This past week in football has offered perspective that was never there before. Arsenal fans especially would have been looking on at the events at Old Trafford and the retirement of Alex Ferguson and wondering whether they’re quite ready for that with Arsene Wenger.
There have been frustrations at the manager and Arsenal as a whole. There has long been a feeling that the club are not really moving forward with regards to football, while recent sponsorships announcements have suggested the club are accelerating forward from a financial and business standpoint. Like so many windows in the past, this summer’s transfer window could be the real opportunity for Wenger to prove to the doubters that his stay should extend beyond next season.
In fact, next season as a whole should determine whether he stays on or not. It’s most certainly not knee-jerk in the way many supporters have resigned themselves to the idea that a new manager is best for the club; considering how long Arsenal have been stagnant in English football, there has been more than enough time for supporters to weigh up their decision. But Wenger does have an excellent opportunity to turn it all around and really makes waves in capturing Arsenal their first league title since 2004.
It will very much be about how convinced supporters are of the manager’s eye for talent in the market. With so many transfer mistakes over the years, most would be forgiven for assuming Wenger has more than lost his touch in the market. But the new sponsorship deals should offer Wenger far more scope in landing the very best players available to Arsenal. For the first time in a long time there really are no excuses for the club seriously getting it wrong.
But it hasn’t just been the transfers that have let people down. The smaller details of the club’s overall shortcomings have often been on the managerial decisions in games and the preparation (or proper lack thereof) of his players. You’d really like to see an overhaul of the approach that has seen Arsenal struggle for much of their time at the Emirates, and more of a return to form that saw so much success during Wenger’s first eight years. The playing personnel may have been incredibly different in terms of natural ability, but the preparation and mentality really seemed to change too.
What can be argued about Wenger is that he hasn’t lost his appetite for success. I’d find it hard to believe that he’d remain at the club this long if he wasn’t driven by the reward of trophies. The problem is that his well-known stubbornness continues to get the better of him, while also handicapping the team. Whatever may come in the way of new players this summer, it could count for very little if Wenger doesn’t learn to adapt in the way other managers have done.
The transfer window won’t be enough, and some sections of support have already made their mind up that a change is needed regardless of how well Wenger does in his final year with the club. The announcement of Alex Ferguson’s retirement would have naturally brought up questions as to whether Arsenal are quite ready for something similar, but the circumstances for both managers have been greatly different. The success never really stopped for Manchester United and Ferguson, and each time they fell they always picked themselves up and eventually overcame the most immediate hurdle. For many at Arsenal, it’s still a matter of waiting for Wenger to pick himself and the club up from the last few years of disappointment and deliver that first trophy.
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