Will Wenger’s stubbornness be Arsenal’s downfall? A fan’s perspective

July 13, 2012 in Premier League

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As a life-long, die-hard Arsenal fan our recent drought in trophies is becoming an increasing concern for me and a source of almost constant frustration. But do I have a right to be so wound up? Most Arsenal fans would exclaim “of course,” Manchester United and City would smugly agree and so would Chelsea. They have money, they are a constant threat for titles and their fans are so annoyingly self-assured. But what about Newcastle, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton fans? Under Wenger we haven’t failed to qualify for the Champions League once, we’ve reached two cup finals since our last title win, last season we closed a seemingly impossible 10 point gap with Spurs and of all our main competitors the only ones to end the season with 6 points from us were Manchester United. On paper it looks pretty good; we’ve not won anything for 7 years, but nor have many teams. So it’s not so bad right?

Wrong!

Maybe I would be more understanding if I hadn’t been a hopeful teenager when we were the Invincibles and everyone wanted a piece of Arsenal glory, or if we didn’t have a multi-million, top of the range stadium (it’s insane, I’ve been on the tour!), or we didn’t have world-class players. But all these things we do and even more importantly we have money. Maybe not in the same ballpark as Man City or Chelsea, but the reserves are there. Last season after the humiliating 8-2 defeat at the hands of United, Kroenke urged Wenger to spend some money and to be fair he did some good business. Arteta was invaluable to us last season and although only with us on a loan spell Benayoun was a great addition. Metersacker wasn’t (sorry Per!) and although Andre Santos and Ji-Yung Park are obviously talented they are not yet first team players. After the loss of Fabregas to Barcelona and then Nasri to the City bench there was no big star player brought in to replace them, which left us Arsenal fans holding our breaths for most of the season praying Van Persie’s glass ankles wouldn’t take a knocking, which would see us thrust into the hellish pits of mid-table anonymity.

And here highlights Mr Wenger’s main problem – the man is just too bloody stubborn! No doubt he is a genius of the football world and a right clever clogs in the real world. But even with buckets full of intelligence he cannot control the evolution of the game, as much as he might try. Football now, more so than ever is a business (Don’t Rangers just know this?) and the business world is dog-eat-dog: if you’re not ahead of the game your employees will go somewhere that is. Isn’t that true, Nasri? Fabregas? Clichy? Toure? Adebayor? And soon enough Van Persie will wearing the baby blue Manchester City colours and I will be crying in a corner wishing for the days of Henry and Robert Pires.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a huge amount of respect for Wenger, but his controlling behaviour in the way the club is run is a torment to fans, players and shareholders alike. In Van Persie’s recent press release he was less that subtle about the ongoing disagreement with Wenger about the running of the club; He clearly realises the need for a big-name player, but Arsene refuses to change his tactics. He insists on running the club single-handedly and is surrounded by a contingent of “Yes-Men”. On my tour of the Emirates, ex-player Perry Groves cheekily let slip that Tony Adams is dying to come back and coach Arsenal’s defence – Wenger refuses. Patrick Viera should be coaching at Arsenal, but Wenger was less than enthralled at the idea and so he is coaching Manchester City as they help themselves to titles. I can’t help but feel the injustice of it. I hope that newly appointed assistant coach Steve Bould will have more of a backbone in standing up to Wenger than Pat Rice did (no offence, he is a legend still). Finally Uzbek shareholder Alisher Usmanov last week told the press his willingness to invest more in the club, own a higher percentage and have a bigger say in the way the club is run – ultimately spending more money to gain the results the fans so richly crave – it was music to my ears. Wenger dismissed the idea. I went back to my Dark Place.

This brings me back to the evolution of the game. 10 years ago Wenger was a Talisman of the youth academy; we had a string of young lads who had come through the system and a number of shrewd purchases that left other managers quaking in their boots. We hailed him as the conscientious manager who brought Thierry Henry to Arsenal after Juventus said he would never amount to anything decent (how they must have kicked themselves). The thing is, that doesn’t seem to have the same messianic effect of old. You need only have a whisper of the name Chamakh to appreciate this sentiment. Theo Walcott has never really delivered the way he was expected to and then of course there have been set backs in other young players that are so incredibly unfortunate and unforeseen; Aaron Ramsey is lucky to still have a football career and Jack Wilshere is seemingly the most unlucky 20-year-old in football. The Ox is an incredibly promising young player, but really to me, it’s all gone a bit flat.

Amongst this we have other players who 8 years ago wouldn’t have got a look in as a first team player and with the 2011-2012 spate of injuries it came shockingly evident that Arsenal could really do with some decent defenders. We need a big burly bullying type à la Martin Keown or Tony Adams, who can push weedy strikers like Aguero off the ball in dangerous situations. Don’t get me wrong, I think Koscielny is magnificent but we don’t have a John Terry or Ashley Cole type (oh look another ex-Arsenal player). Frankly Squillaci terrifies me when he’s on the pitch and Djourou is a liability, although I do hold out hope that Frimpong has this potential.

I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom but there is clearly a lot of room for improvement and this starts with Wenger accepting the changing mood of English football. He needs to relinquish some control and spend some money. I’m not saying buy the ready-made talent and disregard the young raw skill – jeez we’re not City - but accept that the odd £20 million star with experience can bring something vital to a young inexperienced squad and may encourage the more senior players to keep on at the club. With Theo Walcott and Alex song having only a year and two years left on their contracts now is the time to do this. This summer’s two new signings Oliver Giroud and Lucas Podolski seem like a step in the right direction and as the new season approaches I can feel my usual hopefulness that this season might bring a glint of sliver to fill the trophy cabinet. But I have to say, if the drought continues Wenger could see his bad decision of an unbending attitude his downfall – somewhat like the Romans 2000 years before him.

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