WengerOut. Literally…and finally
Such was Arsene Wenger’s impact and influence over Arsenal Football Club that for 22 long years the club has been synonymous with their manager. Everything at Arsenal was pivoted around the 68-year-old Frenchman who today announced that he would leave the club at the end of the season. Wenger’s career at Arsenal in English football can be broken down into three stages where he was hailed as a genius and pioneer first; a good yet stubborn manager who refused to change; and the last few years where he squandered his overall legacy. Here we look at Wenger’s career over the years at Arsenal:
• When Wenger came to England in 1996 from an unfancied Japanese club he was literally a nobody. Yet armed with a degree in Economics – that earned him the nickname Le Professeur — he transformed English football with novel methods of changing dietary habits, pre-match preparation and a sense of professionalism that was badly lacking in England.
• In his first full season Wenger and Arsenal did the Double as they won the Premier League and the FA Cup playing some eye-catching football.
• The next few years were the most fascinating for Wenger and English football as Arsenal and Manchester United embarked on a bitter and memorable rivalry. The games between two sides always had an edge and such rivalry hasn’t been seen since then as both teams gave their all to outdo the other.
• Wenger had a remarkable eye for talent – a quality that perhaps deserted him in the latter half of his career – as he plucked unknown names from obscurity and turned them into world-class players. Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Freddie Ljungberg were all little-known but under Wenger became truly brilliant players.
• A hallmark of all Wenger teams was that they were known to play some really eye-catching football that excited Arsenal and neutral fans alike.
• The 2003-04 season was the pinnacle of Wenger’s career as his team – branded as ‘The Invincibles’ – went unbeaten for an entire season. An achievement that stands unparalleled and they did so by playing wonderful football led by the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira.
• ‘The Invincibles’ season was perhaps the last great thing Wenger achieved – and it came 14 years back. In the following years, Arsenal always challenged for trophies but never really stood out. A lot of it was down to Wenger’s stubbornness to spend money as rivals like Chelsea splashed the cash.
• The rise of Manchester City after 2009 meant that Arsenal were branded as a ‘feeder club’ who always sold their best players. Wenger sold the Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy to City whereas the likes of Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas left the club to “win trophies”.
• If Wenger’s earlier teams had steel and fight, all his latter teams were branded too soft who weren’t up to the fight. It is a problem that Wenger refused to address as Arsenal spent eight barren years when it came to trophies.
• Wenger’s record in the FA Cup is remarkable to say the least as he won seven titles – the same number as Liverpool and Chelsea have done in their entire history.
• In the last couple of years, Wenger has faced the ire of Arsenal fans – more so on social media. #WengerOut was a regular occurrence on Twitter after every poor performance.
• A manager’s true greatness is judged on how he does in Europe and whether his teams manage to retain league titles. The best Wenger did in Europe was reach the Champions League final in 2006. Arsenal never won back-to-back titles under Wenger, a feat that was achieved by Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson multiple times. Even Chelsea managed to do so under Jose Mourinho.
• Arsene Wenger would go down as a bona fide Arsenal legend, their greatest manager. He will also be remembered as one of the finest to grace English football. Yet, the last 8-10 years of his career at Arsenal ensured that he won’t be remembered as one of the all-time managerial greats in football. No league title for 14 years, no success in Europe throughout his time and his best players leaving for other clubs do not paint a rosy picture of Wenger’s overall career.
• For Arsenal, the challenge would be to get the right man to replace Wenger. For all his flaws, Wenger ensured every year – barring one – that Arsenal qualified for Europe. The likes of Thomas Tuchel, Luis Enrique and even former Arsenal great Patrick Vieira are in the reckoning.
WengerOut. Literally…and finally