John Sailsman weighs the pros and cons as rumours abound that Arsene Wenger is to be offered a new two year contract.
He’s not Herbert Chapman, but without a doubt AW has written himself into Arsenal’s history books. A dumb statement I guess because as our manager he would have done so anyway. But it is my opinion that under AW we have seen our best and our worst times as a football club.
The best: well it’s not that he won the double; we managed that before he came, but under him we had a squad that went a whole season without losing. I don’t think this has been done before in any league but I could be wrong. Our worst? For me it was the 8-2 mauling at the hands of Man U, a result that had everyone calling for his head.
Gooners must admit that although we made it into the Champions’ League, last season was a debacle. The official supporters club represented the fans views with aplomb by insisting that he not be offered a contract until we knew where we were at the end of the season. The tomfoolery had gone on long enough, he wouldn’t spend and we were also-rans on too many occasions. Ironically the boss agreed and even this season he has stated that he’s not interested in signing anything at least until the end of the season. With all the integrity associated with the man, he asks to be judged by his results.
Let’s get one thing straight, Wenger loves Arsenal, he’s red and white all the way. Let’s get another thing straight. AW is one of the best managers in the world and he sits comfortably with the likes of Mourinho, Pep, Ancelotti and the rest of them, of this there is no doubt. But that word integrity is his middle name and in many respects it has become his downfall.
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I don’t think he’s a brilliant tactician, but his strengths are like those of Alex Ferguson, he can make mediocre players into good players and good players into great players. He is one of the few premiership managers that come with a footballing philosophy and a principle. It’s not just about winning but it’s how you win.
Mourinho has a philosophy (stop them from scoring first) but AW’s is copied and mimicked by most, (don’t let them have the ball and express yourself as individuals and as a team) look at the likes of Everton, Southampton, Newcastle and even Villa; they all know how to keep the ball. He has raised the level of the game in England drastically, and not just here. Barcelona under Reykaard and with the likes of Ronaldinho played excellent football and won things, but it was only when we sold them Thierry Henry did they start to play tiki-taka and that says a lot about our boss.
As I said the man has integrity and on too many occasions it has made him and us look stupid. He knows the kind of money orientated world that he exists in, he knows that most football fans earn in two or three years is what players earn in a week. He knows the ruthlessness of the transfer market and he really doesn’t want any of it, i.e. having to spend over the odds and essentially doing a Chelsea or Man city and buy the Championship. He wants no part of that; he wants to win the league with integrity.
He has a youth policy that most clubs would give their right hand for and he would never make a stupid mistake like spending £110 million on a new squad in one season. He would rather use half of that money (if forced) to buy one and two players of quality.
Wenger is all about integrity and that before any kind of footballing philosophy is what he puts first. When they first met, Tony Adams called him the professor, a suitably western description of him I suppose. But AW spent a lot of time in Japan and I don’t think you can live anywhere in the world without being influenced by the culture. I wouldn’t call him a professor, to me he’s more like a Zen master and I believe a form of those principles first and foremost is what drives his attitude to business and more crucially his attitude to the players.
I don’t think he plays mind games like Sir Alex did, he is more likely to encourage his players by first getting them to conquer their minds, slow down their thoughts, release themselves of their egos, work as a unit, have confidence and create time on the ball and most importantly express yourself. It’s almost like Obi Wan Kenobi teaching the ways of the force.
Once the players have got this then it’s time to put it into action and I bet every other team in the land is now practicing one touch football in tiny spaces. This I believe is the basis of AW’s footballing philosophy.
My only hope is that the barren seasons in which we have seen no success have been because, with the Emirates to pay for, he worked with the board and spent as little money as possible and sadly selling of the family silverware Fabregas, RVP et al to raise a buck to pay off our debts. Shrewd, intelligent and smart business, but a deadly two edged sword as it has meant we have won nothing now for 8 seasons.
In short, I think the man is an enigma, he’s more than football but he brings a level of honesty and integrity to a game that really has lost its soul and is now ruled by money. He is old school, very old school and wants to make it in a modern world where the pound, dollar and euro is king but he wants to do it in style.
As an Arsenal fan I can’t take the pain of losing, none of us can. I believe AW (unlike Sam Alladyce whose team gets trounced by a championship side and he chews gum nonchalantly like it was nothing) can’t stand the pain either. But he believes in a higher set of principles and wants to apply them and for this alone, I would happily sit at his feet and write his autobiography and proclaim to the world that this is an extraordinary human being.
Ultimately Arsenal fans, I think we are lucky to have him and we are lucky that he love us enough to want to stay. Apart from Alex Ferguson I cant think of another manager who has managed to imprint his personality not just on a team but the whole club. I think, he deserves not just another contract, but if he wants, to see out his career at the Emirates..errr as long as he continues to spend wisely.