Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest managers in the
history of English football.
He revolutionised Arsenal, helped drag English football
into the modern age and changed the way clubs scout players.
Oh, and he masterminded three Premier League title-winning
campaigns - one unbeaten - won four FA Cups, and produced some of the most
sublime football ever played.
He will go down as a legend. And it is time for him to leave
the Emirates Stadium.
One of Wenger's stalwarts, Martin Keown, defended him on
Monday, saying that if you told Arsenal fans 15 years ago what Wenger's reign
would encompass, they would be pretty happy.
And indeed they would. But that merely proves Wenger's
reign has included some success - a great deal, in fact - not that he should be immune from the sack.
If Arsenal dismissed Wenger they wouldn't have to give
their trophies back. They could thank the Frenchman for one of the most
glorious periods in their history, but say it is time to move on.
Which, considering that glorious success ended some six
years ago, would be a fair statement.
Nobody thinks Wenger is a bad football manager. But his
continued presence at Arsenal shows no sign of restoring the club to glory.
The key is not to focus on what happened in the past -
but what is likely to happen in the future. And what signs are there to suggest
Wenger is going to turn things around?
Sunday's North London derby defeat to Tottenham was
damning. Arsenal did not play particularly badly - though familiar failings at
the back cost them yet again.
The most depressing thing was the total lack of surprise
at the result. Quite simply, Tottenham are better than Arsenal these days.
Wenger's supporters can point to his transfer record -
not least their net spend of -£26.9 million in the six years since they last
won anything. In the same time, Tottenham have spent around £150m net.
But the Frenchman seems to be playing a different game to
everyone else. For him, it is enough to be thrifty.
Yet in the modern game, you have to spend (although not
recklessly) to have any chance of success.
Even Financial Fair Play does not mean being revenue
neutral in the transfer market - it means spending within your means.
So while it might slow down Manchester City and Chelsea,
it will not affect Manchester United, who can fund a significant transfer kitty
even when saddled with hundreds of millions of Glazer debt.
True, United are a bigger club and a more successful
money-making machine than Arsenal.
But wasn't that the point of leaving Highbury for the
Emirates? Wasn't a 60,000-seater stadium full of fans paying London prices
(£1,000-plus) for their season tickets going to cement Arsenal's place among
the big hitters?
Instead, Wenger has presided over a period of steady
decline despite the club being in good financial health. He is not David Moyes - he has had the means to spend like Tottenham, but sees such flashing
of cash as vulgar. No wonder successive owners have loved him so much.
Yet even when Wenger has opened his wallet, the results
have been underwhelming.
This summer alone he signed four £10m players - Gervinho,
Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In recent years he has spent significant sums on Laurent
Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen, Andrei Arshavin, Samir Nasri, Eduardo, Alex Hleb
and Theo Walcott.
only Nasri can be considered a complete success (Vermaelen is excellent but
injury-prone), and he is no longer an Arsenal player.
the man who brought in Henry and Vieira, Pires and Fabregas. Yet his magic
touch seems to have deserted him.
Campbell, another Invincible signed on a free, recently said Wenger was never a
hands-on coach, but in a squad full of top-class players that didn't matter.
organise themselves, motivate themselves and create a winning mentality
current Arsenal squad appear to have none of the above, nor do they have a
manager with either the ability or even the inclination to change things.
Sir Alex Ferguson has also defended his former nemesis,
saying those calling for Wenger's head have not considered who might replace
Well, how about Carlo Ancelotti, a proven manager on the
lookout for a top job in England?
The thawing of Ferguson's relationship with Wenger
symbolises the sad fading of the Premier League's signature rivalry.
It is time for Arsenal to thank Wenger for his
magnificent work and appoint somebody who will make Ferguson hate him.
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