Hate him or love him, Arsene Wenger is fine wine in an old stubborn bottle.
Wenger might currently not be your all-out trophy winning coach like Mourinho, Herrera, Guardiola, Trappatoni and Ferguson (which is truly what every soccer team needs), but he is surely a technical genius that all clubs will be happy to have managing their teams because of his shrewd way of managing scarce resources and dead-end situations.
Wenger is believed to prefer saving money instead of splashing the cash but what most of his critics do not understand is that he was not always like that. He developed that habit as a survival tactic when Arsenal needed to build a grand stadium (the Emirates) and still be relevant in England and Europe at the same time. It simply means he was given the toughest task ever given to a world class soccer manager which were;
A) “save money for the club by buying mediocre/ average players while selling one or more of your very best assets every season to help pay off the stadium loan (sell quality to buy trash and still be relevant every season).
B) Rebuild your team every season, compete against stable teams with equal or far more financial clout and still be ‘top 4’ in the league so that the UCL qualification goodies also come in handy to help pay off the stadium loan.
C) Use a half-baked team to compete in UCL and ensure you qualify for the knockout stage (even if you don’t smell Quarter finals)”.
We need to understand that the mandate given to other managers like Mourinho, Guardiola, Benitez, Simeone, Van Gaal, Ancelotti e.t.c then and now is just “go ahead and win as many trophies as possible every season and worry less about money because we will make it available for you to achieve your goals – money is not our problem”. This opposite was happening at the same time Wenger was given the 3 mandates (‘Mission Impossible’) as described above
Wenger could have chosen to walk away from such an impossible mission, but he took the bull by its balls and showed the world that there was a management side to his trophy-winning personality that the world had come to know between 1996-2004. Rumor has it that the banks financed Arsenal’s pipe-dream stadium plans only because they got the solid assurance that Wenger will remain at the club for a certain period so the club would be able to pay back the crazy loan it was getting – Wenger was the collateral Arsenal offered (I think). Immediately the ‘Emirates Stadium’project was approved, he started selling his star players and buying majorly average or unknown players between 2004 – 2012 and turned them to superstars that he always sold at a profit when possible in a bid to ensure the stadium loan was paid off asap. Before Wenger paid a record £40m for Mesut Ozil in 2014, Santi Cazorla was his most expensive buy @ £20m in 2012, while Samir Nasri was his second most expensive purchase at $15.8m in 2008. On the flipside, other teams like Chelsea and the ‘Manchester brothers’ spent an average of £15-20m+ to buy their non-superstar (average) players between 2004 till date.
People claim Wenger did not win a trophy between 2005 – 2014 and they fail to realize that 2004 was when he started selling his key players season-by-season and that between 2004- 2013 was the same period Chelsea, Manchester City got unfathomable financial boosts so the competition for trophies in England was no more “Arsenal vs Man Utd” alone anymore, but now a weakened Arsenal side Vs three hungry and financial-secured opponents. How would anyone in his right senses expect trophies amongst such stiff competition when Arsenal always fielded below par players like Bendtner, Denilson, Chamakh, Park, Squillaci, Senderos, Silvestre, Almunia e.t.c as key players of Arsenal’s 1st eleven at different times but be grateful that the team never lost its prominence locally and continentally. These top three opponents have shared the spoils of the EPL amongst themselves since 2005 – 2015 and thanks to Leicester City for its intervention in the matter.
Wenger kept Arsenal relevant between 2005 – 2012, thus over-achieving his three-task assignments throughout that period. Many times it seemed like he would fail with his team of youngsters/ average players and many times, he always left it till the last day of the season to achieve his seasonal goals because the competition got tougher annually. Due to Wenger’s financial and man-management skills, Arsenal currently has the European record for paying off a massive stadium loan at the fastest pace ever and still not losing relevance or facing relegation.
Between 2005 – 2015 season, Wenger’s management side has gotten the better part of him due to his commitment to the club as an executive and that has made him lose the hungry-winning mentality he exhibited before 2005 as a soccer manager. Both positions; ‘Wenger as an Arsenal executive’ and ‘Wenger as a Manager’, both conflict because if the manager in him wants to go all out to win trophies like the good old days, the executive part of him cautions him to think of club finances since he is also a major shareholder/ sits on the board.
Wenger’s technical prowess is not gone like most fans, pundits and opponents think, Wenger just needs to detach himself from thinking as an executive and think as a hungry coach. Let someone else worry about the club’s finances, while he focuses on our gameplay and recruitment of of super talents. This is the reason why there are rumors that the English FA is interested in appointing Wenger as the national team manager next year when his current contract with Arsenal expires.
The English FA has realized they made a big mistake by being patriotic and appointing the highly deceptive and disappointing Roy Hodgson who has finally bastardized the little pride that English football tried to hold unto. They now need a real technical genius who understands British/ European football inside-out at the highest level and can win games + trophies and still manage the overflow of English young talents, while providing stability to the English Three Lions.
With rumors going around that the English FA is considering Wenger as their next national team boss, it will be hard to fault such rumors because Wenger is still the most sought-after manager in the world that has the qualities any project-focused team will desire. The world now knows that instant success by ‘splashing the cash’ is not sustainable (unless you are Real Madrid) as the prices of top-performing players continue to skyrocket in club football and recent happenings at Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester United and even Monaco have proven so.
However, Wenger still has unfinished business at Arsenal Football Club as a team manager. He still needs to win the EPL at least one more time and hold the “Big Ears” in Arsenal colors before resigning to his fate as an Arsenal board member/ Director of football. With the rate at which Wenger is turning ruthless with his managerial decisions recently and the fact that he now has more cash to splash than in the past few years, these two unique goals can be achieved within the next three seasons (2016/ 2017 – 2018/ 2019) if only the Arsenal board will allow him be the old “Arsene Wenger the Manager” that we knew before 2005.
Till then, Arsenal FC needs Arsene Wenger more than the English FA needs him.
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