Wenger Left Arsenal In A Far Better State Than We Give Him Credit For. For That, He Deserves Praise, Not Ridicule
The perception by many in the media during the summer was how the Arsenal team would need at least three transfer windows to get the team to compete with those at the top of English football.
Many, including Gary Neiville, believed Arsenal’s transfer dealing over the years, supervised by Wenger, had been poor and lacked direction, so the media went to town with the notion that anyone coming in would have their work cut out for them, and would require hundreds of millions to even get the team competitive.
A team comprising Ozil, Lacazette, Bellerin, Xhaka, Aubameyang, Bellerin, Monreal, Cech, etc was deemed not good enough. The same team has Niles, Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, and Nelson coming through the ranks. But the consensus, based on years of relentless negative conjectures and perceptions was that Arsenal had lost it totally and the club’s hierarchy had short changed the club.
Watching the Arsenal team play Liverpool, and looking the better team even, one can’t help but think Arsenal as a whole and Wenger in particular deserves a lot of praise for bringing together the core of this team.
Holding is fulfilling some of the potential Wenger must have seen in him; Iwobi, who many wrongfully accused of “not being Arsenal material” but whom Wenger stuck with regardless, is proving we should not doubt Wenger’s eye for talent; and Xhaka – most fan’s favourite scapegoat, is showing the range and leadership quality Wenger famously talked about. And there is also Bellerin, who was at the end of some of the most vitriolic fan abuse I have ever seen, yet is now one of Arsenal’s better players.
The latest perception is that Emery has somehow performed magic and revamped everything. What is more closer to the truth though is that he met a club that was in a very good state – financially and personnel wise. Arsenal’s biggest problems were having a style that was too known to others, and a manager that stoically believed in playing that same way; and of course, constant negativity around the team.
These two things have changed and most teams don’t know how to play Arsenal, and that’s to Arsenal’s advantage. The atmosphere around the club has improved too, and has more positivity.
When Ferguson retired as Manchester United’s coach, he left behind an ageing team, who, although were champions, had obviously peaked and there were not enough decent players coming through the ranks to buffer the squad. United have been trying to right it since then and have not succeeded.
Manchester United is a team left in shambles almost in every real sense of the word – from the players to recruitment and even playing style. They have over the last six years changed their pattern at least four times, and with little result to show. Yet, we don’t hear that from the media even though Ferguson left United in a worse state than Wenger left Arsenal.
But Wenger’s biggest legacy to Arsenal are the academy and the Stadium. The academy was revamped years ago with the appointment of Jonkers and the investment in facilities that rivalled that of the first team. The results were instant and the youngsters looked better prepared for the relentless pace and requirements of first team football, as epitomised by the performances of Arsenal’s U23 in the PL2 and the quality of players being churned out.
Under Wenger’s reign, the likes of Maitland Niles, and Smith Rowe were discovered and given opportunities in the first team. Nelson is tearing it up in the Bundesliga – which shows the youngsters renaissance is not just based on Emery’s tactics – but in their initial development. That is not saying Emery deserves no accolades – he does – but he has a very strong base to start with – something David Moyes didn’t have.
And yes the Stadium, and ultimately, Arsenal’s financial strength is probably the biggest legacy any coach has ever left for a team in Premier League history.
Liverpool tried to build one, but decided it was probably not worth it. Chelsea’s owner have stopped plans to build, albeit for more personal reasons. Tottenham, the only other English team with the audacity to try and build one are discovering how hard is it and and have incurred way more debt than earlier envisaged. Their debt profile is alarmingly getting into United’s territory.
Sooner or later, Tottenham’s debt would affect the competitiveness of the club and ultimately the team’s performance and how their coach reacts to it would resonate for years and could be the difference between being a big competitive club and being just another club with a big stadium.
A coach, in these times, that leaves a club with a paid off stadium, a forward line that includes Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette; and a healthy global reputation that makes Adidas willing to pay the club around 60 million pounds as sponsorship for a year, should be worshipped. While i don’t expect that to happen, the least we could do is is at least not try to erase his legacy at every opportunity.
Wgen Wenger famously said: “My great pride will be to be able to say the day that I leave, that I am leaving behind a good team, a healthy situation and a club capable of performing in the future.”
He is a man of his words.