Arsene Wenger is synonymous with longevity, but 1,000 league games should be beyond him.
801 games managed in the Premier League is no joke. It’s yet another statistic that reflects Arsene Wenger’s incredible staying power in the English game; that ability to remain in the job despite the rapidly shortening life span of managers at top clubs and the mountains of stress suffered due to the pressure.
Managers come and go, but Wenger will forever remain.
The big 1,000 milestone doesn’t seem too far off now. Nobody would be surprised if he reached it. After all, nobody endures pressure quite like he does, age isn’t slowing him down at all and there’s very little away from football to distract him from doing the job he’s committed his entire life to.
Yet, to reach that milestone would require Wenger to be in charge of Arsenal (or, in a far more unlikely scenario, any other Premier League team) for another five years.
Even for him, that feels like a stretch.
When asked about the milestone, Wenger was keen not to make any guarantees.
“There’s one advantage of such a long experience in management: it makes you humble,” he said in the Evening Standard. “Unless you are completely stupid. I refuse to be completely stupid so I’ll never know how long I’ll go.”
Even at a club as consistent as Arsenal, predicting what will happen in the next five years is impossible. Nobody can say for certain what condition the club will be in, or what the landscape of English football will be like.
There may even come a time where Wenger himself has finally had enough.
Even if Wenger has the will to last for that much longer at Arsenal, the club itself must be realistic and not put off succession for too much longer.
2019, the end of the Wenger’s current contract, is the next big checkpoint.
By that point, they should know if Arsenal can continue to progress under his leadership or not. The club was already clutching at straws giving him the new contract in the first place. Unless Arsenal are transformed into title contenders between now and then, there’s no justification for another new contract.
I’m probably not alone in not having faith that he can do it.
I would never go as far as to suggest Wenger is clueless, but the signs are there that his powers grow weaker with each passing year. Every year without a major honour chips away at the mystique his early successes cultivated. We’re already at a point where him leaving no longer seems a far-out, impossible reality.
At this rate, we’ll soon be at the point where keeping him would seem surreal.
It’s worth saying again, though, that five years is a long time, and predicting the long-term future is something of a fools game.
Just as Wenger could continue to decline, he could have a late resurrection.
Perhaps he might be blessed by an incredible surge of good luck and wins major honours again. Football is volatile enough for something like that happen; after all, if Leicester can fluke their way to a Premier League, why can’t Arsenal?
In all honestly, I’d rather not see Arsene Wenger take his seat in the dugout for the thousandth time in the Premier League, but I can’t claim with any certainty that it won’t happen.