AT, haven't posted in a while (well over a year in fact) but do keep reading your articles with interest. Hope all is good and you're enjoying your 'summer'.
So, to Wenger. I'm neither an AKB nor a passionate Wenger hater, so I think I'm verging on unique on this site. I do however agree with an earlier poster who ventured towards the suggestion that your utter hatred of the man was as misplaced as those who think he is some form of omnipotent being. So, his charge sheet how I see it can be bracketed as thus:
1) Tactically inept and blinkered;
2) Willingness to accept players in the past who were not Arsenal standard;
3) A vast salary (which I don't think is his fault. I'd take £8.5m a year if I could);
4) 'Luck' in the transfer market rather than analysed and insightful transfer dealings;
5) Poor training methods resulting in apparent injury prone players;
6) Reluctance to alter his own stubborn methods and views; and
7) Being French.
I think I pretty much covered them all there, however, forgive me I have been too liberal with my bracketing. But could I ask you to take the time to read, but not necessarily understand or agree with, the positives (below as I see them) from Wenger's time at Arsenal - all of it, not just the baron trophy years:
1) He has reinvented the 'Arsenal philosophy' from the previous GG/SH/BR years, in fact arguably his influence reinvented the philosophy of English football;
2) In his first few years his expansive knowledge of European football brought the likes of Vieira, Petit, Anelka, Overmars, Pires, Fabregas etc to Arsenal and the transformation continued (and yes for each of those you have your Stepanovs, Cygan, Wreh - I know) ;
3) How he took the 'English core' of Seaman, Adams, Keown, Dixon, Winterburn, Parlour et al and prolonged their careers with healthier lifestyles and just made them better footballers;
4) He knew Arsenal had reached their limit and (apparently) was the visionary behind the new stadium and had a heavy operational and strategic involvement in it's design, right down to the dressing rooms and facilities. As soulless as it perhaps can be, strategically it was required to keep Arsenal on the same commercial plateau as the other big boys;
5) The proceeding years of paying back the stadium debts and doing an admirable job in ensuring Arsenal maintained some form of seat at the top of the English football table as well as qualifying from the CL year on year. This assisted in boosting the coffers to pay back the stadium even faster and allow Arsenal at least some movement in the transfer window;
6) How he has built a worldwide reputation of being a fine manager, coach and mentor. This isn't down to luck. Not everyone is wrong. Yes there are divisive opinions of him, but then there are divisive opinions of Mourinho, just like there were of Sir Alex Ferguson;
7) His loyalty to Arsenal. Some will say they wish he hadn't been loyal, but he has. Some will say he's earned a frigging fortune whilst being loyal and he has, but this doesn't detract from the fact that he COULD have moved and COULD have won more at 'bigger clubs'. But he didn't leave. He has stayed and guided us through to the more positive position we find ourselves in now; and
8) Now the proverbial shackles are off, he is splashing the cash to a degree. The man has a frigging economics masters and will always review the commercial viability of any deal rather than just spend for the sake of it, but the outlays over the last 2 summers don't smack of someone not willing to take the odd risk. And the argument that Ozil, Sanchez and possibly Cech are 'falling into his lap' are poor. He signs the big name players, it's luck. He doesn't sign the big name players, he has no ambition.
Basically, what I'm saying is, I feel Wenger can't win. He made a rod for his own back with his early success, but in some respects he has sacrificed that early success to ensure the club remains on a solid footing to keep competing for years to come, without the club compromising it's business model. Yes he's made mistakes, we all have. His happen to be made, however, on the back of early success, a fat salary, an infuriating stubborn side that he takes too long to acknowledge AND living in the public eye.
I couldn't have leveled my points above without a certain level of conjecture, and not every opinion can be, nor should it be, based on stats. I'm sure you'll pull some of my points above apart (if you take the time too) under the guise of contradiction or being just plain wrong, but I haven't researched my points. All I've done is put my heartfelt opinion, based on 30 years of supporting Arsenal, into writing.
Thanks for taking the time.
Although I wasn't expecting to post anything for several months, I thought I'd publish this one. When people put a lot of effort in, they deserve a response, so thanks to AJL.
1) I don't believe Wenger reinvented Arsenal's philosophy, because I dont believe Arsenal had a philosophy to reinvent. For a short spell, George Graham's Arsenal played equally attractive football to Wenger; but GG's cautious nature always saw him retract. Personally, I think that's the intelligent thing to do, because football is about winning not playing attractive football. I don't seem to remember Arsenal fans complaining when they won trophies playing 'boring' football, so criticising Chelsea now is pure hypocrisy. Besides, Arsenal don't play attractive football and haven't done for a very long time; that's as much a myth as saying George Graham won every football match 1-0. Wenger reinvented Arsenal's dietary approach, and while I think it did have a measurable impact - and was an influence on English football as a whole, it was a small percentage difference rather than a giant leap forward, and only then because English football was completely backwards compared to European football. In Italy, for example, Wenger's methods would not have been thought of as unique at all.
2) Wenger did have a good scouting system, but I wouldn't go as far as to say he had an 'expansive' knowledge of European football - it was actually limited to French and African players. In retrospect it seems likely that he got a bit lucky too, because he rode on the back of French academies that just so happened to produce the best crop of young players in the country's entire history. What people often overlook is that Wenger actually has an awful record of bringing players through Arsenal's academy; his record is that of a manager who has consistently poached players that had already been developed at other clubs, taking advantage of legal loopholes in order to get them on the cheap with the promise of first team football.
3) There's no doubt his dietary methods and some aspects of his training had a fantastic effect on Arsenal's ageing 'English core', which was a major contributory factor to his early success.
4) The board were planning a move from Highbury before Wenger even arrived, so it's not true to say that Wenger was the visionary behind the new stadium - that's actually quite insulting to the incredible work that Dein, Fiszman, Edelmann and Friar put in to secure the funding. Because Arsenal were a successful club at the time, it may have helped secure the bank loans, but I can't see a bank being persuaded by something as transitory as success on a football pitch, a much bigger part of that would have been the property redevelopment aspect. Clubs have been building stadiums all over the place, Arsenal are hardly unique - it's more about the expense of being able to find a site local to your existing ground in what is usually a highly populated area. That's very difficult, and costs can easily spiral out of control when you're having to level housing estates and buy up land at extortionate prices etc.
5) Sorry, big myth here. Qualifying for the Champions League makes no difference to stadium repayments whatsoever. It's a fixed-rate long-term loan that, to my knowledge, has never been renegotiated. Arsenal would be financially penalised for paying the loan early, therefore the rate of repayments are static - and will be until 2032. The reason Arsenal have more money than ever is nothing to do with debt repayments and everything to do with vastly improved TV deals over the past decade (which everyone has benefited from), further boosted by improved commercial deals when Arsenal were able to renegotiate them.
6) Wenger probably built himself a worldwide reputation as a manager up to 2006, and I'm sure many clubs would still take him now, albeit not the biggest ones - that ship's long departed. However, I was often surprised myself when Arsenal were at their peak under Wenger, because when I went abroad he was not perceived as a threat by any suppporter I ever spoke to. I'm afraid Arsenal's Champions League record is abysmal and most European fans see him as a very poor tactician and a soft touch. Let's be honest, if you supported a top club in Europe you would actively WANT to draw Arsenal in the CL, and that would apply to a lot of mid-level clubs too. There's is, and never was, a fear of playing Wenger's Arsenal in Europe - unlike Ferguson's Man Utd or any club Mourinho has managed.
7) Was Wenger loyal or does he simply know where his bread is buttered? Sure, he could have gone to Real Madrid but he also knows that had he not performed to the highest standards right off the bat he would have been out on his ear within 2 years maximum. It's easy to say you're loyal when you dont believe in yourself enough to take on the biggest jobs in world football and money is no longer an incentive because you're already grossly overpaid. I don't see how Arsenal are in a more positive position now, they're in exactly the same position as they have been for over a decade, incapable of challenging for the PL or CL but a danger in the domestic cups if Wenger takes them seriously and gets a favourable draw.
8) He's splashing the cash because TV deals have gone off the scale and Arsenal have increased their income from commercial deals, no other reason - and other clubs are well ahead of Arsenal on both fronts because Wenger cannot enhance Arsenal's profile by winning anything big. He made a mockery of his economics masters when he put dozens of kids on massive contracts, flushing hundreds of millions down the toilet in wages for a bloated squad with a myriad of players that failed and couldn't be got rid of - all the while leaking his best players due to his equitable wage structure and false promises. Economic socialism he called it, while hypocritically pocketing more money that anyone else.
I would disagree that Sanchez, Ozil and Cech were calculated decisions, they were opportunistic decisions. Arsenal got Ozil because Madrid needed money after splashing their budget on Bale, and Barca wanted to offload Sanchez because they spent £72m on Suarez. Indeed Ozil wanted to go to Man Utd but they pulled out at the last minute, and Sanchez would have been equallly happy to play for Liverpool as Barcelona would only accept the highest offer. We all know why Cech is leaving Chelsea, and if it does happen it's likely because the player doesn't want to leave London - so there is only one realistic option. There was no vision behind any of these decisions, if it wasn't for the transfer movements of other clubs none of these players would be at Arsenal and none of them initally wanted to play for Arsenal - although that doesnt mean they're not happy to play for Arsenal.
Comments should be intelligent and well-written. All others will be binned.