Arsene Wenger deserves more than criticism, vile

Arsene Wenger deserves more than criticism, vile

Hundreds of precious column inches and countless minutes of prime time have been dedicated to discussing the conundrum faced by Arsenal on whether or not to exercise a divorce in the relationship between the London-based club and English Premier League’s longest-serving and manager, Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal fans’ debates and dissatisfaction at the manager’s performances have birthed numerous memes, a significantly popular #WengerOut has tag and even an online resistance movement in www.wengerout.net

Following Arsenal’s memorable ‘Invincibles,’ the club has failed to add glamour to their trophy cabinet, with two FA Cup trophies (in 2014 and 2015) being their only contribution in over a decade. Most often than not, perennial underachievement has burdened the feeble silhouette of the Frenchman. And while the manager plays a key role in the successes and failures of a club, is the vile targeted and displeasure expressed for Wenger entirely justified?

Arsenal legends, former footballers, football commentators and pundits, armchair specialists and fans have weighed in their opinions on what is arguably one of the sport’s most debated and discussed topics. The comments range from the spectrum of vile profanities that are unprintable to mockeries, from understanding viewpoints to remarks on improvement and finally encouragement and reverence.

Monitoring the online conversations put the finger of blame on numerous factors; the sub-par performances from players, poor officiating, unsporting footballing antics, hierarchical decisions and even luck. But it is Wenger who shoulders most of it.

Time and again, while there have been former players who have called for the axe to be wielded, there are those voices who counter such verbal claims. My two cents? The French tactician is unfairly targeted.

There remains no dispute in Arsene Wenger’s lack of premium silverware over the last 13 years – bar two FA Cup trophies. Neither should anyone doubt the numerous near-misses and self-destructions football has witnessed for over a decade, as well as the overly used and abused ‘next season’ and its subsequent unachieved goals. But let that not canvas some of the mighty achievements he has had through the tumultuous period.

Wenger was at the helm when the club made the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium at a cost of £390 million. Hierarchical decisions, a significant increase in matchday revenues, improved broadcast returns and not least important, a tight purse for Wenger, allowed the club to recover its mammoth investment. Not many clubs can boast such an achievement in less than a decade.

Bar the recent hyper-inflated transfer market, triggered by Neymar’s €222 million move from Barcelona to PSG, Wenger had gained a reputation for being excessively frugal. Until his recent ‘splurges’ on the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, the manager has been very conservative in the market, opting to invest in youth and raw talent as opposed to proven and final products. As a result, he is let many a gem pass, in favour of diamonds in the rough. But that approach led to the development of the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Ashley Cole, Philippe Senderos, Alex Song, Gael Clichy and Jack Wilshere to name a few. Sometimes, his moves paid off. Furthermore, he has maintained a favourable ratio of salaries to turnover. In 2006, it stood at 63%) in 2006. A decade later, he has maintained the ratio, if not bettered it, in favour of the club. Thus, he has over a decade presented an economic gift to the club’s shareholders, given their year-on-year profits recorded since 2002.

The template of football exhibited at the Emirates Stadium has been applaudable. Their sleek passing, punctuated by a range of passing, intricate footwork and rapid breaks have drawn a lot of admiration from across the league and beyond. What has however been his Achilles heel is the failure of eye-catching football translating into silverware and overall achievements. Far too often, the Frenchman – and his players – have come under heavy criticism for almost attempting to glide the ball into the net. And that has been what has separated Arsenal from the other clubs, who would be more than willing to win ugly. But credit to Frenchman for implementing a swashbuckling style of play that has over the years entertained neutral and have led to numerous memorable performances. It has been a joy to watch, despite the disparagement of his stale tactics.

While trophies have evaporated from their grasp time and again, they continue remaining a relevant top four contender. Despite the underperformances that have marred numerous campaigns, Arsenal continues to put up a challenge in the league – at least for a spot in Europe’s premier continental tournament, the UEFA Champions League. The club may be tightly associated to also-rans, but through the balance of new blood, experienced heads and finished products, Wenger fields numerous sides who do not necessarily or entirely put in a forgettable performance, unlike their 4-2 FA Cup loss at the hands of Nottingham Forest.

Finally and not least importantly, loyalty; in today’s footballing world where the act of pen to paper has been diluted, loyalty is priceless. Contracts have lost meaning, with the football industry now becoming extremely commercialized. As a consequence, the turnover is very high in what has now become a very results-driven sport and business. And so, to last over two decades in such a harsh footballing climate is no mean feat, by any means. Throw caution in the wind; those disgruntled fans seeking an end to the Wenger era must be wary of the consequences of their campaigns, lest they experience a similar fate, that of Manchester United, following the departure of icon, Sir Alex Ferguson.

 

 

 

 

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