“Something has gone you could see that today….” those were the words spoken by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after today’s 3-1 defeat to Stoke. And he is right, something has gone, but is it much closer to home than Arsene thinks?
Arsene has been at Arsenal since September 1996, replacing Bruce Rioch who was sacked after a dispute with the club’s board of Director’s over transfer funds, but maybe 15 years at the club is time enough for the Frenchman and some fresh blood is needed at The Emirates.
As Chris Wheatley of Arsenal Fan Site Gooner Talk says, “There’s no doubt that Arsene Wenger is Arsenal’s greatest ever manager. Three league titles and four FA Cup’s – not forgetting going 49 games unbeaten – tell you everything you need to know about what the Frenchman has brought Arsenal. Through the years under Wenger’s tenure, Arsenal have played with the same ‘pure football’ philosophy which has provided many admirers across the footballing spectrum.”
But as Wenger stated in his post match press conference today, something has gone and it is silverware.
Chris added, “….for the past six years the Gunners have failed to win any silverware by playing ‘Wenger’s way’. There are many Arsenal fans who feel Wenger’s 15-year stay at the club has made things stale, including the tactics and transfer policies.”
And I agree with that statement, his 15 year stay at Arsenal has gone stale. His tactics and transfer policies are outdated and do not suit the present day English Premier League. When he arrived at Highbury in 1996, he was a revolutionary and it was these revolutionary tactics and policies that brought success to Arsenal. Now they are reminiscent of a bygone age. Yes, Wenger brings attractive football to the Emirates and has achieved Champions League qualification to the latter stages, but silverware is what counts even more so when you have spent just over £112,000,000 since your last trophy in 2005.
However as Chris points out, “Many suggest that consecutive Champions League football and upcoming young British talent is a prime example of a ‘fresh’, new team. This season we’ve seen Wenger managing to keep the team title-competitive in times of financial crisis. Despite selling key players in previous years, Arsenal have recorded famous wins over Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.”
Despite those famous wins, for every one of those there is a defeat to the likes of West Brom, Bolton, Stoke and Newcastle. And that is why ‘some supporters are frustrated at the manager’ according to Chris.
Wenger’s reliance on attractive attacking football is in contrast to the team’s defensive frailties, which Chris has claimed is the ‘main reason for Arsenal’s Premier League demise’.
He said, “56 percent of their 39 goals conceded this campaign have been from set-pieces. The defensive mix-up in the Carling Cup final proved how much Thomas Vermaelen has been missed, not just as a centre back, but as a communicator. Certainly, there are players who are being carried in the Arsenal team. Various blogs and websites have urged the manager to make changes this summer, including a mass clear-out of fringe players and deadwood. Manuel Almunia, Sebastien Squillaci and Denilson are just three names of Arsenal squad members not pulling their weight.”
But while some look towards the defensive frailties of Arsenal there is also another issue – the reliance on the likes of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas to score goals and win games. van Persie is Arsenal’s top scorer with 15 goals out of 22 games he has played this season, but his injury problems have led to Arsenal relying on the likes of Nikolas Bendtner and Marauane Chamakh, who have contributed a total of 9 goals in total. Samir Nasri has been providing some goals with 10, but the sale of Thierry Henry in 2007 to Barcelona and the failure to bring in a top striker has proved costly, with Wenger happy to rely on what he has, which is simply not good enough. On top of the 6 year wait for a trophy, Arsenal have been outside the top two in the English Premier League since 2005.
In the time that Arsene has been at Arsenal, title rivals Chelsea have seen eight managers at the club. All bringing different philosophies to Stamford Bridge, backed in recent years with Roman Abramovich’s millions, with 16 trophies won in total, the same amount of trophies Arsenal have won in Arsene’s tenure. But unlike Arsenal their most recent was the Premier League title and the FA Cup last season.
If Arsenal are to return to winning ways changes must occur as Chris mentions also, “More changes are looking likely in the summer as well, with assistant manager Pat Rice set to retire at the end of the season. Reserve manager Neil Banfield has been linked with the post and could provide something different on the touchline where advice is concerned.”
Despite failing to bring recent success, the Arsenal board continue to stick with the French tactician. And despite the lack of silverware Real Madrid were interested in bring him to the Bernabeu in 2009 and even this season they have been keeping an eye on Wenger’s situation at Arsenal, with present incumbent Jose Mourinho eyeing up a return to the English Premier League in the near future.
But as Chris intimates, “Wenger isn’t going to be leaving the club anytime soon, whether supporters like it or not, he has unfinished business with the Premier League and Champions League.”
The Arsenal supporters are becoming disillusioned, and no one can deny that. The lack of silverware, defeats to clubs they really should be beating and players being paid huge salaries and producing very little in return are infuriating fans. And on top of that this summer, Season Ticket prices are going through the roof at the Emirates with a rise of 6.5% on the cost of standard ticket prices. The cheapest season ticket price is set to be around £951, with most of that to be paid up front, but the club’s Supporters Trust have accused Arsenal of being “out of touch with today’s economic climate” and guilty of “pricing loyal supporters out of the Emirates”.
In total Arsene Wenger has spent around £240,000,000 since he made the move across the Channel from Monaco. While he has not spent as much as the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, it is still a huge amount of money and the return for that money is £15,000,000 per trophy.
Whenever Arsene leaves, his legacy at Arsenal will live on as he had a hand in the development of the Emirates Stadium, as well as the club’s Shenley Training Centre.
But with every passing season that he does not win a trophy the pressure will be piled upon him, and it is already having a telling factor on the Frenchman, whose comments to the press in recent seasons descend into excuse after excuse on how his players are being targeted, how the referees are not protecting his players and that he cannot compete with the money on offer at other clubs.
After 15 years at Arsenal, maybe it is time for Arsene Wenger to step down as manager and for the current board to bring in someone with a fresh approach. But one thing must happen, if Arsene stays for another season his tactics must change, he must ditch the deadwood and bring in quality from a new goalkeeper [Allan McGregor at Rangers possibly], a couple of defenders and importantly two strikers to help van Persie.