Arsene Wenger – Borrowed Or Buying Time?
There’s no doubt that last week’s defeats have put Arsène’s future in the balance. When he stood before the media in September 1996, none of us expected him to be in the job twenty years later nor did we expect him to be hounded out when his place as Arsenal’s most successful manager is assured.
Football’s changed a lot in the past twenty years and with club’s ‘monetising’ their fanbase like never before, they are facing a ‘consumer backlash’. Clubs want passive customers; they won’t get it, no business does. And that’s the fundamental issue that Arsenal has never come to terms with. Supporters used to bleed red and white but now, in an age where personality dominates, the cult of the manager is personified by Wenger. There are supporters who will ditch Arsenal as soon as the Frenchman departs, especially if there is acrimony involved.
Arsenal is one of Europe’s richest clubs. We’re not the richest in England nor on the continent but we have enough wealth to know that we can afford to pay players top dollar. The decade where cash was an issue has forged a mentality which doesn’t sit comfortably with the directors’ trumpeting of the financial results. We’re told that we should be proud of their fiscal prudence, at how they’ve built a club which is financially comparable to any of the elite. Yet we’re told accept failure on the pitch.
Last season undermines every financial argument put forward. The champions were a club whose wealth pales by comparison to Arsenal’s yet we couldn’t live with them on the pitch. A freak event it might have been but it underlines how Arsène has lost his squad building touch. He’s more concerned with getting compliant players, not those with the character to win the league. We’re fading fast this season and it won’t surprise anyone if we end up fifth. That’s where Wenger came in; if it happens it’s where he should leave.
There’s nothing so definitive in the board’s eyes, which is hardly surprising given that they are businessmen and bar Ken Friar, not football men. Oh, Ivan worked for the MLS, for sure, and knows the business of football but does he understand the game, what it’s really like to be a supporter? Friar does. Look in the dictionary for the definition of Mr Arsenal and you’ll see his photo. He’s been there and seen it all at the club.
The rest of them are Johnny Come Lately’s in football terms. They’ll flog you a carpet and a financial product but ask them about the merits of 4-2-3-1 versus 3-4-2-1 or another formation and they will look to Arsène for the answer. Make a decision about the manager’s future? They will probably look to Arsène for the answer.
A mantra of ‘Be careful what you wish for’ will only lead to every board member being sacked at some point. The atmosphere around Arsenal is poisonous at the moment, with the middle ground disappearing quicker than the Green Belt Land of England. If Arsène stays, it’s only going to get worse.
And that is not how his reign was meant to end.