Thank You, Arsene

By on October 1, 2009

Arsene Wenger and crowdToday, Arsene Wenger becomes the longest-serving manager in the club’s history surpassing the legendary George Allison on his 4,749th day as manager of the Arsenal. It is, then, a suitable occasion for a bit of retrospection and maybe even a bit of sentimentalism and nostalgia as well.

Having started following the club in the late-90s, I have never known an Arsenal side that was not managed by Arsene Wenger. I suspect it is the same for many other Arsenal supporters around the world, especially those newer than myself. I really don’t need to list all of Arsene’s stunning achievements at the club, we all know and can recite them on a moment’s notice. And I already discussed them on last year’s anniversary in a similarly titled post. So what I’d like to do is just give a few of my impressions of Arsene in the 10+ years I have supported the club.

We should all be honest, despite the fact that it now seems fashionable among certain segments of the Gooner population to bash him, and acknowledge that regardless of what has happened in the last three or four years, the man has absolutely revolutionized the club. We all know about the training and the diet changes he made, but, while the club had long-standing historical tradition, Arsene developed a culture for the club on the pitch.

For me, this is his most valuable contribution to the Arsenal. He changed the entire image of the club, through his thoughts, his actions, and his achievements. There is no one that can follow this man as Arsenal manager. Anyone who even tries is almost doomed to failure from the start. All those who call for Arsene to be fired or to be given a “win a trophy or else” ultimatum have such a short-sighted view of the club and the game itself.

Arsene is not the kind of person who thinks only for today. Gooners everywhere will recognize the genius of what he has done, especially in the last three to four years, only a few years down the road, likely not until he has left.

Arsene WengerIt’s not uncommon to see the most outrageous statements made about him by supposed Arsenal supporters deluding themselves into thinking THEY are the ones who have Arsenal’s best interests at heart. Ridiculous statements about Arsene getting money from the board for not spending money on players and the like.

There is no one on the planet who cares more about the club and its future than Arsenal. Those who cry about “no trophies for four years” would do well to remember that the only reason that seems like a long time is because of Arsene himself.

Of course, I would like to win the Premier League and Champions League. But I would not be willing to mortgage the club’s long-term future for a trophy or two right now. Arsene and the Board have created what is likely to prove to be the most sustainable financial model for English football clubs, and when the time inevitably comes that the other clubs, which carry tons of non-revenue-generating debt, are forced to reorganize, Arsenal will have a serious advantage simply by being the best equipped to deal with the changes.

And make no mistake about it, that time is coming. UEFA are already seriously talking about introducing financial requirements and restrictions on clubs that, once implemented, will only grow stricter with time.

While I am not completely “Arsene knows” type of supporter, I can say that the man has proven me wrong almost every time I have questioned his decisions (I say almost because, well, there was Pascal Cygan and Oleg Luzhny and Davor Suker). With the man’s track record, unmatched by any other current manager in the world except Ferguson, how can one honestly say he does not deserve the trust of his own club’s supporters, or at least the benefit of the doubt.

If Arsenal were to judge managers solely by whether they won a trophy or not, firstly, we would have gotten rid of Arsene in 2001 after three years without a trophy and would have missed out on the second double, three more FA Cups, the Invincible season, and the unbeaten run. In fact, those three years were eerily similar to the past four during which we reached a domestic cup final and European cup final and lost both. Arsene Wenger

The man has built a team of 22-23 year olds that have gotten to the Champions League and FA Cup semifinals. While I’m sure many people wish Arsene would just bring in the players they think we need overnight, Arsene is hardly averse to bringing in quality players. In the last year or so, we have brought in Samir Nasri, possibly the best young French player of his generation, Andrei Arshavin, and Thomas Vermaelen; not to mention the youngsters like Vela, Ramsey, and Wilshire who are already top-quality. These are six important and significant additions to the side just in the last 18 months.

It also just amazes me that these fans constantly get disappointed when Arsene doesn’t pursue those ridiculously over-priced, over-hyped continental players that make back-page headlines. I can only wonder what they actually know about Wenger. Anyone who knows anything about the way he operates would not expect these kinds of moves to the point where one is disappointed afterward.

But it is exactly these kinds of unrealistic expectations that have led to a very few, yet very vocal minority of Arsenal supporters calling for the greatest manager the club has ever had to be fired because he hasn’t won more trophies fast enough for them. If we can’t appreciate Arsene Wenger, of all people, what manager could we appreciate?

And, as an Arsenal supporter who has witnessed almost the entire Arsene Wenger era, I would just like to say thank you for some of the greatest football I have ever seen and for some of the greatest moments I have ever witnessed and experienced. Thank you.