Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp played for the Gunners for Arsène Wenger’s entire time at Highbury and still believes the Frenchman is the right man for the club.
Bergkamp himself is now assistant to Frank de Boer at Ajax, where he looks set to stay for the considerable future. Looking back on his time at Arsenal when speaking to former teammate Martin Keown, the Dutchman remarked on the difference Arsène Wenger made when he arrived in north London.
“Wenger gave us so much more,” said the playmaker, who was shocked by the fitness and mentality of many players when he arrived at the club. “I know many English players said he added two or three years to their career, just with his mentality. By being professional about your game – the food, the drinking, the attitude, that’s what he gave to the club.
“So with that and the arrival of all those great players, that made the difference. Suddenly we were a step further than other teams.”
Arsenal won the double in Wenger’s first full season and repeated the feat in 2002 before embarking on an unbeaten season in 2003/04. That, though, was also our last title-wining campaign and the pressure on the manager is increasing as fan unrest reaches an all-time high.
Still, the Dutchman has faith in his old boss. This season has been a disappointing one which will obviously raise questions. Nonetheless, Bergkamp believes there are still traits in Wenger which are invaluable.
“He knows his players so well,” said the Arsenal legend. “It’s like a puzzle, he’s adjusting every player all the time so everything fits together. He’s got a picture in his mind how it should be. And he knew when to push the team, when to let go, when to relax.
“I still think he’s got that drive and if he gets the opportunity to stay there, he will take it I’m sure.”
The biggest problem Arsenal may have is one day replacing Wenger. Ajax themselves have suffered from instability in the past and Bergkamp knows the danger of replacing a manager, particularly one who has been at the club for such a long time.
“He’s still a good manager and you never know what you’ll get if you bring a new one in. That’s the problem.
“Look what happened at Man United when Sir Alex Ferguson left. You never know what’s better. To bring someone new, someone fresh or stick to someone who knows the club. I’m sure (Wenger) is still ambitious to win trophies. As long as you don’t lose the connection with the team.”
So, it has to be determined whether or not Wenger has lost that connection. As long as his players still believe in him, would changing manager be a risk that Arsenal can’t take? It’s almost certainly one they won’t.