Everything was based on conjecture. Such was the secret state at Arsenal that, depending on agenda, Arsene Wenger either failed to land the club a trophy since the move to the Emirates, or he monumentally overachieved, certainly in the season following Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri’s departure.
A new contract for Wenger, more or less confirmed by Ivan Gazidis on Monday during the announcement of the club’s new deal with Puma, was to be expected with the season the team are currently having. Some may point to the obvious that the team haven’t actually won a trophy yet, and they may not if they fail to emerge in April still entangled with Manchester City and Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table. But it didn’t need a trophy to merit a new contract for Wenger.
What we’re seeing at the club this season is progression, progression that’s been aided by the financial reward pumped into the club. The point of conjecture again comes into play. We don’t know if Wenger ever had the resources to compete in the market alongside the wealthiest in Europe, we just have to go on what we’ve been told, which admittedly is very little.
So this season, the one in which the club secured the signing of one of Europe’s biggest names and the license to go ahead and bag another Mesut Ozil in the near future following the partnership with Puma, feels like the end result of having moved stadiums. This is why the club opted to build their own stadium. This is why there was promise of competing alongside clubs like Bayern Munich. If Wenger was working on a shoestring budget for the past seven years, then why should he not be given a tilt in this new era now that the club are liquid?
Of course, we can go with the argument that Arsenal finished pretty much where they should have in past seasons. Yet even that is an achievement – and no, that isn’t a claim to Champions League football being equivalent to a trophy. Based on net spend in comparison to others above or below Arsenal, finishing in the top four should be a positive, with Wenger keeping the club afloat via the income of European competition and allowing a base to immediately go out and strengthen dramatically once the new financial resources kicked in.
It isn’t just about winning a trophy at Arsenal; it’s about winning many. The club could have stayed at Highbury but eventually would have been blown out of the water by clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City. Look at Liverpool and Tottenham and their desperation to move into a new stadium to catch up with others in the Premier League.
And amid the Europe’s general astonishment and exhaustion at overspending in the market and all the failings that have come from playing that game, isn’t there some grounds to applaud Wenger for doing it his way – the prudent, financially secure option – and still keeping Arsenal the third or fourth best team in the country?
The questioning behind whether Wenger merits a new contract and the constant, drilling criticism at Arsenal’s failure to win a trophy since 2005 is based on high expectation; expectation created by Wenger.
Now that we’re aware, after public declarations, of Arsenal’s capabilities in the market, their draw for brands like Puma and the wealth that may yet befall the club in the coming years, doesn’t Wenger deserve a chance to compete in the market against all the clubs he has snubbed in the past? Real Madrid, Bayern Munich.
Arsenal are moving forward; there is tangible change at the club. Wenger has been a part of it, in creating what’s on the pitch, what goes on behind the scenes and the property that was vital to taking this organic financial leap. He’s absolutely deserving of being a part of it in the future.