This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Former Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has said the Arsenal team “lacked consistency” towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s time at the club, and that the Frenchman was the manager who most “trusted” his players, in his upcoming autobiography, via The Mirror.
In the book, he writes about his time in north London and has spoken about the difficulties encountered towards the end of Wenger’s reign.
The former Werder Bremen defender said: “When we lost one game, we often lost a few in a row. We could show off our class across six FA Cup games, but 38 League matches in 10 months were a different matter. We simply lacked the consistency all top teams need.
“He (Wenger) didn’t lose his nerve during losing streaks, either. He stuck with his convictions and his players, no matter how strong the wind was blowing. It was his greatest strength.
“Wondering whether it was also his greatest weakness and whether he was too lenient with us is, in my opinion, a little too simplistic.
“But Wenger trusted the players he had. I never met another manager who believed more strongly in his squad’s ability.”
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It is certainly interesting to see Mertesacker be critical of the playing staff, and it shows his respect for his former boss that he is willing to shoulder the blame. Certainly, having patience and belief in your players is a trait that a top manager often requires.
However, they also need ruthlessness and conviction and, in the more barren spells of Wenger’s Arsenal career, that was something he often lacked. Players such as Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, for example, were at the club longer than they should have been.
The greatest managers in history have displayed that win-at-all-costs attitude. Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, moved star players such as Ruud Van Nistelrooy and David Beckham on as soon as he felt they could no longer offer him what he wanted. Even without those names, his Manchester United side continued to be successful.
In the end, Wenger’s lack of ruthlessness cost Arsenal, and saw them lose ground on the best clubs not only in the country but in Europe as a whole. In his last two seasons as manager, he failed to qualify for the Champions League. Had he left the club earlier, perhaps the Gunners could have risen from their slump.