Arsene Wenger – Hero or Zero?

As everybody who has an interest in English football whatsoever knows, high expectant Arsenal, confirmed by a defeat at Stoke, will now have gone 6 seasons without a single trophy to brag. At this stage the clamor for silverware in North London is now greater than ever, which with each passing month, turns up the pressure cooker that the ‘untouchable’ Arsene Wenger is now well and truly sat in. The weight of expectation around Arsenal FC is now larger than ever due to the clubs heritage and history of winning, and also being reminded on a regular basis that this set of seemingly forever young players that Wenger has drafted together, is ‘ready to deliver’. The last time Arsenal won a trophy as most of us know, was the F.A Cup final of 05′ when Patrick Vieira buried his penalty into the Manchester United net at the Millennium stadium with his very last kick of a football in an Arsenal shirt.

Arsene Wenger

From then on we have seen the slow deformation of the now legendary Arsenal invincible squad. The great Thierry Henry leaving for Barca, Robert Pires leaving for Villareal, Freddy Ljungberg crossing London to West Ham, Dennis Bergkamp coming of age and calling it a day, Sol Campbell moving to Pompey, Ashley Cole got his desired move to London rivals Chelsea, and finally Jens Lehmann losing his place to the less than reliable Manuel Almunia who would secure his place for an error strewn 3 seasons. Since that moment, the more modern Arsenal have struggled to even get within touching distance of former glories. Wenger has been at the helm for the Gunners for 14 years now, and in his time the club has won 3 Premier leagues and 4 FA Cups. But Arsenal fans everywhere have been left frustrated and dismayed by the clubs inabilities to win trophies in more recent years.

Wenger has revolutionized Arsenal Football Club since his time there and has become synonymous with the club becoming Mr. Arsenal. He and the late Danny Fizman, were key instigators behind the Emirates stadium project which allowed Arsenal to make the step from a 32’000 aging historic old ground to a 60’00 state of the arts area, nearly doubling stadium capacity allowing bigger crowds to come and see their beloved Arsenal and more importantly, generate a consistently higher gates receipts revenue for future years to come with a season ticket for a seat in the Emirates costing approximately 1800 pounds sterling.

A new modern state of the art training ground in London Colney was also constructed during Wengers reign and his role again was pivotal, even designing aspects of it himself personally. Moreover, this has ensured that Arsenal will remain a dominant force in English football by means of financial stability and an attraction for top class fooballers to apply their trade. During his time, he also transformed the way Arsenal play their football with his team obtaining a reputation of playing model, slick, attractive football, a very far and distant cry from the once chanted ‘Boring, Boring Arsenal’ by opposing fans.

Wenger has also gained himself a reputation of having an eye for young talent and there are few that would argue, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Worjiech Sczchesny and further back in time, Nicholas Anelka, whom he puchased for half a million pounds and then sold him to Real Madrid two seasons later for 22 million making a handsome profit. Overall Arsenal have a +30 million profit spread from transfers over the past 6 years, as compared to rivals Manchester united and Chelsea and Manchester city who have -120 million, -220 million and -300 million respectively over the same period of time. With having a masters degree in economics, its not surprising that he has made profitable deals in his time throughout, not to mention also the profits made on Adebayor and Kolo Toure.

As we can be said, a football club is more than just a squad of players, it’s a franchise and a company where colossal wages need to be paid and top players aren’t cheap. It is crucial that it is run responsibly and with care, something that Wenger has done perfectly and consistently. However, there always is the other side of the coin. The side of the coin that supporters, pundits, critics alike are concerned about, and that’s the side of winning trophies and being successful.

Since the glory days of the invincibles, there has been a lack of power, both physical and mental within the Arsenal squad, and air of uncertainty and lack of belief. As much as the neutral can admire Arsenals glittering attractive attacking football, there can be no concealing of their inability to defend with conviction and more crucially, at a level good enough to win competitions.
The Invincible back four of Lauren/Toure, Keown, Campbell and Cole has made way for the current Clichy, a product of the Arsenal academy, brought in from Cannes as a teen, Sagna, former French league player of the year, purchased from Auxerre, Vermaelen, the Belgian brought in from Ajax for a fee of around 10 million pounds, who has had severe injury problems this season missing 8 months of the campaign leaving the main central defensive partnership to be between Djourou and Koscielny.

Defensive mistakes have cost Arsenal dear

This back four has been hand crafted by Wenger himself and ultimately he must be responsible for their inability to defend effectively and not to make costly errors that we see regularly. These are the type of mistakes that would leave Tony Adams almost diving head first into his TV set with disgust. The goalkeeping issue has been a hot topic, but Wenger seems to believe that the young Pole Szcznesy has solved his problem without him having to spend cash in the market needlessly, taking the number 1 position from fellow Pole Lukas Fabianski and 33 year old Manuel Almunia, who has proved to everyone and even to Wenger himself after a considerable amount of time, that he just isn’t good enough.

This leaves us asking ourselves the question, has Wenger proved us all wrong all again by refusing to splash out on a new keeper and entrusting Szcznesy between the sticks, or is it a farce that he allowed the situation to go on as long as it did?

Set-piece is a phrase that leaves Arsenal players with dry mouths and anguished expressions. They have conceded the most amount of set piece goals in the league this season which realistically cannot be the case for a team with genuine title ambitions. This again falls back on Wenger’s inability to take the bull by the horns and buy a suitable centre half to irradiate the problem. This have been the case for the best part of these 6 trophy-less years, with much to Arsenal fans frustration, the arrival of the less than able Sebastian Squllaci from Sevilla is the only piece of action taken so far to resolve the matter. Amazingly, Djourou is the only player in the Arsenal backline who stands over 6 foot tall which leaves us not surprised at their abysmal defensive record from set pieces.

This summer will be a huge one for Wenger and Arsenal as more than ever is the writing on the wall for a big transfer, something Wenger has been so stubborn to avoid. There is only so long a dead horse can be flogged before a new course of action has to be taken.

I personally believe that the current ‘Arsene Wenger project’ is dead in the water and that new approach is needed, however I don’t think that he should be relieved of his duty as Arsenal manager. Subliminally, I think Wenger knows that he needs to reconsider his approach, as the weight of expectation mounts, and patience runs thin. But for disgruntled gunners, it’s the case of same story, different season, as the seemingly eternal wait for a trophy ticks off another year and the old familiar cliché that this team is ready to deliver next season haunts their ears.

Written by Sam Henderson,

Follow me on Twitter @Hendo_IRL


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