Is Arsene Wenger out of touch?

Arsenal's moral high-ground

The level of angst and resentment towards Arsene Wenger has reached fever pitch. It’s no longer a case of £70million lying around in the vaults of the Emirates; the figure is comfortably more than double. And yet here we are: Arsenal have passed the eve of war, lost the first battle and are sending out calls to anyone who will answer the desperate plea for assistance. Something tells me a division of Elves aren’t about to emerge from the night.

The problem – and it’s not really a secret – is that Wenger is living in the past. Not so much two or three years in the past where in his mind the Arsenal squad still has Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, but rather the days where £10 million would get you a Thierry Henry, £6million would get you a Robert Pires, £4.5million will get you a Gilberto Silva immediately following a World Cup. The football landscape has changed drastically. Everyone else has caught onto it, even if most don’t like it. Arsene Wenger, however, naturally stubborn in his ways, remains committed to a line of thinking that simply doesn’t apply to the modern game.

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An idea that has been brought up among the Arsenal community already is that perhaps Wenger feels he needs to get an absolute steal in a transfer deal – Santi Cazorla for £12million, for example – otherwise he simply won’t pull the trigger. It’s for this that the pool of options to the club continues to remain at an all-time low. The scouting department may be doing their checks, following players around European leagues and climbing up trees in disguise in an attempt to fool even sharpest of club officials. But Wenger tries to find that player who can be deemed world class, either now or in the future, for a fee that would get thrown aside by, say, PSG as nothing but pocket change.

It doesn’t work like that anymore. The beauty of deals like Henry and Pires is that the football world was much bigger then and English clubs weren’t totally committed to the idea of spending lavishly on those based abroad. The opportunities were limitless for a manager with contacts such as Wenger to swoop in and pull rabbits out of the hat on a yearly basis. If anything, he started the trend that so many clubs are now following, with Newcastle possessing a player in Yohan Cabaye who Arsenal should have plucked from Lille before the Magpies stole a march.

But perhaps that offers another side to the story. Is Wenger losing his ability to attract world-class names? Let’s be honest, a high-end talent can still be found for a fee around £10-15 million. Mesut Ozil, Raphael Varane, Mario Gomez, Arda Turan, among others. But Arsenal are either being beaten to these players by others, certainly in the case of Varane, or are missing out altogether due to a lack of awareness. I’d really hate to think that a club with the resources of Arsenal couldn’t pick up a whisper on the wind that Arda Turan was available prior to his move to Atletico Madrid.

There is a point to be made that perhaps Wenger isn’t the deterrent for top talents, but rather the club as a whole. Arsenal never buy obvious world-class footballers, instead choosing to mould them within their own system. But that’s not such an issue; Wenger is still a draw to the younger players who may not receive consistent game time elsewhere. The overriding issue is that Arsenal are no longer a big hitter among those challenging for silverware. Ok, maybe the club finds itself in a promising position every now and then, but it’s more through fortunate circumstances than actual planning. Did Wenger expect to be in the League Cup final in 2011?

The most current issue would certainly reinforce the notion that Wenger is losing or already lost touch with the game. If it’s a riddle that the current squad is capable, then he’s certainly losing his touch on one front. But as unfortunate as it is, what seems to be ever more obvious is that this Arsene Wenger is no longer the same figure that guided Arsenal to such glory in the past. The man still remains, but the principles and lack of willingness to adjust has forced his powers to diminish considerably.

 Is Wenger out of touch with the modern game?

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