“Above all, I am an Arsenal fan.” – Arsene Wenger (2018)
It’s over. The sun sets and business is over in North London for Arsene Wenger (22 years after the project began), a rare revolutionary of the game.
Arsene Who? It’s all history now.
Many would point out that Wenger should have left much earlier. Asked when, some would say 2005, after that FA Cup final, would have been perfect. Other would say 2006, after that fateful night in Paris. Others would point at the nadir of the 2011 League Cup final against Birmingham City.
The more forgiving ones would say after the 2014 FA Cup, while another batch would have mentioned last year as being the been ideal year to have retired. However, many forget this was also a perfect time.
If he had left in 2005, there would have been no Paris heart-break. No one would have known/discovered that Robin van Persie was that beastly. We wouldn’t have heard of Eduardo or seen Santi Cazorla don an Arsenal jersey.
Sanchez and Ozil may not have even arrived. Many would say Arsenal didn’t win trophies for ten years, but they forget they played the best football in England in that span before City came with Pep. You won’t have witnessed those battles with Mourinho. The love triangle between those two and Sir Alex. How about that famous quote about how if he had spent €85m on one player, the player had better know how to play every position?
Wenger had set such high standards in his first ten years, it became the stick with which he was been beaten for the remainder of his tenure. He had Vieira, Bergkamp, Pires, Henry. What happened to him spotting players of such ingenuity and bringing them to Arsenal?
Rather he would leave Arsenal fans in a cloud of thought as to what could have happened if he had allowed Cesc return to Arsenal from Barcelona and not gift him to Chelsea. Maybe he could have spent more at other times.
What if Arsenal had another Midfielder like Cazorla? What if Vieira was properly replaced? Did Arsenal have defenders that were near the class of the Invincibles since that period? Many would point at Laurent Koscielny as the epitome of that failure; Koscielny has played a huge part in Arsenal’s European failures in the last four years. Antoine Griezmann one beneficiary, Robert Lewandowski, another.
‘Wenger built the Emirates.‘ That may sound right, but only a shallow minded figure would stop at that. ‘Wenger built Arsenal ,‘ is more befitting for this legend as he bows out. Arsenal was a great English club when he took over, but they were in a mess.
Boring boring United? They didn’t compare to George Graham’s team of the 90’s. Wenger brought fun, joie de vivre to North London. Only myopia would see Wenger as the problem. Myopia won’t see that Wenger was just the coach, not the board. Myopia won’t see that Wenger only had the best interests of the club at heart.
When Sir Alex left United, he left a squad needing a huge overhaul; average players who had played at phenomenal levels. Same as Jose Mourinho at Inter. Those clubs have taken serious funding and years of stop-start measures.
He has left the best Arsenal legs there. Lacazette and Aubameyang are fresh signings. Most players when regrouping at London Colney in July would still be below 26. Mesut Ozil has just signed a new contract. Hector Bellerin needs to be taught discipline. Maitland Niles, Nketiah, Neilson, Iwobi and Willock are Arsenal boys who would die for the shirt if properly handled.
Wenger may have lost touch with modern football. He is the remnant of that 90’s generation of managers in the Premier League, and only he has done well to leave behind what his successor can build on. The success of a man is in the success of his successor.