By Varun Shah,
It has been 21 years since that infamous headline ‘Arsene who’ was published in many British newspapers. It was a bold move by Arsenal to appoint a man who was relatively unknown, managing a Japanese team called Grampus Eight prior to Arsenal. In the 21 years to follow, all those journalists who questioned Arsene Wenger’s appointment were forced to eat their words as he went from just an unknown Frenchman who looked more like a school teacher than a manager to Arsenal’s most successful manager and the longest serving manager currently managing in the premier league. Since he is Arsenal’s most successful manager, to a layman the fact that he has just signed a 2 year deal keeping him at the helm of affairs till 2019 should be well received but how wrong would a layman be for Arsenal is no ordinary club and Arsene Wenger no ordinary man. Over the last few years, the man who led Arsenal football club to heights they could not have imagined possible has become a figure of debate. There are a lot of factors at play, but such is the power of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal that any shortcoming of the club has to be pinned on him.
There are a lot of positive reasons for Arsene Wenger to stay, after all as some would say he built the club, not in a literal sense but he built a foundation for the club which is solid as the club are financially secure. The club can generate huge amounts of money and are not overly dependent on ridiculously rich owners. Arsenal record a profit almost every year. The club has a very healthy financial position and a statistic that may come as a surprise to many, Arsenal Football Club is the 6th most valuable club in the world (6th position, that must kill man utd fans) ahead of clubs like Chelsea, Juventus and right behind the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man utd. He has also pioneered the project of building the emirates stadium, currently the 2nd biggest stadium of any English team with a capacity of just over 60,000. That stadium costed an estimated 390 million pounds which is not cheap money(as Tottenham will find out soon). This was built while Arsene Wenger had to dismantle one of the greatest squads in the history of football, the invincibles. He has overseen a transition period for Arsenal and has stayed loyal to the club he loves while it was in a rebuilding phase and ensured that they consistently qualified for the champions league for 20 years to generate that extra 25 million revenue to help pay the loan. With such financial figures, some might believe he was more of a money manager than a football manager, but such was the due care required to be taken to ensure that the club survives this transition. A lot of people may not know this but the loan granted to Arsenal football club was actually conditioned on him staying manager of the club from 2006 till 2011. In 20 years, he has won 7 FA cups(more than any manager in the history of the FA cup) won 5 community shields and 3 premier leagues including one invincible season, a feat that no other English club can boast till date. Some would argue that a man who has brought so much success to the club has earned the right to decide when to leave although there are a vocal few who strongly disagree (just ask ArsenalFanTV).
Such is the bar that Arsene Wenger has set for Arsenal football club that some may believe he is a victim of his own success. His reign can be easily divided into 2 halves, the first where he won the majority of his trophies from 1996 to 2005 and post 2005, where the trophies seem to have dried up. Till 2013, even Arsenal fans could accept the fact that they were tight on financial resources and could not afford to spend the amounts that their peers would. Post 2013 though is a different story. The CEO of Arsenal, Ivan Gazidis came out and said that in 5 years Arsenal would be at the level of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. It has been 4 years and it seems like Arsenal have fallen further behind rather than caught up. They are outside the champions league and although they have won 3 FA cups in the last 4 years, Arsenal fans want more. They have seen their team consistently beaten by some of the big clubs out there as this year they lost 10–2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich, another low for Wenger. They seem to falter when they need to perform well, big games, Arsenal never seem convincing in big games especially away from home where they have been routed convincingly by other top clubs. This lack of fight in the Arsenal team could be down to a mentality issue which would logically be blamed on the manager of the football club. The club always seem to fall away during the months of February and March and come back in April May to qualify for the champions league. This has been the story of each season for the past few years which is why the criticism of fans is valid. Arsenal seem to have stagnated in terms of football results and in fact this year have not even qualified for the champions league. Critics claim that a lot of that s due to his coaching methods which are considered outdated, also a contributing factor is his stubbornness to change the way his team play, leading some to believe that he is an analogue manager in a digital era, a man out of his time.
With a divided fan base, star players hesitating on signing new deals, sections of fans calling for his head, Arsene Wenger surely faces a tricky 2 years of his Arsenal reign. There is no doubting the fact that he has achieved a lot as Arsenal Manager but there is a doubt as to whether he could still bring back success to Arsenal football club. In the past few years, I too have seen myself come to believe that the time has come for Arsene Wenger to go. The board though sees it differently. Regardless of my personal opinion, the situation is that Arsene Wenger is going to remain manager for the next 2 years at the minimum and of course there is good reason for him to stay, but it is arguable that Arsenal require changes and drastic changes if they believe they are going to challenge for the premier league title in the near future. For now it seems Arsene Wenger is the one responsible for bringing the premier league back to the red side of North London.