Ahead of this weekend’s fixture against the team that so ruined Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal, we look at why the manager deserves to remain at the club for the duration of his contract.
Balancing the books.
It’s one of the catchphrases that are taking over the General Election campaigning in the UK at the moment, amid incessant talk of austerity and cutting the deficit.*
All well-run operations have to be done, in the real world at least, by balancing the books. Football clubs are not immune to this concept, as demonstrated by those that believed themselves to be above such trivial matters.
Portsmouth now languish in the bottom half of League Two just six years after playing in the UEFA Cup. Leeds United continue to try and fail to regain Premier League status over the last ten years, after they gambled their top flight status by taking out loans against future TV deals, but then failed to secure the European football which would cover the repayments.
This latter example is the one with the most poignancy – a side which requires Champions League football to provide the income to sustain the club and keep them competitive. Now where have we heard that before?
*There’s only one deficit I’m interesting in this weekend, and it doesn’t relate to fiscal responsibility.
Keep the faith
Earlier this week at Cannon Towers we were having a debate as to whether Ken Friar and Danny Fiszman deserved to have their names attached to the bridges by the Emirates. In the “for” corner was the argument that their faith in the manager through a period of austerity and necessity was brave and groundbreaking.
Yet it has fallen on Arsene Wenger to return that faith, and against all odds he has managed to return the club time and again to the top table of European football. He has done this on a shoestring budget, raking in more from transfer fees than he has spent, and having to allow the best of his progeny to depart for the greater good of the club.
And he has done so without complaining.
Jurgen Klopp has been linked with Arsenal after resigning from his post at Dortmund this week, with rumours abound that Arsene might step aside to make way for the German despite the two years remaining on his contract. To which I say, “fie!”
Here’s why our professor should be allowed to stay in his job for at least the duration of that contract:
Compare apples with apples
Jose Mourinho’s “specialist in failure” jibe has become the stuff of legend somewhat, yet the media’s willingness to lap that agenda up has been coloured by the deliberate or reckless ignoring of the context.
Wenger and Mourinho are not operating in the same world, and you could argue in terms of extracting the maximum from their resources and opportunities that Wenger has been more successful than his distasteful Chelsea counterpart.
Yes, Mourinho might have won the Champions League twice, with two different clubs, but he has never managed a club which doesn’t have the resources to dwarf their competitors.
He doesn’t know what it is to take a club to heart, to take the leading strings of every aspect of that club, and to steer it through turbulent times back into calm waters.
He has never had to operate with one hand tied behind his back.
How is it that in three years at Real Madrid, in a league dominated by just two clubs, that he managed just one La Liga title and one Copa del Rey title? With almost limitless resources, that seems more of a failure than securing the future of an entire football club to me.
Arsene Wenger, on the other hand, sacrificed some of the best years of his career to guide this club from the muddying backwaters back to the pinnacle of English football. It may have taken a bit longer than planned because of the influx of money to clubs like Chelsea and City, but we are getting there, slowly but surely.
For me, the saddest part of Arsene’s utter selflessness is that for many fans the lack of recent success (by traditional metrics) has tainted the memories from the late 90s and early 00s which had those same fans singing his praises.
In many ways we are like spoilt children, who won’t appreciate all that our parents have done for us until they’re gone.
I talked earlier of how Fiszman and Friar have been great guardians of our club, men who have guided us into a position as a European heavyweight in spite of the odds. But Arsene Wenger is the man that made it all possible, through his unstinting loyalty and his selflessness. He is the father who goes unappreciated – until it is too late.
Through it all, he has never complained, he has never hesitated, he has just got on with the job and moved us closer to where we are today. Step-by-step, game-by-game.
We now owe him that same loyalty to let him reap the fruits of his labour and rebuild that reputation he so richly deserves as one of the all time great managers.
This weekend is the opportunity for the manager to put the memories of that 1,000th game humiliation to bed, and to set the tone for next season. It’s time for the players to step up and repay the manager’s faith in them also.
It’s time to do it for Arsene.