from an FA Cup the following year Arsenal have won exactly ZERO trophies. Is this really the product of a team that went an entire league season unbeaten? Yes they have come close, there has been a Champions League final as well as two League Cup finals. Arsenal fans though have become used to getting more than just “close” to trophies.

For the years since their last trophy Mr. Wenger has invested heavily in youngsters that have come and gone. Seasons have come and gone as well without adding to the trophy cabinet. By having a young team the manager and fans alike have been able to comfort themselves in their failure. The philosophy that it will all come good “next season”. It’s been six barren years now and it hasn’t come good on the trophy front. Patience has well and truly wore thin.

This blog has attacked Mr. Wenger’s transfer policy on numerous occasions. Whether it is his or the board’s fear of spending money that dictates this policy I do not know. Whoever it is to blame though may regret their decisions come the end of the season.

Arsenal lost arguably their best two players in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer. They did rather well out of it as well financially, garnering over £50 million from the pair. Why though did they leave it so late in the transfer window to let them go? Especially as it would appear they didn’t exactly have concrete replacements lined up. Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun were brought in on deadline day and I am afraid they don’t quite fill the shoes of the players that have departed from the Emirates. Why not give yourself the whole summer to find replacements for players that you know are going to leave?

Why also, do they refuse to spend big amounts of money? A want for bringing through youth talent rather than spending tens of millions of pounds is an admirable stance by Wenger. Unfortunately it is also an outdated one. After Andrei Arshavin, Arsenal’s 2nd most expensive signing is....(drum roll) Sylvain Wiltord. Wasn’t worth the drum roll was it? The Frenchman signed for £13 million over 11 years ago.  Unfortunately the world of football that we now live in means that money has to be spent to be successful. Manchester United have long had a formula of spending whilst blooding in young starlets and this has obviously been successful. After 6 years without a trophy perhaps Alan Hansen was right after all, just not about the right manager  -“you’ll never win anything with kids.”

Opposition teams do not fear Arsenal anymore. Since Patrick Vieira left in 2005 Arsenal have had no player of any steel. No midfield general to command his troops. Arsenal have always played fantastic football but at the same time it has always been felt that they can be physically dominated. Or at least it has been felt that since 2005. It is somewhat baffling to see how much good a tough midfielder could do for Arsenal and yet they let the likes of Scott Parker go to White Hart Lane for £5 million. Mr. Wenger needs to accept the best teams have both silk and steel at their disposal.

The disarray in which Arsenal stood after such a chaotic transfer window has obviously affected their start to the season. The Gunners have had a high turnover of first team players with much of it going on once the season had started. Players will obviously settle in and performances will improve. Will it be enough to make the top 4? I am not so sure. I think too many times this season their defence will be opened up. Tottenham and Liverpool are both going for that 4th spot and neither have the distraction of the Champions League.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has come out today and reassured all concerned that Mr. Wenger will not be sacked.  “He didn't suddenly become a bad manager” says Gazidis. Of course not. Perhaps a bit stuck in his ways though, a tad misguided? I think so.

Is it not more of a worry that Wenger will leave on his own accord? If it comes to December/ January time and Arsenal are sitting in 8th having criticism thrown from all quarters? The Gunners have never finished outside the top 4 in the 15 years since Wenger joined. If they are failing to achieve that this season is Wenger going to go down with his ship? Perhaps his pride is too strong.

Wenger's team building policies in recent years have been flawed that is a fact. He has 3 options available really: stick, twist or leave the table. I am not sure whether he knows which one to take right now. 

In reality there can be no denying Arsene Wenger’s previous triumphs. This season however I think is his biggest test. He needs to secure his defence and he needs to secure his team’s self-belief. A big 8 months is ahead for the Frenchman and things needs to improve drastically for him and his team. I think he will definitely need to strengthen further in the transfer window in January as well. Whether or not he does this though will be up to him. The time to spend money is now and if he does not do not be surprised to see Arsenal outside the top 4 come next May.

And who knows, Mr. Wenger may not be there come next May either.


  1. Arsene Wenger has been severely let down since David Dein left in 2007. They were a parternship and now Wenger has no real ally when it comes to the board and trasnfer policy.

    I agree he needs to spend more money but I don't think he is being given the chance to, so it isn't really his fault.

  2. I posted a lengthy insightful comment, switched windows and lost the whole effin thing!

    My final point was trying to fill the vacuum that will be left when big al goes. Read your history books, Munich air disaster 58 to European glory in 68 and a few short years later relegated because Busby, another Scot who utterly dominated and transformed Utd, could not be adequately replaced. I hear you say, different era, of course it was but what happened to the mighty Leeds, the
    Even mightier Liverpool? Don't lose sleep, not just yet! Unc.

  3. David Dein didn't leave - he was sacked for going behind the Board's back.

    As for spending money, until this summer I don't believe the money has been there to spend. The Emirates is taking a large chunk of Arsenal's revenue and the Highbury development which was supposed to raise millions hasn't exactly been a roaring success.

  4. In Arsene we TRUST!

  5. In Arsene We Trust, We could do without fans like you come next May.

  6. Bring back David Dein is a good and wise start to fixing the multitude of cracks that now appear in my beloved football club.
    The next thing thing is to off load our lazy players in our squad and stengthen the defense, which should be proven stand up solid players like our old skool.
    We seem to be lacking that energy in mid field since Flamini left. we should of added Scot Parker and Joe Barton. Both are talented with a good engine and both were a bargain of the season. We have a problem of picking the wrong players and a bigger problem waiting for them to come good, the stats are very much not in our favour.

  7. Why do you want to bring back David Dein? He proved himself utterly untrustworthy in trying to sell out to Usmanov and remember he wanted to move to Wembley rather than the Emirates. Who can forget the soulless atmosphere there during our Euro matches there?

  8. Thank you for your views. Actually I am not an Arsenal fan so you will most certainly be without me next May.

    I have the greatest respect for Wenger and his previous triumphs. I just think he has had 6 years to build his 'next team' and has failed in doing so. Whilst a core of Ramsey and Wilshere is immensely promising there needs to be additions at the back and up front. But I am not so sure he is going to make the right additions or spend the money that is required.

  9. Acceptable In The 90's, if you are not an Arsenal fan, then please don't worry much about Arsenal F C and Arsene. In Professor Arsene we trust.