Should you be judged by what you achieve or what you leave behind?
Arsène Wenger has won quite a few pots in his nigh on twenty years as manager, but he seems to set as much store by the legacy he will bequeath to his successor as the medals which he discards in a cobwebbed drawer somewhere in his Totteridge home.
Part of that legacy is the boards around the Emirates which proclaim the trophies Arsenal have won and the year of the success, but the stadium itself (and the continued competitiveness during its construction) stands tall as a landmark of our achievement under Arsène. It may not be as popular as shiny trophies for the here and now fan base, but it is a key factor in the long-term success of the club.
A trip to London Colney or Hale End further underlines the infrastructure that the manager has had an indelible hand in building.
And then there is the development and integration of the ‘kids’. In a week where Arsenal’s youth prospects have looked underwhelming, it’s easy to lose sight of the number of players who have come through to play first team football under Wenger, or indeed the quality of youngsters who remain out on loan.
However, the conveyor belt of talent over the last ten years has plugged gaps and allowed the team to sustain Champions League football in spite of limited resources. Even without that millstone about our neck, there is merit in developing your own players: a quick glance down a list of recent academy graduates reminds us that it is under Wenger that the likes of Bellerín have flourished following a trademark-Arsène positional switch.
So perhaps the less glamorous side of Arsène’s legacy is under-appreciated, but I am gladdened to see the Frenchman at our helm when I look at the contrast over in west London. If Mourinho is allowed to talk about Arsène all the time, why shouldn’t we respond in kind?
Jose Mourinho steadily destroys clubs from the inside in the pursuit of instant glory, in a career which has seen him fail to sustain success at any club – even in the less competitive Spanish and Portuguese leagues – for more than three years.
He left Porto before the start of his third full season, his first stint at Chelsea ended in acrimony after a difficult start to the ’07-08 season, his spell at Inter was again cut short before the start of his third full season and his time at Real Madrid was curtailed after three years following another difficult season.
His methods are short-term, designed to shock the club into action, but in the longer term the players get wise to it, and the tactic of buying established ready made players for each and every position gets found out after just a year or two as the squad starts to look old and jaded.
Meanwhile Mourinho himself is endlessly embroiled in ludicrous incidents with staff, players and fans as he seeks to blame anyone but himself for the team’s failures.
Today, Mourinho admitted he cannot guarantee Chelsea a top four finish this year.
This is a club with a squad which cost over £300m to assemble and which spent a further £67m this summer. It’s a club with more players on loan – thirty three – than most Premier League clubs have in their squad yet even able to choose between more players than he knows what to do with, Mourinho still might not finish in the top four.
It certainly puts Wenger’s ability to deliver Champions League football year in, year out, in perspective.
Time is the greatest judge
The world’s superpower clubs are on a different level not because of a short period of success, but because of their ability to maintain that success across a number of years, a number of decades.
It is to that level that Arsenal aspire, and arguably, the legacy which Wenger will one day leave behind can be an achievement itself in the pursuit of that biggest of goals. Most importantly of all, it allows us to laugh at Mourinho.
Thank you Arsène for winning trophies. Thank you Arsène for making superstars. But above all, thank you Arsène for safeguarding my football club.