Following Arsenal’s frustrating 0-0 home draw against Blackburn at the weekend, many aggravated fans voiced protests over Arsène Wenger’s management of the club after what could well be another season without a trophy at the Emirates. In the large part, most fans still remain loyal to the man that led the side to three Premier League and four FA Cup titles. But, worryingly for Arsenal, there now appears to be a divide within the clubs normally loyal fan base over the future of Wenger and this was apparent at the weekend. But would Arsenal be mad to get rid of their longest serving and arguably most successful manager or is it time for fresh thinking at the London club as they look to end the six year wait for silverware?
Normally famed for its fast-paced and physical football, Wenger has gone against the grain of many managers in the Premiership and stuck with his attractive style of passing football. A great man-manager, he has regularly managed to get the best out of often young and somewhat lightweight squads in comparison to the rest of the league. And, this tendency to develop younger, somewhat raw players into more established professionals has proved popular with the board as Wenger has been able to shape and develop his squads rather than spending big in the transfer market such as Chelsea and Manchester City. And would Wenger have spent big anyway with a vast transfer kitty available to him such as at Manchester City or Chelsea?
Wenger is not without his critics. Whilst Arsenal do still play immensely attractive football, it has yet to bring any trophies since the Premier League success of 2004/05. The Arsenal manager is known for his stubborn nature and predictable tactics and perhaps it is this insistence on his footballing philosophy that, whilst honourable, has held the Club back. Maybe if Wenger showed more willingness to win ugly when it mattered and grind out results as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea did then it would be a different story. But would Arsenal fans still hold the same respect they do for Wenger were he to abandon his footballing philosophy and, in the words of Mourinho, “park the bus”?
The fans have also clamoured for a marquee signing since Thierry Henry left but, again, Wenger has refused to spend big and instead looked to nurture youngsters. Whilst it is worth remembering that the Club are still paying for the move to the Emirates, built at an estimated £400 million, they pocketed over £40 million from the sales of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester city two summers ago.
Perhaps Wenger should take note of Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola. Despite leading what has been described as one of the greatest teams ever, he hinted he could leave at the end of his contract next summer as “players get tired of coaches and vice-versa.” But whilst it could be time for a change, who out there could do a better job with the squad and resources available than Wenger?
Perhaps recent events could turn out to be an over-reaction by fans. Let us not forget that they are still second in the league, made the final of the League Cup and the quarter finals of the FA Cup. And, Arsenal have had injury problems and could still close the seven-point gap on Manchester United and win the Premier League. Admittedly the team still need more leadership on the field. But, of course, tomorrow’s leaders always develop from today’s players and Wenger certainly has a talented squad at his disposal. But to who should fans look to to take the step up and provide this much-needed leadership? Admittedly Cesc Fabregas is a hugely influential figure when he plays, but his future at the club has been the topic of debate for several seasons now.
Having described his current team as his ‘best side ever’ and constantly called for patience from fans, football is somewhat cyclical and you feel trophies could come again soon. But with fans reportedly paying the highest average ticket prices in Europe for entertaining but ultimately unsuccessful football, Wenger for one will hope these trophies come sooner rather than later.
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